July 31, 2021

CHAMPION—July 27, 2021



At seven to one, the odds were just right for The General to sit in with the All-Girl Band on Thursday evening in the Vanzant Bluegrass Hall. Among his stellar offerings was a guitar instrumental that Jodie said sounded like the theme song from The Good, The Bad, The Ugly–mesmerizing. Reba says we need a backbone, a wishbone, and a funny bone. We have them a plenty. Tim Tamburrino, of the Midwest Bluegrass Directory, was on hand with this mandate to preserve and promote this music and its direct predecessors for future generations. He kept his camera rolling like Rawhide. If the editing process tickles him, he will be laughing for a while. Tim and Sara were headed to Springfield after the jam. They have deer whistles on their car and are as careful out on the big highways as they are on the country roads. He said that he hit the same deer three times one night and it survived. The biggest deer he ever hit was in a place where he had never seen deer before, over near Joplin, one time when he was going to see his folks. He said it dressed out to 130 pounds. They travel all around the country and Vanzantians are happy to be on their itinerary and wish them many more safe musical miles–happy trails to you.

Holt 4-H Picnic

Another place for some good music is the Up’n At’t 4-H (Holt) Picnic, scheduled for July 30-31. It starts at 6:00 pm each night with the games and food and family fun all in support of the local 4 H club. They have been doing good work for young people, hence everyone in the community, for over a hundred years. Ben Franklin said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” 4 H is all about involvement. This is the 76th annual picnic for the Up’n At’t bunch. Steve Moody said that Missey Rogers was lining up the bands for the picnic stage, so get ready for some great music from the Wright County Bluegrass with Jo Wright, Sharry Lovan with Stringed Union, Shawn McCormick and Traditional Grass, Dennis Shumate with Backyard Bluegrass, and husband and wife, the Elmores. The forecast is for genuine picnic weather with lots of heat and chances for thunderstorms.

Scroll along the right-hand side of the page here to revisit picnics of the past, some as far back as 2007, with Lonnie Krider, Wayne Anderson, Linda Clark, Brenda and Luke Dartt singing “Once More.” Back in 2019, Linda Clark gave The Champion News permission to share some of her ramblings: “Since we were little kids, every time Brenda and I would be getting ready to sing somewhere, Daddy would look at us and always say, ‘Get up there, lay your ears back, and sing!’”

The smoke of western wildfires colored our full Buck moon orange and cast a haze across our distant vistas. It is difficult to imagine the suffering of those who make that beautiful part of the world their home. We stay grateful for our safety and good fortune here and extend our hopes for better times ahead for those in distress. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


July 22, 2021

CHAMPION—July 19, 2021



Champion has been improved again by visitors. Lately they have come from everywhere—from Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Washington, and other places closer by. Foster has been in the neighborhood working as a field hand, brush-hogging and moving big bales around. He made it over to the Vanzant Jam on Thursday with his Grandmother and made some good music. Several people in his immediate and extended family have had experience with the Covid virus. That seems to be the case with many people. Sheriff Degase posted on Monday that the Douglas County Sheriff’s office will be operating on emergency status this week as employees and some inmates have tested positive. Pete Proctor over in Mountain Grove said that everyone is being touched one way or another. Whatever our feelings are about the pandemic, we appreciate having freedom of choice—to vaccinate or not—to mask or not—to socialize or not, recognizing the consequences of our choices and taking responsibility for them. It turns out that it is not easy to be a grown up.

“These are the best fried green tomatoes you’ve ever made. I really enjoyed them.” Those are some fine words for an Old Champion to hear. She stopped whining because they were not ripening fast enough for her and just fried up a couple of the beauties. Dredged in flour, dipped in egg mixed with cream, coated with a mixture of seasoned cornmeal and breadcrumbs, the half inch slices sizzled in the hot oil, browned to perfection and made him happy. She has stopped worrying about the tomatoes being slow to ripen in the way he stopped grouching about having to mow the lawn and started thinking of it as harvesting mulch. If you see your glass as half empty, just pour it into a smaller glass. Being able to grasp the concept of different perspectives is a gift. Carry that idea further and imagine being able to understand the point of view of your good neighbor who voted the other way. What a gift that would be. Your imagination has more for you. A friend said, “Don’t be afraid to be open minded. Your brain will not fall out.”

