May 31, 2020

CHAMPION–May 28, 2020


Every path has a few puddles. We, in Champion, do not have to haul water to fill our puddles these days, though in days to come we may pray for rain. Meanwhile, we pray for the health and safety of our dear ones—our family and our friends, and for the health and safety of our Nation and of the whole world. Odd times, these. Odd, yes, but glorious out here in rural America—when have we had such a magnificent spring? Each spring seems like the first, always amazing. The grass in the broad rolling fields is high and the contours are softened making that “Sea of Grass” illusion very clear. Back in 1936 Conrad Richer wrote a novel by that name. It was set in the late 1800s and dealt with the clash between rich ranchers, whose cattle ran freely on government-owned land, and the homesteaders, a version of that fight still being fought in some areas. It portrays the end of the cowboy era on the Great Plains. Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn appeared in a movie based on the novel in 1947. Romance and conflict make good entertainment. Conflict seems ubiquitous these days. Brian Haggerty (February 26, 1953-July 27, 1976), was wise beyond his years. He said, “Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.” He passed through Champion in the 1970s making it a livelier, better place for a few days. He was an optimist and, as Susan Bissonnette said, “An optimist is the human personification of spring.”

As of the 11th of May, the community got even better with the arrival that day of young James IV. His parents, D.J. and Talisha Mastrangelo, are delighted with their 7lb 5oz baby boy. He has a full head of beautiful straight blonde hair and a home full of the joy and excitement that comes with such a wonderful package. He is named after both his great-grandfathers, Dominick and James, so he is another D.J. Mastrangelo–the fourth one. He will be called James to avoid confusion.

There may be some confusion about how to drive in the rain as there have been reports of several accidents recently. It was the smile of good fortune that there were no serious injuries on 76 Highway on Thursday. Our local firefighters and first responders were willing to work out in the pouring rain to keep traffic moving around two separate accidents. James’ dad was among those volunteers and we can always pretty much count on him for a smile. Later there was a report of someone having to be towed off the Fox Creek Bridge, but details are sketchy, which leads to speculation that the creek came up fast and hard and his rig drowned out in high water, or that someone pausing to take pictures off the bridge was then unable to get her car started again. Look for a complete report about the incident laden with facts sometime in the vague indefinite future. Meanwhile, here is the promised account of the Fox Creek crossing by Bud’s Intrepid Trail Riders. Andrew Hardin said they had no difficulty with the horses crossing Fox Creek there just east of Champion. He said he might not have been willing to drive across it, but the horses had no trouble. The water was wide and fast moving, but not too deep. Their trouble had been at the crossing up on Fox Creek Road with a tree down over the slab. Andrew and half a dozen other guys wrestled it around so that it was crossable. One horse was good for stepping in water and for stepping over trees, but to step over a tree into the water was more than the animal had in mind without some serious coaxing. Eventually everyone was able to cross and, at the end of the day, the excursion was considered to have been a sterling success–a beautiful day.


Champion BFF, Felix the Farmer, heard his old (grand) Papa say, “If I had it to do over, I would put our garden on a hilltop somewhere.” Papa will be sure there will be plenty edible pod peas for Felix to munch and when things dry up, he will be glad his garden is where it is. He has a birthday coming up on Election Day, Tuesday the 2nd of June. He would elect to have people straighten up and act right during these bizarre and unfamiliar times. He said he loved okra but never planted it because his family did not like it, but now that he is an old man and can do what he wants, he reckons he will plant a couple of hills, a Central Texas heirloom variety. Some are surprised that there are such great perquisites in becoming old. You know you are old when what you used to think was old now seems young. Enjoy!

As far as doing it over, well, that might be a wish for many of us about one thing or another. We are reminded that timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance, that good judgement comes from experience and a lot of that experience comes from bad judgement. We are, as a general rule, doing the best we can, making the best decisions we can with the information available. Reliable sources of information are those which conform to your personal beliefs. A lot of the other person’s point of view just makes you sick. Ridiculous, how can they believe that stuff? Are they mentally deranged or evil? Many of “them” are our friends, our neighbors, our families! We better find a way to get along. Behave the way your Mother taught you.

There was Great Plague back in 1665. Samuel Pepys, a member of the British Parliament and Secretary of the Admiralty, wrote in his diary, “The taverns are full of gadabouts making merry this eve. And though I may press my face against the window like an urchin at a confectioner’s, I am tempted not by the sweetmeats within. A dram in exchange for the pox is an ill bargain indeed.” Just west of Fox Creek, and south of Clever Creek, at the end of the pavement and at the bottom of several beautiful hills, folks are being safe, careful, thoughtful, helpful and kind—Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 24, 2020

CHAMPION—May 18, 2020


Looking west towards Champion from the east side of the Fox Creek bridge.

