February 27, 2020

CHAMPION—February 24, 2020


Found on the internet:  “The Skyline VFD will be having biscuit and gravy breakfast Saturday, March 14th at the Skyline School from 7am to 10am.  We are also giving the community the opportunity to elect new fire department board members.  A list of candidates will be available the morning of the breakfast.  This will be a great opportunity to fellowship with your neighbors, have a great meal and let your voice be heard in your community.  $7.00 a plate.  All the funds go to the fire department.  Come cast your vote!”

This will be another interesting week in Champion.  On Wednesday, Shelby will be at the Historic Emporium in the morning doing blood pressure screenings.  It is an important amenity provided by the Douglas County Health Department, one that has saved lives.  Over in Far-East Champion, a.k.a. Vanzant, on Thursday at the Bluegrass Jam, Kansas City Star Sandra Scott, nee Plumber, will hopefully join in with her guitar and voice.  After five years or so in KC, she has relocated to Willow Springs, though she was heard to say last Thursday that Vanzant will always be home.  She was well received and it is always lovely to see old friends reuniting.  Saturday will be Leap-Day, Frankie Proctor’s once in four years birthday, and will also be the Archery Tournament hosted by Skyline R2 School.  Archers from all over the area will be competing:  Norwood, Mtn. Grove, Gainesville, Manes, Cabool, and maybe others.  It will be going on all day.  They always have a good concession stand and it is a nice way to spend time enjoying a quiet sport and supporting our great little rural school.  Did Frankie go to Skyline?  If we run into him we will ask.  All of us who had the chance to go to a little country school know how precious the experience was.  Perhaps we can find a way to keep this little one going for generations to come.  Think about it.  Terri Ryan said, “Coming home and seeing bald eagles flying around the house is a treat that I don’t take for granted.  I’m thankful that laws were put into place to protect them.”  We are thankful to have Ms. Ryan on staff at Skyline.

More interesting mail has come to champion@championnews.us.  The first is a letter from a pastor over in Crossville, Tennessee, Tim Lewis.  He says they are looking to retire in about five years and is hoping to do it in these parts.  They have made several trips and, so far, they like eastern Douglas County the best.  He said, “Being able to read The Champion News seems to bring us closer to the place we want to someday call home.”  Maybe when they visit again in March they will come to Champion on a Wednesday morning/mid-day to get acquainted with some Champions or to the Vanzant Community Building on a Thursday evening for the pot-luck and music.  In recent years we have enjoyed an influx of retirees–immigrants from the world of working for a living.  Welcome!

The next letter came from Jenifer Miller who lives in New Zealand.  She is the Editor of an interesting blog,  Jen Reviews:  “The Authority on Everything Food, Fitness and Home.”  She ran across The Champion News post of October 29, 2019, as she was researching the Beatles.  One of our music links had been to the Beatles’ song, “Help.”  Her outfit just published an updated, comprehensive guide on how to play guitar like the Beatles on their sister site, Beginner Guitar HQ.  It is completely free and here it is:  https://beginnerguitarhq.com/play-guitar-like-the-beatles/  It is exciting to make these great connections around the world.  There are Champions everywhere.

After not hearing from her in a long time, it was a pleasant surprise to get a note from Eulalia Jasmin.  She writes from some undisclosed location outside the country with concerns about our wellbeing.  She admonishes us to remember that we never win anyone over with insults and that learning how to disagree better would serve us well.  She wants us to listen to each other respectfully, really trying to understand the other person’s point of view.  Tone of voice, body language and facial expressions communicate a great deal, so she says to pay attention to yourself and engage by asking questions that show the other person that you are paying attention to what they are saying.  “Cuidado!” she says.  That translates to “Watch out!” or “Be careful!”  “When a deeply held belief is suddenly and irreparably proven wrong, the experience can be painful and disorienting, so be kind to each other, por favor.”  Thanks for the good advice, Eulalia, wherever you are.  She would probably appreciate a statement by Rosa Parks:  “Stand for something or you will fall for anything.  Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.”

