August 31, 2022

CHAMPION—August 22, 2022



The Champion Reunion will be celebrated on Saturday of the Labor Day weekend, September 3rd. It is still the Champion School Reunion, and while there may not be many students to attend, everyone is welcome to come and celebrate the lovely spot on the banks of Fox Creek at the end of the pavement. Enjoy the great Pot-Luck luncheon at noon and bring your lawn chairs to sit around and visit. There are lots of you with good memories of Ed Henson and the old Champion Store. It may be that some of you have only heard about the history and the allure of the Bright Side. Check it out. See you there and see some great pictures of previous reunions here.

Skyline’s Back to School Fair and Open House has the new school year off to a great start. Teacher Carolyn Willhite will enjoy her birthday on the second day of school and Lauren Collins will celebrate on the 25th. Students, Brantley Kilgore and Jason Smith, party on the 29th, also the big day for Bill (Wes) Smith and Minnie Jo Henson. The 31st is for Jenna Brixey, Aiden Ray Hurt, and Kalyssa Wiseman. Jenna and Kalyssa are going to different schools. Barbara and Rita are married to Krider brothers, native Champions, who live up in Illinois. Their birthdays are on the 25th and 26th of August. The 26th’s is also the big day for Felix the Farmer’s Dad. Felix will be in kindergarten this year! It’s very exciting. Your Champion friends and neighbors wish you happy, happy birthdays all.

That special birthday song was sung to Judy Russell and to Dean and Bertie at the Vanzant Jam on Thursday. It may have been pitched poorly, but the genuine good wishes prevailed. There were smiles and giggles all around. Doug Bean sang, “An Old Log Cabin for Sale.” Sherry Bennet sang, “Build Me A Cabin in the Corner of Glory Land.” There was a halting rendition of “Little Log Cabin in the Lane.” Some wonder how many old songs talk about log cabins. “There’s a Little Pine Log Cabin,” “Log Cabin on the Hill,” and “Cabin Fever” are some additional ones. There may be more. Cheyenne McIntosh is excited about the new school year. She is the music teacher at Skyline and was pleased to report that the Acoustic Shoppe in Springfield donated seven sets of the best quality guitar strings to her class. She was most pleased. Tim Tamburrino of the Midwest Bluegrass Directory may find more guitars for her class, or there may be some good ones lingering yet, long unplayed under local beds just longing for a place to get played. If you have one to donate for the joy of kids with music, call Skyline (417-683-4874).

A spokesman for the Skyline VFD said “Thank you to Jon’s Mid America Fire Apparatus Inc. for the 24 foot ladder and the 50 feet of fire hose. They call themselves ‘The Fire Truck People.’” Support for our local volunteer fire department is welcome and appreciated. Ground has not yet been broken for the new Skyline fire station, but things are in the ‘works.’ All our local area volunteer fire departments can boast of members who are willing to leave their jobs and their dinner tables and beds to rush out to protect our lives and property. They have among them something called interoperability. It means the various volunteer fire departments help each other when needed. Who does not need help sometimes?

Champions also appreciate the hard work of the Southern Construction crew. They have been clearing the right-of-ways for the White River Valley Electric Co-op. They are nice folks doing a good job. One of their field supervisors, who has worked for the company for more than 30 years, said that in years past they built out the whole electric distribution in this area. They set the poles and did all the hot work. He said they built Branson. Now they are just doing the right-of-ways. To watch the skill of those guys operating that enormous intricate equipment is a sight to behold. They know how to handle our beautiful steep and rugged topography . Though things look a little ragged in spots now, they will soften in time and we will be grateful not to lose power in an ice storm this coming winter. It is easy to find reasons to be grateful in Champion–Looking on the Bright Side!


August 23, 2022

CHAMPION—August 15, 2022



The festival season has begun with the great homage to Route 66. The Mountain Grove Heritage Festival was two days of well-coordinated music and fun. Baker Creek just had their August Festival, and the Heart of the Ozarks Bluegrass Pulled Pork Picking Camp and Jam is coming up in a couple of weeks in West Plains. The HOBA Festival will occur toward the end of September. Then the Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks will happen in early October over at the Fox Trotters grounds. We live in a beautiful, diverse part of the world with lovely landscapes, and good-hearted, honest, hardworking citizens with lots of history. Lucky us.