Champions have measured five inches of rain in five days and are ready for some serious sunshine. Flooding has been a problem for many and some folks will be stranded till the creeks go down. It is Springtime in the Ozarks. Gardeners will be socially distancing themselves out pulling weeds, planting seeds and setting out seedlings. Current anxiousness about the food supply is inspiring many to garden again or maybe for the first time. In 1919, the National War Garden Commission put out a pamphlet that said, “Small things count.” The Victory Garden movement encouraged all citizens to garden in whatever spaces they could and allowed that there was nothing more valuable than self-sufficiency, than working a little land, no matter how small, and harvesting your own eggplant and tomatoes. The message was serious: “Prevention of widespread starvation is the peacetime obligation of the United States….The War Garden of 1918 must become the Victory Garden of 1919.” Many are familiar with the Victory Gardens of World War II, but they were started back in the first big war or maybe long before that. Descendants of farmers say they were not really aware of The Great Depression because everyone they knew was in the same boat. Self-sufficiency has always been a Champion notion. Young Felix Parsons is getting a good garden education and he is a willing worker. He loves to go to the library too. He is just the kind of fellow to have around to help with the chores and to keep everyone in a good positive mood—a genuine Champion.

With our newly realized awareness of our connectivity with the rest of the world comes the thought that every little community has its share of interesting people, solid citizens and scalawags. Stories about Ferlie Lambert still circulate in Champion and Cletis D. Upshaw gave us plenty to talk about and was quite a good talker himself. We wonder what our old timers and the old timers of little communities all around the world would have to say about these days and how we are behaving. We would particularly be interested in what Ed Sutherland might have to say. His granddaughter, Laine, recently posted a picture of him that she had taken a long time ago. Someone else shared an audio clip of him playing “Indian War Whoop” on the fiddle. Not having heard it before, it was quite reminiscent of the 8th of January and beautifully played. Laine said, “Music was his passion.” She responded to Pete Howard, who said that he did not know she had a fiddler in the family, by telling him about her great grandfather, William Franklin Sutherland, who was a left handed fiddler. Ed’s brother, Ellis, she said, played the fiddle and the violin. It is a relative rarity for one to play both. Ed was a rarity and so is his granddaughter. He might well have said of Laine, “She’s the dammedest thing that ever peed behind a pair of tennis shoes!” He was a colorful character. There is much that we could learn from the old folks if they were still around. We will just have to take some old farmer’s advice and make our fences horse high, pig-tight, and bull strong. We will try to keep skunks, bankers and lawyers at a distance and will plow around stumps.

Marjorie Carter writes, “We left Drury on May 8th and got home Sunday May 10th.” Their home is in Sheridan, Wyoming. She said it was a windy drive and raining some when they got home, threatening snow. Bleak weather there finally reached the 80s. She said they could use some rain. “….just a little to help me get weeds out of my flower garden. We miss everyone.” Doug is working at the community garden mowing and trimming. They have two plots and were glad to have been able to get to Bakersville to get seeds before the shut down.” She closed her note saying she had to go. “No matter where I am, must continue to bake cookies for Doug.”

Skyline Summer Send-off from left to right: Terry Prock, April Mayberry, Carolyn Willhite, Melissa Willhite,
Jocelyn Downs, Samantha Adler, Jana Brixey, Deborah Barker, Crystal Sartor, Terri Ryan, Katie Vivod

Teachers and staff lined up outside the school to wish a happy summer to Skyline students in their drive through parade on Tuesday marking the last day of school. It was the last day for Mr. Prock, who is retiring after 25 years. Mrs. Helen is retiring after 15 years. They will both continue to be active with the school as volunteers. Mr. Prock will likely be fishing more down at Vera Cruz and Mrs. Helen has lots of grandchildren to keep her busy and happy. Congratulations to all students everywhere graduating without much fanfare. Your Champion friends and family care! Good luck to you!