We are ahead of the game with rain for the year already and grateful for a good recharge of our wonderful aquifer.  On a nice day gardeners are piling up leaves, chicken manure, coffee grounds and wood ashes to make compost.  Some are starting seeds already.  We know that Spring will be here soon.  Lem and Ned have been back in the neighborhood checking in on the turnips planted last fall.  They are not much to look at yet, just a nice patch of little greens.  Lem and Ned are not much to look at either, what Uncle Al might have called ‘rusty-ankled’ old boys, but they are good-hearted, hard-working, and entertaining Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


February 18, 2020

CHAMPION—February 17, 2020


Champion Wild Turkeys

Among the Campion mail this week comes a letter recommending “The Turnbo Manuscripts” by Silas Clairborne Turnbo 1844-1925.  Probably local Civil War aficionados are acquainted with Mr. Turnbo’s work as many of his 800 stories have to do with happenings in this part of the world, including an incident on Fox Creek, one down south of Rock Bridge and a particularly gruesome one over at Vera Cruz.  Concerning the Civil War times here about, the letter says, “It has caused me to reflect some on how local folks suffered not only the fear of enemy armies and the fear that a son or brother, or father might return maimed or not at all, but also, because of a population of mixed sympathies, the fear that a neighbor or friend or relative might be, as well, an enemy and ride up one day and shoot you down on your own doorstep.  The events of the Civil War seem remote and unreal, but they happened not so long ago.”  The letter points out that the entire nation is now a population of mixed sympathies.  Our best hopes are that we can use civility and common sense to avoid “the unfocused, disorganized violence that happened in the Ozarks in the 1860s.”  Here is a link to “The Turnbo Manuscripts”.  Another Champion shares a piece by Scarlet Rivera called “Lady Liberty.”  It will cause you to reflect.  Keep those cards and letters coming in at champion@championnews.us and at The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717.

Champion Winter Robins

Wild turkeys came strutting through a Champion yard this morning and an early flock of robins adorned tall walnut trees in profusion as the mist rising from the valley met the fog.  Spring is surely on the way in this glorious part of the world.  Gardeners are watching tiny seedlings emerge on their window sills and planning their rows and beds.  Mushrooms are on the minds of many watching the thermometer for a signal to start hunting.  The Missouri Department of Conservation reports that April is usually the peak of morel season in Southern Missouri, but there is no accurate way to predict its beginning or end.  Generally, the season lasts four to six weeks.  The exact length depends on the weather and the species of morel.  Hot, dry weather quickly ends the season, while cool, moist weather can prolong it to mid-May.  Perhaps a warm March might cause the season to start early.

The 16th is the birthday of Donna Mullens Gainer.  Her folks were Pete and Bonnie Mullens and she grew up in Kansas.  She said they were here every summer when she was a kid and now they get back to Denlow for Memorial Day every year.  They will be at the Denlow School Skyline Reunion where they can enjoy the stories of Denlow and those other precious little country schools that molded their folks into such fine people.  Skyline prekindergarten student, Rayleigh Harvey has her birthday on the 18th.  She and her classmate, Maci King, whose birthday is on the 24th, are fortunate to be attending one of the last two little country schools in all of Douglas County.  Alumni of Skyline are looking for ways to insure that this great little school continues to thrive.  It is turning out the good citizens who will be the running the country in a few years.  One little thing we can do is to save those Always Save and Best Choice UPC barcodes and the Box Tops for Education coupons that come on most General Mills products as well as on Ziplock goods.  Drop them off at the school or at Henson’s G& G in downtown Champion or mail them to Skyline R2 School, Rt. 72 Box 486, Norwood, MO 65717.  Every little bit helps.  Back to birthdays:  Joanna Bell celebrates on the 21st.  Stacy Krider Cline, Skyline alumnus and former teacher, mother of Drayson and Carson, has her birthday on the 23rd.  Farmer’s Market Arnie will have his party on the 24th.  That is also the special day for Ruth Fish Collins.  Ruth has a beautiful velvety voice and a great repertory of songs.  One starts out, “It was colder than a well diggers ankle in Cut Bank, Montana…”  That is how cold it was last Thursday when prudence prevailed.  The wild antics of the thermometer sparked the cancellation of the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam.  Who knows what Valentine’s Day sparked the next day?  Everyone will be ready for the music this week and to catch up with friends.  The pot-luck is at 6:00 and the music starts at 7:00.  Everyone is welcome.  Bring your acoustic instrument and sing along….”and the icicles all melt away at the sound of her name…” Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Winter Robins