Miss B. Denlow’s great grandmother, lovely Ilene Woods, won first place in the hand-quilted division of the quilt show during the Mountain Grove Heritage Festival. They are a talented family, including a celebrated stilt walker, who celebrated his birthday Sunday. Sharon Sanders’ birthday slipped by last week. She says that The Douglas County Museum Open House will be August 20, 10-2. They will be drawing the winner of the book “Douglas County Missouri History and Families 1857-1995,” a much sought-after hardcover limited edition. Get your tickets at the museum on Saturday. They have a great t-shirt that shows the Douglas County Mail Routes in 1915.

Bud Watkins was observed Friday and Saturday to be manicuring the grounds and garden areas of our Skyline School getting ready for school to start on the 22nd. He does a beautiful job. Skyline student, Caleb Harden, had his name misspelled in The Champion News last week as birthdays were being acknowledged. Harden, not Haden. His Skyline school mates, Hoyt Webster and Kaydi Ambroziac, have August 19th and 20th for their birthdays. Skyline alumnus, Tanna Jo Krider Wiseman, will celebrate on the 22nd and her nephews Drason Cline and Dakota Watts will have the 23rd and 24th for their big days. A favorite nephew who spent time cooking pineapple upside down cakes in Champion back in the 1970s has his birthday on the 24th. He comes back to visit frequently and is always a welcome guest. He is a grandfather now—used to be just a handsome teenager—still handsome—still a good cook.

Larry Warren wandered over to Champion from Wasola again Wednesday to hob-nob with friends and to pat his foot to some of the old tunes plucked and strummed out on the porch. He brought Doyle Utchman with him. They are both great storytellers. They join the ranks of the local rank raconteurs, which include The General, the Ferrier, and the Prominent Champion. Jim Brown is a likely candidate for that august body. Ask him about his chickens if you have twenty minutes to spare. He and Kathy have migrated south from among the northern tribes to be neighbors to Alvin and Beverly Barnhart. “We’ll sing of the old, and we’ll sing of the new. We’ll sing of the changes in years. I can’t tell a lie. Last night I had pie for the first time in twenty four years.” There is another old song suitable for the occasion.

An auspicious occasion had Kaitlyn McConnell of “Ozarks Alive!” visiting the Vanzant Jam on Thursday. She has visited Champion on many occasions and was the winner of the “Instead Of The Skyline VFD Picnic Quilt” back at the beginning of the pandemic. She was in Vanzant in the company of Mike O’Brian, an avid appreciator of The Champion News, and frequent traveling companion with Kaitlyn. The General suggested that her journalism is routinely based on fact, unlike this column in which he is often the subject of mild mockery. “Where do cowgirls go when they die?” Kaitlyn was prompted to ask her new friend. Her response to his sentimental musical soliloquy on “Reincarnation” proved her to be a convivial good sport as well as a wonderful writer. She has met Glen Branstetter now, so there is a treasure trove of stories awaiting her exploration. She is currently compiling her second volume of “Passport to the Ozarks,” where she shines a light on our many hidden corners. Champion will be featured in the next edition—Looking on the Bright Side!

Kaitlyn and The General

August 13, 2022

CHAMPION—August 8, 2022


Naked Ladies

Our few little episodes of recent rain have brought some relief and some lovely reminders of the beauty of this spot in the world.  It is the time of the year when we expect the Surprise Lilies, a.k.a. Naked Ladies to appear, and after these seem all the more beautiful for their endurance.  Deer dally in Nelson Park and shady lanes show us the way to go home.

Hovey (Kenneth) Henson, a Champion living in Houston, Texas wrote, “I was sorry to read about the passing of Elva Ragland.  Her grandmother called her Little Elvie.  When a preschooler, I threw Little Elvie’s shoes into Fox Creek.  I’m so glad that I saw her at one of the Champion School Reunions and got to apologize.”  Weather permitting, it looks like the Champion School Reunion will happen this year.  The pandemic put the kibosh on it for a couple of years, but if the heat is not too bad, it will be a go.  It happens the Saturday of the Labor Day week end.  From the 1985 publication Champion School Memories:  “Let us not forget the people who founded the district over one hundred years ago, who had a dream for a better education for their children.  They ignited the spark which was carried down through the years by people who had the same dream.  Also our parents, who in most cases sacrificed a great deal so that their children might have a better education and an easier life than themselves.”

