June 30, 2021

CHAMPION—June 28, 2021


In Champion, hopes are that the political divisiveness that has been so damaging to friendships, and even some family relationships, will dissipate for a little while, at least, as we celebrate together the birth of the Nation we all love on the 4th of July. Huzza!

Tennessee boys, Drason and Carson, came to the Sometimes Porch Jam with their Mom and their Grammie on Wednesday. Grammie won the First Ripe Tomatoes in Champion Contest again this year, though the only prize was getting to eat them herself. They were joined on the wide veranda by regular Mountain Grove visitors, Dean and Dailey, and by Madeline, her Dad and four brothers who live on the old home place up on Fox Creek Road once occupied by the big Upshaw clan. Lena’s younger brother, a favorite motorcycle hoodlum, arrived before noon to toot his own horn over his recent scrabble wins. He is such an expert with words that people call him ‘loquacious’ behind his back and other things to his face, all in good humor.

While there were still notable absences (Jerry, Lena et. al.), it was almost like the old days at the Thursday Vanzant Bluegrass Jam. Some seldom seen musicians and a couple of newcomers made the circle large enough that turns only came around a few times, though who could imagine a circle of a dozen bluegrassers and no fiddle? Jerry? That unusual situation followed a bizarre spectacle the previous week when the Mayor and Vanzant Weather Bureau Chief donned the mail carrier’s rainbow tutu and performed a classic tango ballet. The spectacle was preserved digitally in case it is needed later in court. The audience was bigger this week too, swelled by Grammie’s bunch, The General’s Springfield contingent and community workers getting ready for the Vanzant Picnic.

This year the picnic will be on the 9th and 10th of July. No small amount of work goes into making this annual event such a high point on the summer calendar. Everyone is looking forward to the good music, good food, carnival games and the chance to see much-missed neighbors after a long eventful year. The trials and tribulations, the stumbling, crumbling, and grumbling out there in the big world seem less oppressive in the face of good neighbors coming together in fellowship and friendship. The ring-toss is a particularly interesting game at the picnic. It is generally run by a haymaker who hardly gets farther in a conversation than “Howdy, how you been?” before someone else comes along with dimes to spend. He is lucky enough to have two sterling helpers out on his spread where he maintains a small herd of geriatric cattle. The three of them go by the names, Me, Myself, and I. An already difficult task, fraught with unforeseen complications, hardly slowed this trio down, the bales stacked in the barn before the rains came that make gardeners sigh and smile.

Kaitlyn McConnell, the winner of the Skyline VFD Quilt drawing last October 1st, stopped in the Historic Emporium for a visit on Saturday. It is one of her favorite places. Kaitlyn is a media specialist, a real journalist, not prone to embellishment as sometimes seems to be the case in The Champion News, according to some. She is interested in preserving the character of the Ozarks and particularly interested in getting acquainted with the some of the older folks who have lived their whole lives right in the neighborhood where they were born. She is planning to go to the Vanzant Picnic where she can be introduced to any number of them. Perhaps she will come for the Champion School Reunion on the Saturday of the Labor Day weekend to meet some vintage Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


June 24, 2021

CHAMPION—June 21, 2021


Champion Tomato Blossoms

Sunday, we remembered our old Fathers, our Dads, our Papas, great and grand, living and gone on, but far from forgotten. Menfolk often get short shrift because of their ‘sun to sun’ work while the women are somehow never done. Chainsaw and weed-eater wielding gentlemen can rest guilt free. They can feed cows and bale hay and then take a nap or go to the creek. They can hoe the garden and mow the grass then come in for a good lunch and a “Thanks, Honey.” Appreciation for the providing, protecting, and the good humor and good example set is a year-round idea that comes home around Father’s Day. The celebration includes gratitude for Uncles, Godfathers, Foster Dads, Stepdads, Mentors, and Big Brothers. Despite what the song says, a good man is not hard to find. Thank you, fellows!

Father’s Day fell on the first official day of summer this year. It was a convergence of good things. Hundreds of people attended the summer solstice at Stonehenge even though officials asked them not to travel to the site in line with Covid restrictions. Normally, more than 10,000 people would gather to watch the sun rise over the stones on the longest day of the year. Now each day is getting a little shorter, but more good things are on the way. Gardens are flourishing and gardeners are grateful for a little Monday rain.

The Vanzant Community Picnic is fast approaching—July 9th and 10th at the community center. Organizers are looking for sweet confections for the cake walk. Cakes, cookies, cupcakes, or some other sweet confection would be greatly appreciated. They say if you would like someone to pick up your donation, you can call 417-254-2219. There will be music, games, and the sense of community missing too long. There will be door prizes, food, friends, and fun. Look for the ads in The Herald for more information when the time comes.