Wilma and Joe Hamby were among the 19 equestrians enjoying the Champion Spring Trail Ride on Wednesday. Somewhere along their path, Wilma said there was a big tree down across the road at a deep creek crossing. She said it was a little dicey, but they were able to make it through. She and Joe and a few others made a short ride of it and were back at The Historic Emporium by noon-thirty for lunch. A couple of them had wet feet. The rest of the party continued on to their routine destination. It was thought that they would have to retrace their steps rather than make the full circuit as they generally do. They arrived back in Champion around three o’clock and reports were that they had come in from the east. Residents up a mile and a half from Fox Creek were alerted to voices on the road and saw perhaps a dozen riders pass by in the neighborhood of noon so it must have taken some while to cross Fox Creek. Those handsome steeds may have had water wings, or perhaps they found a ferry, though that brings us to remember Josey Wales and the Missouri Boat Ride. Inquires will be made and a full report will be forthcoming.

The creeks are already roiling and, with another week of rain ahead, we may all have wet feet before it is over. Those poor folks up in Michigan are really suffering from the catastrophic flooding. The world over things seem calamitous. Yet, we still have much reason for gratitude. Memorial Day finds us grateful to the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S Military, a somber reminder of their brave sacrifice to keep the United States a free and just society. The Denlow/Fairview School Reunion is always held on the Saturday of the Memorial Day week end. Veterans play a big part in the program every year. Saturday is predicted to be a ‘dry’ day, prime for decorating and for gathering carefully. There will be lots of smiles and expressions of thankfulness and much nostalgia for those long ago days when life seemed so much simpler. Looking back to those precious school days, we are reminded that our Skyline R2 School is the last vestige of the way of life we celebrate with our little school reunions. However, whenever school resumes, it will need help. Those of us in the Skyline R2 School district can vote on June 2nd for the small tax levy increase that will raise the level sufficiently to qualify for additional state and federal funding. The rest of us can drop a check in the mail to Skyline R2 School, Rt. 72 Box 486, Norwood, Missouri 65717. Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

Looking south towards Champion from the north side of the Clever Creek slab.

May 16, 2020

CHAMPION—May sometime, 2020


Champion Comfrey

Local print newspapers are going through changes. The Mountain Grove News Journal and the Mansfield Mirror are joining forces to become the Wright County Journal, effective June 3rd. The Champion News may continue to show up in its few pages from time to time even though we are in Booger County. The Douglas County Herald, “Dedicated to all the people of Ava and Douglas County,” also has fewer pages lately and frequently the folks there are unable to find room for The Bright Side, even though we are very near the geographic center of the county…just a little to the right. It may be that we do not meet journalistic standards or it may be that the new folks there just have not yet been out our way to see that Champion is truly a perfectly delightful place. They may have troubles of their own, so we at TCN will not take it personally. The lockdown has brought out the procrastinator in our staff and colored things over with a haphazard, lackadaisical brush, which causes our on-line posts to be tardy. We plan to straighten up right away.

Harsh weather has caused trouble for people to the north, south, east and west of Champion. Pictures of flooding and wind damage overflow on the internet and we are left with but gratitude that there have been no reports of serious injury, apart from some folks who were caught out in that hail storm on May the Fourth. They did not photograph their mushrooms but their bruises were that amazing shade of purple that show up on people after a hard blow. Somewhere a cell phone tower blew down. It is spring after all. Creeks are out of their banks and over the roads. The owner/operator of the recreation of the Historic Emporium on the North side of the Square says that no one is approaching the city limits from the east currently. Champions apply their “Turn around—Don’t drown” wisdom to high water. Detour! There’s a muddy road ahead. There is room for lots of wisdom in our present-day situation. It is easy, out here in a wonderfully remote part of the country, to forget that we are part of the whole wide world. Two episodes of frost in the month of May were just two episodes too many for some worried gardeners who, relying on their experience of recent years, had many tender things in the ground already. The up-side is that it is still early enough in the season to recoup losses with more of that stuff called hard work.

Good conversations this week include one with Corrine over there in Vanzant. She’s doing fine and had been to town to gas up her truck. She had spoken with Frances Banks the day before and reported that Frances is doing well too. Judy Russel indicates that she and Eldon are getting along nicely, of course they always get along with each other, and they are very much missing the music. A good rumor is going around that the jam may start up in some fashion the second Thursday in June if all goes well. That is something to hope for! “Whispering Hope” was one of Uncle Al’s favorite songs.

Looking back in the Archives to last May, we see things were different and the same with wild weather all around. Big rains had caused the Spring Fling to be cancelled. Bud Hutchison’s Spring Trail Ride had taken place and The General had been on the Honor Flight of the Ozarks with his daughter up to Washington, D.C. They toured all the monuments there and returned home to find a large appreciative crowd waiting for them at the airport. Pete Proctor had been on one of those flights a few years ago and found it to be a very moving. He was still recounting the experience at the Denlow-Fairview School Reunion. This year the reunion will be May 23rd. It will be the 34th reunion for Denlow students. The Fairview students started their bi-annual reunions in 1997. They changed to annual reunions in 2015, when they combined their observance with Denlow. These kinds of gatherings may have to be done differently. We will see how those ingenious Wildcats do it this year. Good luck!

