August 27, 2021

CHAMPION—August 23, 2021



Ice Cream Snatcher Hits Champion!”  The headline was suggested by an onlooker who saw the story unfold:  An unnamed three year old sat on the wide veranda with several older children and others.  It was a warm early afternoon.  He had an ice cream sandwich in each hand.  Finishing one, he strolled over to the steps and summarily threw the wrapper down on the ground.  He then turned his attention to the second sandwich, struggling with the wrapper.  An Old Champion called him by name and said, “Go get that trash you threw on the ground and bring it up here and put in the trash can.”  He looked right at her and said, “No,” at the same time extending his ice cream to get help with the wrapper.  “No,” she said.  The next person he asked snatched the sandwich from the child’s hand, ripped it open, took a big bite out of it and then threw it into the trash can with such force that the thump startled the dozen or so people on the porch into a sudden, shocked silence.  In a second, the whole place roared with laughter and the stunned child, mouth still agape, unfroze himself and followed the wild Snatcher into the emporium to get his ice cream replaced.  It was suggested that had the Snatcher taken two bites, he might have made the kid cry, perhaps causing him to gain an understanding of cause and effect—littering makes bad things happen.  But the laughter kept happening.  As she left, the Old Champion picked the wrapper up off the ground and bought a quart of ice cream—another lovely day in Champion.

Mike O’Brien has been to Champion a couple of times.  He recently posted:  “I have decades of experience with the torment of Ozarks chiggers, but only in past few days have I learned the worst place to be nipped by one…. between two toes.”  He goes on, “Laugh if you will.  But all that will demonstrate is that you’ve never been kept awake most of a night with incessant itching cause by a bite from a tiny mite that somehow got into your shoe and past your sock to chomp down between the middle pair of smaller toes on one of your feet.  Calamine lotion doesn’t do it for me.  For future reference, does anybody have a sure-fire remedy to calm intense chigger itch?” Several people responded to him with a variety of treatments, some more aggressive than others, and admonitions to avoid kicking the chigger tree.

Sharon Sanders had a good report on Saturday’s fund raiser to support the Douglas County Museum.  Karen Greenwood was the lucky winner of the quilt, a beautiful red, white, and blue creation made by members of the Douglas County Historical Society and Museum.  Sharon thanked everyone who came, who bought tickets, made donations, and helped with the open house.  The museum is open every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.  She has the original checkerboard from the courthouse and an open challenge to the General any time he thinks he can beat her.  The benefit in visiting this museum, the Mountain Grove History and Arts Center and similar sites in neighboring communities is in learning how our forebears were able to make a go of life in these parts during difficult times.  There are examples there that may prove useful in these unusual times.

A broken camera suddenly makes every scene something to photograph.  The light is just right.  The expression is perfect to catch the emotion.  Jonnie could not be better posed.  At times like these, it is good to have a friend who is a photographer.  Shannon Alexander, up in Springfield, is such a guy.  He knows his business and if you ever need to look your best in a photo, find him at  He used his expertise to choose a camera commensurate with our skill level and within our budget.  He acquired it and made arrangements for its delivery in exchange for tomato sauce, salsa, black eyed peas, pickled garlic and money.  A good trade leaves everyone smiling.  Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Jonnie’s perfect pose.

August 21, 2021

CHAMPION—August 16, 2021


Wednesday visitors

Madeline’s kitten

Chocolate chip cookies are a favorite of The General, indeed of many Champions. They were still warm from the oven when young Madeline passed them around out on the wide veranda and inside the Historic Emporium on Wednesday. Madeline has a kitten with seven toes on each foot. She knows her ABCs and is excited to start first grade. She said, “I’m going to learn to read!” She and her brothers have been regular Wednesday visitors. They comprise The General’s Junior Fan Club and never fail to request his song: “Go and wash your dirty feet before you go to bed!” School will start next week so he will have one more chance to make a lasting impression on these young folks. His homemade two stringed coffee can bass fiddle did not do the trick, so he shared an extra guitar with them in hopes that their love of music will endure. (See this musician contraption here in the section called “Generally Speaking.”) His Senior Fan Club is excited to know he is working up that good Australian composition popularized by Hank Snow and Johnny Cash: “I’ve Been Everywhere.” A Champion is anxious to know if he has been to Ann, to Dogwood, Bryant, Granada, and Depew. Has he really been everywhere? Willie Nelson says, “We are the same. There is no difference anywhere in the world. People are people. They laugh, cry, feel, and love, and music seems to be the common denomination that brings us all together. Music cuts through all boundaries and goes right to the soul.”