“Y’all Come” is a great old country song that people of a certain age may have heard back in the 1940s and earlier. One of the verses goes, “Oh! The kinfolks are a comin! Yes, they’re comin by the dozens and they’re eatin everything from soup to hay. And right after dinner, they’re not looking any thinner and you can hear them say, ‘Y’all come!’” The song goes on, “Grandma is a wishin they would all come to the kitchen and help do the dishes right away, but when they all start to leavin, even though she is a grievin, you can still hear Grandma say, ‘Y’all come!” It is a joyful thing that people are feeling like traveling again, feeling like being with family again. Young folks came up from Texas during the past week to see what help they could be to the old timers. They brought fancy food and fun and were of immense help in a variety of ways. LaSchell Upshaw Bearden came up from Arkansas for the second time in recent weeks. She took her folks on a road trip to Rockbridge, with a leisurely pause to admire Fox Creek, and then the grand finale, a visit to the Historic Emporium where they enjoyed a rendezvous with more family. Summer has begun in earnest in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Green Tomatoes

June 15, 2021

CHAMPION—June 14, 2021



June 14, Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States 244 years ago.  We are encouraged to reflect upon the values of our Republic and the valor of the men and women in uniform who have defended it.  There are rules and protocols for flying the flag and when one becomes tattered or excessively worn it is to be retired in a dignified way.  The American Legion can take care of that for you and can also provide you with the rules to help you fly our banner respectfully.  Pete Proctor reported that the VFW Post 3770 and the American Legion Post 30 had a Flag Ceremony at 9:00 a.m.  Monday in Mountain Grove.  He also shared a link to the American Legion site that answers the 10 common questions about the American Flag.  www.legion.org/flag  It is well worth the read.

Teeter Creek

A Saturday celebration brought Old Champions on a ramble down around Teeter Creek and then over to Rockbridge for trout and for the joy of being out.  Recent rains filled the creeks and fortified the oak and pine forests of the new Bryant Creek State Park, a lovely drive irrespective of celebration.  The Teeter Creek Herb folks have extract of turmeric which has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, a great help to old folks with osteoarthritis.  They have a great website at www.teetercreekherbs.com and their products are available in local health food stores.  It was a treat to see Lil’ Deb at Rockbridge.  She commutes to her job there from Sparta now, but has deep ties to Champion.  She asked to be remembered to Ms. Betty, as she recalled her often daily trips to the Historic Emporium in past years.  Rockbridge is gearing up for its big annual 4th of July celebration.

1946 Studebaker

Mary Goolsby reported that Bob Berry won the “Top 40 Award” for his 1946 Studebaker pick-up and “Best Other” for the 1963 Lark at the Wheels and Deals Car Show in West Plains on Saturday.  She said it was a great show, but that it was a hot day.  Mary and Bob are regulars at the Thursday night Vanzant Bluegrass Jam.  Perhaps Gofer John will show up sometime and identify himself.  Maybe he is a musician.  Music is good for everyone.


Careless weeds are the mean, ugly stepsisters in the otherwise lovely Amaranth family.  Pretty enough as tiny seedlings, yet as they grow, their prickly thorns on the stems make them an aggravation to pull even from loose and giving soil.  Wear gloves.  Swine love them so much they are called Pigweed.  Bully for the pigs, though neither they nor their weeds are welcome in Champion gardens.  Some Brushy Knob gardeners already have sweet corn more than knee high.  Things are starting to look good.  Even the peppers are recovering from the extended rain and cold.  The seasons go round and round.

Sunday, we will remember our old Fathers, our Dads, our Papas, great and grand living and gone from sight but far from forgotten.  Menfolk often get short shrift because of their ‘sun to sun’ work while the women are somehow never done.  Chainsaw and weed-eater wielding gentlemen can rest guilt free.  They can feed cows and bale hay and then take a nap or go to the creek.  They can hoe the garden and mow the grass then come in for a good lunch and a “Thanks, Honey.”  Appreciation for the providing, protecting, for the good humor and good example set is a year-round idea that comes home around Father’s Day, this June 20th, also the first official day of summer this year—a convergence of good things.  Converge on the old guy with your love and gratitude like Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

A beautiful drive.

June 11, 2021

CHAMPION–June 6, 2021


June 6, 1944, 77 years ago, 160,000 allied troops from America, Britain, Canada, and France attacked German forces on the coast of Normandy, France to liberate Europe–D Day. General Eisenhower said, “The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you….” Of the 4,400 allied dead on that day, 2,500 were Americans. Memorial Day observances included those casualties and all those who have been sacrificed for the sake democracy and the high ideals of our Nation going back to its beginnings. Somehow saying, “Thanks for your service” does not seem quite enough. If you have a chance to help a Veteran, go for it. Great local organizations like the American Legion and the VFW can give you some good advice about how best to be of help to those who have given so much.


