March 26, 2023

CHAMPION—March 20, 2023



On the last night of winter a family up in Vanzant lost their home to a fire.  The Eastern Douglas County VFD, along with the Skyline VFD and the Cabool Fire Department responded to the call. The homeowners and their pets barely made it out with the clothes on their back, according to the EDC.  We will look for more information and for ways to be of help to our neighbors.

Ed Henson

Wilbur the groundhog hails the arrival of Calendar Spring, strolling leisurely about the grounds. Apparently Atmospheric Spring arrives later in Champion.  It is cool yet.  The 28th and 29th will be good days to start seed beds, plant flowers and other above ground crops for those who plant by the signs.  Spring Cleaning advocates say cleaning can be done any time.  A pleasant employee of the Town and Country Grocery in Mt. Grove, dealing with a basket of random unsaleable things said, “I hate clutter.”  She went on to say that her house is always ‘company ready,’ a concept to ponder. Spring beckons old Champion housekeepers outside away from the clutter and the dirt and out into the soil and sunshine.

Our Champion daughter, sunning and studying in Argentina, shared a video of a trio she encountered at a local jam—a guitar playing singer, a rub board percussionist and a spoon virtuoso making some fast, exciting, melodic music.  The spoons were heirlooms passed down from his beloved grandmother.  Argentinians share their love of spoon music with Greeks, Turks, Brits, French, Canadian and Russian folk musicians, as well as with South Carolinians and Champions.  Musical spoons kept in the Historic Emporium entice a favorite retired mail carrier to join in a Wednesday jam.  ‘Soldiers’ Joy’ cannot be played too fast for her.  A fast picking banjo player said he had made a trip to Champion recently.  He had not been there for years and had good memories of Ed Henson, his smiles, and jokes.  The General says the Wednesday jam (starting around 11:00) could use a banjo.  Bring what you play and play along with Mr. Day when he brings his mountain dulcimer.

Another Champion daughter shared a video of herself back in February snow/ice sledding headfirst, whizzing down the long steep stretch of pavement that ends in Champion.  Her dad said she must have been going sixty miles an hour—too fast.  She said, “Was it exciting? Yes.  Would I do it again? No.”  She might add a chapter to “The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook,” through which she browsed while her talented Mom played the spoons.  She read about how to stop a car with no brakes and perhaps how to deal with a tarantula.

Cletis Upshaw

While no one seemed willing to spend the $.63 on a postage stamp, the mailbox received both criticism and suggestions in response to the invitation for those things last week.  A regular reader suggests that we include Johnny Cash’s “What is Truth” in our music selections in the website edition (  The criticism: “not enough local history appears in these articles.”  The remedy for that comes from one of the seven big binders of newspaper clippings, obituaries and notes compiled by the late Lorene Johnston.  A random selection concerns the retirement from the post office after 41 years of Cletis Upshaw.  “When Upshaw started his work on July 12, 1958, the route involved 42 miles and 150 box holders.  Today the route covers 106 miles with over 270 box holders.  Even with the mileage going up, flat tires have gone down.”  Better tires and better roads were cited as reasons for the improvement.  During his tenure, Cletis saw an almost complete turnover in customers on his route with few of the originals remaining.  The article was written in in 1999, so the route may be longer now with even more boxes and even fewer of his original customers.  We lost Cletis in 2008.  The Champion article Lorene clipped said, “A person could set his clock by Cletis and could always count on him for good humor.  He was a genuine historian and a genial, good natured person.  Champions are grateful to have had him in their lives and are glad that he knew the community held him in high esteem.”

Friends visiting Champion on Saturday came south on Cold Springs Road from 76 and reported the road to be in excellent shape. The cliffs, twists and turns, hills and low spots, deep woods and unexpected splashes of daffodils mark it as memorable. Those charming and handsome gentlemen from the Drury Shed make it passable.  Whether via a beautiful country lane or the pavement, one could hardly find a more lovely destination than Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


CHAMPION—March 13, 2023


Time, according to the clock, has little impact on old, retired Champions and farmers.  We just go about our business regardless of the big hand and the little hand.  School teachers, students, and other people with jobs may or may not like the change.  Linda will be pleased since the clock in her car will be correct again for a while.

“I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it, I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.”  Edna St. Vincent Millay, the great American poet, shared that valuable concept.  Esther Wrinkles wrote for The Douglas County Herald for over fifty years.  She advised that sometimes it is good to make a mistake in an article, as one is given the chance to revisit the subject.  Ever willing to be corrected, it happens that all those young people called ‘second cousins’ last week, are actually ‘first cousins once removed.’  Apologies to all the Watts, Krider, Oglesby, Cline, Upshaw, Wiseman, Johnston families and others for the misnomer as they welcome Waylon Iker Watts to the beautiful briar patch of his family tree.

The lovely Elva Upshaw was welcomed into the world on March 23rd.  On that day welcomed also were Don Bishop, who has an extraordinary wood pile stacked carefully at the top of a steep hill; Donald Powell, the Maytag man; and mushroom maven, Judie Pennington.  All arrived in different years, different places, to different families, but all were welcomed.  Nurse Raquel will be celebrated at Skyline School on March 24th.  Champion Troy Powell was born March 26, 1926, and passed away on his birthday in 2001.  He loved the old gospel music and had a beautiful smile.  The 27th is for Skyline fourth and fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Downs, and for first grader Aliyiea Trujillo.  Fourth grader Brailynn Cumby claims the 28th and seventh grader Braxton Mayberry has the 29th for his big day.  Fourth grader Tucker Johnson and third grade teacher Mrs. Melissa Willhite share the 30th.  Our great little rural school gives us plenty of reasons to celebrate as excellent teachers and staff help our country kids become excellent, educated, solid citizens.