Sweet potato flower

Don and Reba made a rare and welcome visit. Don no longer even tries to grow sweet potatoes. Between the groundhogs and the deer, his harvest had been scant in spite of having beautiful plants to start with. He has been struggling with the groundhogs and racoons to save his corn. Just as it was getting ready, he lost a couple of ears to some critter, so he brought most of it in. The next morning, he found all the stalks down and not a nubbin left. It may be that the skill it takes to keep his enormous, precarious stack of firewood from rolling down the hill does not translate over into gardening or perhaps that he is just too kind-hearted to his critters.

Home-canned tomatoes

A Champion writes, “My Mother was born in 1912. She had two older sisters, one younger sister and three younger brothers. They farmed. Mother said they canned tomatoes in a wash tub over an open fire with a quilt in the tub to keep the jars from rattling and breaking.” One of her favorite pastimes as a kid was making nails. The forge she used for her childhood fun is still in the family. It served as a barbecue cooker for a while and now is just a porch ornament. Canning methods have improved, and entertainment has changed, though learning how to use your hands to make the things you need might still be a good way to spend time. Old folks are generally pleased to share. The Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks is coming up again. It will be the first weekend in October out at the Fox Trotters Showgrounds. There will be all kinds of traditional skills to learn about there, some great music and food as well.

The various festivals of art, food, music, and community are more plentiful as the weather cools off. Open air entertainment seems to be the best kind these days. The bicentennial celebration was well attended and well reported for folks who where unable to go. The next hundred years of statehood is likely to be as eventful as the previous two, just in different ways. Hopes are that it will be marked with good health, good will, peace and prosperity for all its citizens. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

The two-string fiddle

August 13, 2021

CHAMPION—August 9, 2021


Dunk the Commissioner

Terri Ryan said how glad she is to see Highway C being resurfaced. It will make her trip to school safer and more pleasant. Enrollment for our Skyline R2 School will begin this week. School will be starting soon and the results of the summer’s exciting construction projects there will be revealed. The road work will be ongoing for a while and will be a quality-of-life enhancement for the whole community. Highway V has recently had some quality attention. Again, those handsome gentlemen at the Douglas County Road Maintenance Shed Number 2 in Drury are to be commended for the fine work they do keeping our beautiful country lanes in such fine shape. When Commissioner Brad Loveless sat in the dunking booth at the Vanzant Picnic, the issue of the amazing potholes on V Highway were brought to his attention. He was a good sport about it, and there is no reason to believe that the long line of picnic goers ready to dunk him, splish splash, had anything to do with the subsequent road repair.

A mess o’ Champion black-eyed peas in the making.

Pete Seeger said, “If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned, or removed from production.” In this part of the country, the nearest recycling center for plastic, glass, cans, and paper, seems to be the City of West Plains Solid Waste Transfer Station (417-255-2330). They accept residential and commercial solid waste, non-hazardous industrial waste, and compostable waste and have a place to bring your recyclables. West Plains Recycling, Inc. is a different place. They recycle metal, as do similar businesses closer to our area. Trying to do the right thing can get complicated and confusing and sometimes the internet does not help. Sometimes a good neighbor is not much help either, providing a person with incomplete or inaccurate information without meaning to. The City of West Plains folks are friendly and helpful.


Black-eyed Pea Flowers

Mary Elizabeth may like goober peas, but she does not like black-eyed peas. Many people do not like them. But they grow well in poor soil and, if you like them, are good fresh cooked with onions, new potatoes, and bacon fat. They can be canned for an easy meal in the wintertime or dried to share with kinfolks through the mail. That way the family can all have the same peas in different places together on New Year’s Day. Uncle Al said that we will eat at least that well all year. They feature prominently in a dish called Texas caviar.