The gentleman farmer who only had one hen and one rooster, now only has the rooster. Dogs, he said, got the hen. He did not say whose dogs they were and, while it is hard to blame the dogs for doing what comes natural to them, their owners bear the responsibility. This is not a new problem in a rural area, and, over time, it has been addressed in a variety of ways. Jonnie, the friendly dog does not even worry Wilbur the groundhog.

Blackberry Blossom is a great tune for the nimble fingers of bluegrass pickers. We celebrate the healing properties of music. Meanwhile, blackberries are being picked by the gallons these days in this part of the world. Six cups make a cobbler. J.c. Owsley up in Cross Timbers says to remember the Deet before you go to your favorite patch. Ms. Brixey makes sure to wear her tall boots and long britches when she goes picking. Those who thought the late hard freeze would ruin the harvest were wrong. Sometimes it is good to be wrong. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Blackberry Cobbler

July 15, 2021

CHAMPION—July 12, 2021



Friends visiting from Seattle have brought this weather with them. They have extra since they suffered an extraordinary episode of a Texas tropical heat wave heat up there recently. The warmest June in 127 years seems a funny statistic to an Old Champion wearing a sweater on July 12. Change surprises with surprise changes though climatologists the world over say we are being forewarned. A break between episodes of rain gives farmers the chance to finish their haying. Some old gardeners are struggling with a profusion of beautiful tomatoes that refuse to ripen even as jars fill up with green beans. These are not challenges faced by city dwellers rushing to their jobs on busy freeways.

Vanzant Picnickers

The Tri-County Fair fueled excitement and hard work for local dairy-farm kids, Jenna and Jacob, who were rewarded for their efforts with first prize ribbons and many accolades. Now the rest of summer seems to stretch out endlessly for them and other Champion youngsters. Boredom has set in and it is no fun going to the creek without friends. Mothers come to the rescue, as they have for generations, and wherever you see a passel of frolicking youth in a swimming hole, there is a mother nearby keeping close watch.

Vanzant Picnic Fun

“The show must go on,” according to Gina Holligshad, who along with Fiddling Tom and ‘D’ is for David, played on between showers and thunder booms. Stringed Union, of Willow Springs, Backyard Bluegrass, of various back yards, and Lost Creek, of Bruner, followed suit for two exciting evenings of music al fresco at the Vanzant Picnic. Brenda Coffman Massey said, “A big thank you to the community for your love and support! You know, there is a lot of work that goes into the picnic, but when you see everyone and the little kids having so much fun, you know your hard work paid off.” She said she does it for the kids. All the volunteers are to be commended for their efforts. This year the crowds defied the weather for the joy of seeing friends and families and continuing the tradition of gathering in support of the Vanzant Community and the Eastern Douglas County Volunteer Fire Department. Teresa Wrinkles wrangled the cake walk while on a walker, and several handsome gentlemen ferried folks from parking lot to picnic and back again in a continual stream with traffic control personnel out on the road keeping everyone safe. Kenneth Anderson won the fish cooker in the raffle. Ask Mary Elizabeth or Barbara how many fish and chips he will cook. Bob Smith won the $100.00 bill, which he may spend or save or give away. Crystal Shephard won the beautiful quilt that may become a family heirloom. The drawings had to be held on Sunday, because the thunderstorm that rolled in just as the turtle races were over put an abrupt stop to the planned evening. The food exceeded expectations for picnic fair and the games saw steady action. Neither Sheriff Chris Degase nor Commissioner Brad Loveless will have to take a bath anytime soon, as they each earned many dollar bills for the cause in the dunking booth. Splash! What might it tell them that so many people were willing to stand in long lines and spend money, hoping to see them get a sudden soaking? The internet fairly swam with images of the spectacle, and they appeared to have had a good time being waterlogged–good sports like Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