February 11, 2020

CHAMPION—February 10, 2020


Change is coming whether we like it or not according to some excited young people. And it seems to be true even locally. The east side of Highway C approaching Skyline School from the south has undergone radical changes. Dense woods have been removed in a wide swath and a long stretch of good fence accommodates a series of spared mature trees at regular intervals. The new gate is expansive and in a few short years it will be seen as an attractive spread—well cared for and productive. Just now it seems raw and ragged to the eye struggling to adjust. Sudden change is sometimes difficult to accept. Orville’s barn has been standing abandoned for forty years and now a person can see daylight through the roof. That means it probably will not last much longer. The old Coffman place up on 76 east of Fox Creek is in a similar situation. Once the roof goes, an old building seems to just melt away. That is slow change–still difficult to watch. The roof on the gym at Skyline is beginning to have issues—no daylight yet, just a little leaking from time to time. There are a number of infrastructure issues there that could use a significant influx of funding. We are in no mood to see our school disappear for lack maintenance funding. All the country little schools in this area, so well-remembered by local folks, disappeared into Skyline in the 1950s. It is the community heart.

Joshua Garner is a seventh grade student at Skyline. His birthday is on February 13th. Shelby Ward, a Champion great-niece, has her birthday on Valentine’s Day. Eighth grader, Jaime Casiano, celebrates on the 15th and Madison Bradshaw, sixth grader, on the 16th. Trish Davis and Linda Clark have both been out of school for some while now and they share their birthdays on the 17th. Pete Proctor, a Fairview alumnus, shares the 18th with Skyline prekindergarten student, Rayleigh Harvey. Ruby Proctor’s birthday was on the 19th. We miss her sweet smile still. Your friends and family are smiling for you, wishing you a happy birthday.

If you were a crow taking flight from Champion and flew in a straight line South-southwest for a few miles–eight or so—you could light in a tree along Bryant Creek in a very remote part of the Ozarks. The Bryant Creek State Park is 2,917 acres of mostly undeveloped land. There are meetings being held with people in the community and the parks department to determine just how the park will be developed. Hopes are that it will open to the public soon. A Champion who had done timber stand improvement for the forestry department back in the 1970s had some vivid memories of his three years exploring and working in this region. He was glad to have had military training when it came to reading topographical maps. It is a rugged part of the world and beautiful. A few years ago National Geographic shared a map of the world at night. It was lovely to see that we are in a dark part of the country, that is to say, sparsely populated. We have bears and eagles and places to walk that are wild and secluded. We have glorious distant vistas and wonderful clean water. We have our challenges, but overall we are blessed to live in this part of the world, particularly when we have long histories with old Champion friends who have stories to tell. Have you ever been alone and lost in the woods?

Inclement weather substantially reduced attendance at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam Thursday, but those who made it out anyway had a good time. Toes tapped, yarns were spun and there were a few lively conversations concerning current events. The potluck starts at 6:00 and the music starts at 7:00 every Thursday unless the weather forbids it. Everyone is welcome. Bring your acoustic instrument. This Thursday should be fun with Cupid’s arrows still poking old couples. They will reminisce about meeting–some at school, some on blind dates, and some, like Susanna and Wesley, at Hazel’s Café. Some met just walking through the woods in the Great Smokey Mountains. Romance might look different in our seventies and eighties than it did in our teens and twenties, though still it is a beautiful thing to have somebody to love—look at the Prominent Champion and the Prominent Champion Spouse, at Kenneth and Barbara Anderson for example, at Judy and Eldon, at Jerry and Lena, at Bob and Mary, Bob and Ethel, Don and Reba, the General and the Gipsy, Pete and Joann, John and Sherry, Skip and Ina, Sue and Dwayne, Doug and Marge, and all the old sweethearts you know. Stores are full of flowers and candy. Sweet sentiments fill greeting card racks and phone lines and the internet will be humming with declarations of love and affection. Enjoy, you Sweethearts all!

Sunday’s full moon was obscured by clouds though Champions are alert to the changes in the signs. Some are itching to get started planting. In a few months they’ll be itching for other reasons. Meanwhile, mushroom season is on the horizon and daffodils are poking up. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic. There are. Really. Look for them and find them and share them liberally. Wednesday is likely to be full of sugar at melodiousness at the Recreation of the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square as old and new friends gather for fellowship, to share their tales of love and romance or fox hunting stories or who has had the most rain and the deepest mud. Champion Valentines love it on the Bright Side!