Gardens are being lush and productive this year, when Covid is keeping would be admirers away. Felix the Farmer and his Papa shared tomato plants back in June which have become enormous and are making an abundance of beautiful fruit. Felix completed swimming lessons in July, so he was ready for the family trip to Vera Cruz. That glorious spot has a history of fun and relaxation for generations of friends and families who take a break from their garden and kitchen chores. Canning jar lids are still in short supply locally and the ones available through the internet may not come with the same degree of confidence that canners are accustomed to with the Ball and Kerr brands. The kitchen is another one of the best places for fun and optimism in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


August 6, 2021

CHAMPION—August 2, 2021


After the fire—west side of Mountain Grove’s square.

Terri Ryan shares a quote by Charles Glassman: “Kindness begins with the understanding that we all struggle.” Glassman practiced medicine in Rockland County, NY for twenty-five years and said that he watched medical practices shift from being focused on patients to being focused on problems: from health care to sick care. He has a lot of positive, inspirational things to say, but this quote seems particularly appropriate these days. Ms. Ryan seems to be able to find just the right groups of words to make us feel better and be better. Some Old Champions are struggling because their young kin folks from Lafayette, Louisiana have had to postpone, hopefully not cancel, their regular summer visit to the Bright Side since the vaccination rate in Douglas County is 16%. Baby Georg is just five months old, and his folks are not willing to run the risk, particularly considering the rise in pediatric Covid cases. They are not the only routine visitors to be reluctant to head this way. We will rely on Ms. Ryan and Dr. Glassman to help us stay positive during our struggles and to be kind even when we are frustrated.

Stone Cottage Bakery and Café

Histories of the various businesses that occupied the west side of the square in Mountain Grove over the years and accounts of other catastrophic fires in the area circulated around the tables in the Meeting Room at the Historic Emporium on Wednesday. The pictures and videos of the fire on the internet had Champions only partially prepared for seeing the aftermath in person on Monday. The little Stone Cottage Bakery and Café will not open in the Dryer 1935 building and the new pizza joint, Matteo’s, on the south end of that block will be a while in reopening, but the owners say they plan to open as soon as they can. The hard work and hope invested in those businesses is somehow more evident in the charred remains. Champions wish them good luck in their recovery.

Bob and Ethel were a welcome site in Champion on Wednesday after a long absence. Bob suggested that we get acquainted with Gary Mule Deer, a comedian and musician who famously said, “My grandad used to say, ‘If everybody liked the same thing, they’d all be after your grandma.’” Ethel shared a recipe for a green tomato pie, which will get a test soon, though it is the opinion of some prominent Champions that there are better things to use for pies. There is hardly anything better than seeing old friends again. If you cannot see them, give them a call. You never know whose day you might brighten.

A hazy horizon.

“Music imprints itself in the brain deeper than any other human experience. Music brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” Says Dr. Oliver Sacks. The Sometimes Porch Band managed a few old tunes even as their old acoustic instruments absorbed humidity and their strings began to oxidize in the heavy hot air. While they appreciated the kind invitation to play inside in the cool, the exciting comings and goings on the wide veranda were irresistible. A board member paused to share an update on the construction progress at our great Skyline R2 School. It is significant and ongoing. A local genuine rapscallion bragged about not being afraid to get dirty. His fearlessness was evident. Author, Mike Upshaw, discussed his latest projects and extended an invitation to The Stained-Glass Theatre, where his two sons will be appearing in a production called “Hi-Tops,” which will run through August 21st with Saturday matinees and evening performances during the week. Fox Creek neighbors stopped in for lunch and made a new acquaintance with the author who, in distant years past, had occasion to use their now relocated, updated and enhanced out-house, which has become the primary tourist attraction on Fox Creek Road. It is always stimulating in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

After the fire—west side of Mountain Grove’s square.