2021 Vanzant Picnic

July 8, 2021

CHAMPION—July 5, 2021


A Champion Sky

Reports are that the Old Tree Hugger Jamboree was another splendid affair down at the Mill Pond on the occasion of the 245th birthday of our beautiful Democracy. Love of Country and love of seeing dear compatriots combined. Laughter and summer feasting on fried chicken fueled fun among friends too long asunder under the thumb of Covid. Visitors from out of the sate hesitated to join the festivities as this part of the country has been deemed the current epicenter. Others plan to seek out their old friends in small groups. However we go about it, keeping connected keeps us healthy and grateful for having good people in our lives. Champion!

Champion Butterfly Weed

Recent good rains made gardeners happy and a few dry days following did the same for haymakers. “Don’t let a July rain fall on your onions!” If you planted them in the middle of March when you planted your potatoes, they are probably ready to reap. If you leave them in the ground much longer and they get rained on, they are liable to rot. So says lore around the cold wood stove in the middle of the Historic Emporium. It is also advised to cut a potato and set it on a fence post. If it releases water, potatoes dug then will not keep well. If the cut potato heals over, the harvest can begin. On Wednesday, Don and Reba Bishop were part of that conversation along with the Cowboy, the Prominent Champion and others there inside in the comfort of the air conditioning. Don has given up on growing sweet potatoes as the deer and groundhogs thwart them in his patch.

Chris Erkmann

Hoovey and Dawn Henson, who had driven up from Texas through Arkansas in a hard rain, relaxed out on the wide veranda chatting with The General, Dean Brixey, a gentleman farmer with just one hen and one rooster, and others. They stopped in again the next day for what Festus Haggen would call a good palaver. Since the 2020 Champion School Reunion had to be canceled, they were pleased to know it is on for this year and they will pass the word along to Royce and Eva Loyce. Hoovey looked for Alvin Barnhart and, most likely, saw him at the Mountain Grove High School Alumni celebrations. The internet brimmed over with images of the parade including Bob and Ethel Leach in a vintage red Chevy, which friends hope to see shining out on the Square one of these days. Or they could come in an old or new truck or a Blazer to share their good company, which has been much missed in Champion. St. Louis resident, Chris Erkmann, came on his motorcycle. He was in Springfield for the big Goldwing Rally and decided to make his way over to Champion, having heard about it through Kaitlyn McConnell, who he says is famous all over the state. He follows Kaitlyn’s Ozarks Alive! blog and, therefore, regularly reads The Champion News. His wife does not like to leave her garden in the summertime, so he made a solitary journey, which he says will not be his last trip to The Bright Side.

Champion Chicory

When it comes to ticks and chiggers, everyone has his own idea about how to avoid them and how to deal with the itch if they failed. Insect repellents serve some well while others have found the old remedy witch hazel, which remediates much of the itch. Those bites come along with the warm weather we longed for back in February. It arrived plenty warm, as usual, for the Vanzant Picnic. Once, an unknown number of years ago, there was a lightning strike on the back side of the Vanzant Cemetery just fifty or so yards away from the picnic grounds. An eyewitness said there was a snapping clicking sound, then a tree exploded—just blew apart in in a sudden burst of bright blue flame, and then came the slow roll of thunderous thunder. No one was hurt, but everyone became alert. Next Friday and Saturday, attendees will enjoy the games, the wonderful food and music. (Bakers are planning what they will make for the cake walk.) Great door prizes and raffles help draw a big crowd. Past experiences prompt picnickers to keep a weather-eye peeled like Champions–Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Wild Potato