Last week the country heaved a simultaneous sigh, smiled and said in unison, “Gee, thanks, Ma!” The cards, flowers, phone calls and messages lifted Mother’s hearts. She has done well by us all these years, teaching us lessons, standing behind us. “But it’s not fair!” The frustrated lament of youth, feeling put upon these days, gets the answer from Mother who says, “Get used to it. Much of life is not fair. Make the best of it or change it. It doesn’t get better. We get better.” Those of us who had parents who lived through the pandemic of 1919, the Great Depression and World War II had the advantage of an upbringing that included the possibility of world-wide turmoil. Here we are again and may the strength of our forebears inspire us to our best response. These difficult times may forge the strength in our young people that will enable them to insure domestic tranquility when they are running things. Good luck. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 9, 2020

CHAMPION—May the Fourth be with you in 2020


The Champion Circle Garden

Sunday’s exciting thunderstorm rolled through Champion in about an hour giving us a fast half inch of rain and a pleasant cooling. Monday’s weather was not so kind to many. Folks in Seymour, Mansfield, Norwood, Mountain Grove and other places north and south experienced significant damage to buildings and trees. Days later some are still without power. The storm dropped pea to marble sized hail in Champion for about five minutes and the rain and wind were torrential for a little while, but it was good fortune for us here that there was no serious damage and good fortune overall that we have heard of no injuries or loss of life. Champions count our many blessings and extend our sympathies to those suffering from the ravages of storms and all the difficulties of our current times.

Those of us fortunate to be marooned with someone we really like are mindful of the struggles of solitary folks. Some people have always enjoyed being alone, but it is tough for others and loneliness is hard on them. Heart disease, dementia, anxiety, stress, inflammation and balance are all made worse by loneliness. Service, they say, is the most powerful antidote. Remember how good it makes you feel to help someone. A phone call can lift the spirits of people on both ends of the line, so if you find yourself feeling blue, dial up someone else who may be feeling that way. The fortunate ones can sing, ”It’s such a perfect day. I’m glad I spent it with you.”

Local lore tells us that May 10th is the last frost date for this area and Champions are holding off getting their tomatoes in the ground until after that date and hoping the peppers and other tender things they have in already will survive the episode of cold headed this way for Saturday morning. Gardening is a gamble. It has the same optimism about it as fishing, but the risk of all that hard work and effort going to waste is somehow more stressful than an empty stringer at the end of a lovely day at the lake. Champion Rich Heffern lets us know, “You don’t have to be good at gardening for gardening to be good for you.”

Thursdays are particularly difficult for some folks. Skip and Ina are doing okay over there near West Plains, and so is Bertie in Dora, but they, like many others, are missing the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam. Jerry and Lena live a few miles south of Mansfield and were glad to have missed the bad weather there, but not glad to miss the Thursday jam. They are doing well though and report the same for Sally and Wilma. The McClurg jam has opened up again, but with some significant alterations in the protocol. Whenever and however we are able to get back into these wonderful gatherings, we will be grateful. A couple of years ago a young man, a high school student, showed up at the Vanzant Jam with his guitar and a mandolin. He played beautifully, keeping up easily with much more seasoned musicians. He sang with confidence has a pleasant voice and a confident presentation. Someone said, “I suppose you have a fiddle and a banjo at home too,” to which he responded affirmatively. School and a full time job kept him away from the jam thereafter. His admirers are hopeful that he is still finding time to play. He has been busy. He is a senior in Mountain Grove High School this year and has just been appointed to West Point Class of 2024. His Champion and Vanzant friends could not be more proud of him if he were our own grandson. Congratulations, Bo Parker! Well done!

What a joy it is to be in the woods on these glorious spring days. New life springs fourth under every footfall. Everything seems to be in a frenzy of growing. The birds dazzle us with their beauty and their industry. One of the many reasons to encourage dandelions in your yard and garden is that birds love them too! Shifting attitudes now make the former weed our dear friend. Walking through the garden and through the woods and walking through our days the choices we make will hopefully bring us through to some kind of new normal where we will all be comfortable again. Make the trip a pleasant one, making good choices along the way. Stay at home if you can. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion birds love dandelions.