February 4, 2020

CHAMPION—February 2, 2020


Bryant Creek

The Kansas City Chiefs are Champions! The Champion Super-Bowl watch party was a lovely affair, made all the more exciting by the win. Earlier in the day Champion’s groundhog found himself sunburned and some old gardeners found themselves exhausted after taking advantage of the beautiful day to overwork. The late Lonnie Krider once cited some ancestor who said, “There’ll come a day in February when a dog looks for the shade.” And so it came to pass. The family dog found the shade and the old gardeners rested and found themselves restored by the spectacle of jubilation among football fans. Happy Groundhog Day! It was a glorious day for a drive.

Sharon Tate Williamson shared an old photo online of students in a one room school house with a big wood stove and said, “I would not trade those days for anything! I went to Bakersfield, Champion, and Fairview in Eastern Douglas County Missouri. What memories!” Connie Brown saw the picture and said, “Daddy went to Bakersfield, Fairview, Champion, Pole Pen, Vanzant, and then Mountain Grove.” Kay Grace said, “I went to Fieldon one school year.” Carole Callahan Barnhart said, “Fairview for 2 years. I have lots of memories!” Pete Proctor said, Fairview all 8 years–the last 8th grade when they closed the school in 1958.” Many of these little schools, including Denlow, were consolidated into Skyline about that time. One local alumnus said that she saw the first indoor plumbing when she went to Skyline. Our great little school is still perking along. It is one of only two rural schools left in Douglas County, the other is Plainview. Demographics have changed as our population has aged. There are fewer children in the area and many are being home schooled, but still the Skyline Tigers roar. Hopes are that Sharon, Connie and her Dad, Kay, Carol and Pete will remember their ‘good old golden rule days’ and use their influence to support our school which can use some serious help. We save the Box Tops for Education and the UPC codes from Always Save and Best Choice products. What else can we do? Maybe all these alumni can contact their class mates and appeal to their nostalgia and generosity to come up with some good ideas. Meanwhile, we can sing, “Happy birthday to you,” to Aidan Acre a third grade student on the 8th and to MaKenzie Jonas, a prekindergarten student, on the 9th. We can sing that song to Cowboy Jack too. His birthday is on the 7th. Surely he went to school around these parts somewhere.

On Saturday Skyline hosted an archery tournament with archers from Gainesville, Manes, Cabool and Buffalo. There were 150 archers shooting. Skyline’s Conner Jonas received his first 1st place in the Elementary Boys Division and Haylee Surface received her first medal, 3rd place in the Elementary Girls Division. The next home tournament will be on February 29th. It is a wonderfully quiet sport except for the thump when arrows hit the targets. Spectators enjoy the concession stand and the chance to support and encourage these young people who are developing skills that will serve them well in the future. They know how to be calm, how to concentrate and they see that they can grow and improve with hard work. Good life lessons.

Navy Veteran, Melissa Masters, down in Austin, Texas is doing good work for the benefit of her community as she is an advocate for people in difficult situations. Her birthday is February 6th. Champion daughter-in-law, Sarah Rucker, will have a big birthday on the 8th. She also has great responsibilities helping people recover from serious illnesses and injuries. An old Champion said that the daughters she wanted were provided to her by her sons. “They are strong, smart, musical, inventive, innovative, practical, whimsical, creative, stubborn, beautiful, loving and kind. My boys know how to pick them.”

The world seems to be in turmoil on both sides of both the big oceans. People are overwrought and searching for expression. One finds some comfort in a quote from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 2: “You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!” Language was a little more flowery in 1596. Some words have fallen out of use. The need to vent frustration is as appropriate today as it was back in the 16th century. Stubborn people can be infuriating. On the way down to the wide, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek you may spy a handsome mule grazing in a field and it might occur to you that the mule is saddled with the reputation for being stubborn, but it is really only an abundance of common sense and a strong desire for self-preservation that makes the animal inclined to resist. On a sunny day on the wide veranda of the Historic Emporium enjoy some civil discourse. There is likely to be someone around who can tell you stories about local mules. If not, just relax and delight in being in one of the world’s most pleasant places. Champion! Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion critters grazing.