A shady Champion lane

A line from an obituary of an unknown person:  “May the sweet example you have left behind you animate and encourage others to ‘go and do likewise.'”  Now, there is an admonition!  An old time encourager said, “We’re all just doing the best we can.”  He made it sound like a hymn as his aim was to say, ‘give each other a break.’  A double cousin of the Bright Side said, “Work together to make the community work.”  That was her response to a local newcomer having said she thought it unfair to have to pay school taxes when one is retired or has no children in school.  Who does not benefit from having an educated population?  School starts August 22nd at our great little rural school.  Skyline music teacher, Cheyenne McIntosh, responded to an inquiry by Tim Tamburrino of the Southwest Bluegrass Directory.  He wants to know if Skyline is still looking for donations of good, playable guitars.  Cheyenne says, “Yes we are!  I just got another one donated a few days ago which brings it up to seven guitars, but we could use more.”  Warner Minor donated one last year.  Probably there are more good ones under beds that are not being played.  Music education has far reaching benefits.

For fun, call your friends and wish them a happy birthday.  If it is not their birthday, you can both have a good laugh–just one birthday a year, please.  Champion grandson, Seamus Heffern, had his birthday on August 2nd.  Clark Shannon, affectionately known as ‘Sparky,’ had his big day on the 3rd, along with R.D., who was 66 in 2018.  He is fond of saying, “It’s like the old boy says, everybody’s got to be somewhere.”  Gina Hollingshad is often on stage making wonderful music.  Her birthday was August 6th, as was that of Jaxton Harley, a Skyline Student.  Another student, Caleb Haden, celebrated on the 5th.  The 8th is for Kalyssa’s old dad, Roger, born in 1968.  A mandolinist, who frets a lot, Lynette Cantrell, celebrates on the 9th.  She is the L in the popular local group called TLC.  Skyline’s Jaycee Hall shares her birthday on the 10th with Skyline staff member, Whitney Smith.  Cryslynn Bradshaw enjoys her day on the 12th.  Dean Upshaw will have the 13th for his big day and will be roundly celebrated in Champion, Vanzant and elsewhere.  Happy birthday to all you Champions.  You are making our world sweeter by just being yourselves.  Champions all–Looking on the Bright Side!

Nelson Park

August 5, 2022

CHAMPION—August 1, 2022


John and Family

The relief Champions are enjoying with an accumulation of more than two precious inches of rain and a few delicious days of moderate temperatures is comparable to the relief we will enjoy when the election is over.  Learning how awful some people are and how good the same people are, depending on who is spending the money for the advertising, is exhausting to anyone who is paying attention or anyone who cares.  The expenditure could be better allocated to philanthropy.  Everyone wants what is best for everyone, win or lose.  We are all in this together.

What is best is family.  A marvelous example of that came Thursday evening at the Vanzant Jam when family from Seattle and New Jersey, some flew and some drove, all congregated to wish a happy birthday to the nice man in Drury.  It was a surprise.  Daughters and their families, grandsons and granddaughters, cake, sweethearts and friends, music and laughter all made for a beautiful evening.  John is smiling yet.  Everyone was smiling to see siblings, Sally and Jerry, back at the jam.  Bluegrass needs a fiddle and Jerry plays a sweet one.  Asked about his sweetheart, he said she is as mean as ever.  Some part of the lively evening banter caused Sherry to think about the Purple People Eater.  It made her smile and she has a sweet one.

Stocked Up

For those who were unable to attend the Holt Picnic, the great photos posted online by the Eastern Douglas County Volunteer Fire Department, plus the fifty eight pictures shared by Pete and Phyllis Proctor were a real gift.  Those pictures were taken by David A. Vaughn Jr.  He said, “The second and last day of the 4H Picnic was a blast!  We had the cake walk, music, liquids, games, sack races and especially the turtle races.  If you were unable to make it this year, we hope to see you next year.”  It is a great event for a great cause.

Felix with his Wild Monk

Back in the old days, school generally started on the first Monday after Labor Day.  These days it starts earlier—August 24th according to the internet.  Summer seems shorter than it used to—well, maybe not this summer.  Stores are full of school supplies and students are getting excited, especially first time students.  So are their parents.  Felix the Farmer will be off to kindergarten, leaving his old Papa to take care of the garden and to look after his Wild Monk.

We are refreshed and ready for the next round of difficult weather.  Some gardeners are having to relax about the damage the drought and wildlife are doing to their crops.  Tony said his twelve forty foot long rows of corn with pumpkins planted among them were trampled and slept upon by deer last week.  It looks like some folks will be living on black eyed peas and the bounty put by from last year’s good harvest.  Consult with experts like Linda, Karen, and Edie to determine what might be best to plant in August.  Some are thinking about collards, turnips, and beets as they summon all the optimism they can muster for a fall garden in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Black-eyed Peas