Felix the Farmer

Old Champions were headed to an Old longtime friend’s house for a visit after more than a year when they found trouble. Other friends were also headed that way on the narrow muddy road and were stuck at the bottom of two hills, not being able to back up a long grade for the slickness of it, and not able to get the oomph to get over the next rise. It was a conundrum. Fortunately there was not a big rock in the road, and one of the Old Champions had much mud driving experience and the willingness to rev it up and floor it. In the interim, another rig had joined the parade. It was a clown fiesta with all the ferrying and laughter. Eventually everyone arrived at the Octogenarian’s cabin and a drizzly afternoon was made bright by the love of dear friends. Conversations bounced from weather to garden to archaeology to politics to history to technology to music and to catching up with the events in their lives since last they feasted and laughed together. At parting, Felix the Farmer showed his skill as master of the hug. He is the go-to guy if you need the stuffing squeezed out of you. He is the kind of fellow who would blow the candles out on your birthday cake, and you would not even mind. He can howl like a Redbone coonhound. He is three and a half years old, a big help to his Papa in the garden and he loves to go to the library. His Champion friends will keep better tabs on him now that they feel more comfortable in socializing.

Attendance is picking up at the Vanzant Jam. Two weeks ago, thunderstorms kept all but the most stalwart at home. Last week the circle filled up as the evening went along. It was lovely to hear Ruth Collins’ velvety voice again and to see friends who are just venturing out. Doug and Bonnie Bean’s grandson sang, “I am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” but he is not constantly sorrowful or he would not be able to smile the way he does. When granddaughters join the circle, as Gina Hollingshad’s did, the whole future of good bluegrass music seems more hopeful. Music is good medicine.

Pepper plants would like to have been transplanted after the overnight temperatures were consistently in the 50s. Alas. They are starting to look a little better and soon enough they will be enjoying the kind of heat that makes them thrive. The gateway to summer opened at Memorial Day, but it does not arrive formally until the summer solstice on Sunday, June 20, at 10:32 p.m. Champion Daylight Time. The cool and damp has slowed the progress of some things while tomatoes and weeds are flat going to town. This time of the year, hardly anyone is as optimistic as a gardener in Champion–Looking on the Bright Side!


June 3, 2021

CHAMPION—May 31, 2021


“If Tears Could Build A Stairway And Memories A Lane, I’d Walk Right Up To Heaven And Bring You Home Again.”

Our Memorial Day weekend found local cemeteries around the country visited by family groups decorating graves and honoring Veterans and other dear ones passed on. Saturday was cold, but Sunday and Monday were beautiful days for such outings. Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts held solemn ceremonies commemorating the service and sacrifices of those who have protected the rest of us since our beginnings as a Nation. We are pleased to be reminded.

Sweaters on the 29th of May just seemed wrong. Still the Denlow/Fairview School Reunion was another fine event. A few former students were joined by many family members and friends for an afternoon of feasting and fun. Chilly temperatures and a brisk breeze brought the music inside this year. It was provided by the group known as TLC. Teresa Lindsey, Lynette Cantrell, and Carol Green defied the poor acoustics of the church basement and entertained with “Feeling Mighty Fine,” “Bury Me Beneath the Willows” and other great tunes. The potluck luncheon was a delight and the chance to socialize with seldom seen friends and family was the objective of the whole affair. Fun came with the auction and some folks bidding against themselves, bidding backwards, and bidding for aggravation. Mike Bearden, Arkansas Upshaw son-in-law, did an excellent job of auctioneering and will likely be called on again in years to come. There were no fights or hard feelings, but some sides were sore from the laughter.

2021 Denlow/Fairview School Reunion

Potluck and Fellowship

Cousins, Teagan, Kalyssa, and Luxe

Barbara and Kenneth Anderson


Mike Bearden, auctioneer, chats with Pete Proctor

Family catching up

An Old Champion who does not get out much happened by the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department fire house the other day and saw a new sign featuring a fancy logo, emergency and information phone numbers and notices that training sessions occur on the second Tuesdays of each month at 7:30 p.m. and board meetings are on the third Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Because of this great little organization, we can buy home-owners insurance and are comforted to know that first responders and fire-fighter volunteers will answer our call when we have health emergencies, accidents, or fires. Any opportunity to support our fire department is a good one.

“What a Day That Will Be” is an old gospel song, the favorite of the late Louise Hutchison. Wilburn requests it when he makes it to the little Wednesday Jam. He also asks for “Rank Strangers.” Picking and grinning out on the Wide Veranda in Downtown Champion last Wednesday marked, at last, the change in seasons, or so we thought. Cold, damp months had kept the little musical interludes inside in the gracious hospitality of the Historic Emporium. On that sunny day, regular visitors leaned on the porch railing and sat on the steps listening to the music and telling stories: A gent, who is not named Mr. Sutherland, talked about an easy to milk Ayrshire cow named Heart. (Other cows were named Reddy, Clover and Syd.) The Milk Cow Blues is not about the ornery cows that were dealt with harshly by some old timers. There was a story told about Punk picking a fight during a revival meeting that erupted on the church porch and rolled out into the yard. No one was badly hurt. Then, there was the time Arch Lambert was sitting on a mule that stuck its head through the window and brayed during a church service. All this and more happened in Champion. According to people who claim to know what they are talking about, much of it is best forgotten.

Haymakers are at it already. Rabbits feasting on beets and baby green bean plants in the garden do so at their peril. Ticks are being plentiful. The weather is volatile, and the hummingbirds are relentless. Now we just need a big influx of kinfolks, and we will be all set for the summer in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!