Three doghouse double basses, two banjos, two fiddles, two mandolins and beaucoup guitars made for a jumping jam at Vanzant Thursday.  Music is good for us.  It is particularly pleasant to see the help and encouragement that accomplished musicians share with the beginners—carrying the tradition forward.

A rare trip to town finds friends in unexpected places.  There was a banjo player in the grocery store.  Apparently, they eat too.  Charming Barbara Anderson paused in her shopping to visit a moment.  Charlie Lambert was checking out at the register when he was spotted and entreated to find a way to the jam sometime.  Way off in the big town of Springfield, Beverly and Alvin Barnhart had a few minutes to visit before their medical appointments.  Alvin had recovered from a face plant off his porch that had left him with two black eyes.  Beverly was grateful to have met a cardiologist when it was important to meet one.  She was in good spirits despite battling numerous health issues.  Champions are grateful to be able to access good health care, grateful to have friends and to meet them in unexpected places.

Constructive criticism helps us be better.  Feel free to point out mistakes, share a story or a song, or poke fun at The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367 Norwood, MO 65717 or at  For a little optimism, come down to the wide, wild, wooly banks of Old Fox Creek to Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


March 14, 2023

CHAMPION—March 6, 2023


Fae and Waylon
Butch and Joyce

A distant Champion reading last week’s article corrected the report that Lonnie Krider had said, “There’ll come a day in February when a dog looks for the shade.” The reader said he heard, “the dog ‘hunts’ for the shade.” The difference is small, but perhaps meaningful to some. Somebody small, around six pounds, arrived over in Tennessee on January 18th, and is very meaningful to the Krider/Watts family as well as to the Cline, Wiseman, Oglesby, Upshaw families and various others. He is Waylon Iker Watts and, because of him, Fae Krider is a great grandmother and Marty Watts is now a grandpa! Waylon’s second cousins, Foster and Kalyssa, brought their instruments, mandolin and fiddle, and met up with Dillon, now a father, and his banjo and, with Dakota’s wife on the guitar, made a bluegrass birthday for great aunt Staci Krider Cline. One of Waylon’s other second cousins, Drason Cline, is most interested in learning guitar and is ready to have lessons. He and his brother Carson are both good singers according to their grandmother.


Alvie Dooms will be pleased to read that music is proliferating so thoroughly through that big Champion/Tennessee family. Alvie spent some time last week wrestling with an old fiddle that had not been out of its case in more than a dozen years. He reset the sound post, pulled pegs, replaced the rusty e string, tuned it up, rosined up a good bow expecting to hear ‘Soldiers’ Joy’ when he came back from a trip down the hall. (It will take a longer trip than that.) He has a wealth of stories to tell and a pleasant couple of hours soaking up local music history with him and Dovey was well spent. Kaitlyn McConnell has spent some good time with them in recent years, and Dovey laughed about Kaitlyn’s current trip to France and said she expects her to be in China one of these days.

Through some silly mix up, The Champion News failed to acknowledge the birthday of Debora Barker. It was on the 3rd of March and was roundly celebrated by her family, her many friends, and colleagues. She recently said, “We backwoods rednecks have taken another step into the tech world…as I post this very status update on my cell phone in my own home—a feat new to me and my country life! Not sure I want to be completely connected 24/7, but will enjoy it when I need it. LOL” It is a new world to be so connected and at the same time isolated. Seems like we don’t get ‘together’ like we used to do, whether it is a hangover from the pandemic, old age, or just creeping technology. However, making the most of what we have is one of these Champion traits. Through technology we learned that Butch and Joyce Linder had a wedding anniversary on March 3rd. While we do not know how long it has been, it has probably been a good long while. They are still smiling. Dennis Shumate was smiling too, looking at “Happy Birthday” spelled out in strawberries on his cake.


Micah Foulke lives in Portland, Oregon has a birthday on March 9th and a cousin—our own Felix the Farmer! Skyline Kindergartener, “CJ” Castillo enjoys the 11th for his birthday and his fourth grade sibling, Trinity Castillo enjoys the 13th. The 12th is the day to remember two very interesting Champions. Geoff Metroplos and J.R. Johnston. Geoff was a multi skilled, creative handy man deluxe. If high branches were interfering with your satellite, he was the guy to call to climb up there wielding his chain saw to clear the way. That was his old fiddle that Alvie was wrestling with. He was a good guitar player and a carpenter who could tell you it was out of plumb by an eighth of an inch. J.R. Johnston attended The Champion School. He enjoyed fishing, traveling, and was an avid bluegrass musician and fan. He played the banjo and was one of those generous musicians who encourage beginners at the McClurg and Vanzant Jams. He loved the old songs and Janet, his wife of 67 years. He said they had met on a blind date and went bowling. Someone remarked that every time they saw Janet she was smiling. He said, “She’s always been like that.” J.R. had an interesting life and left lots of friends and family with many sweet memories. Kaitlyn McConnell interviewed him back in 2018 for Ozarks Alive. The 15th—the Ides of March—is the 50th anniversary of the birth of a Champion Skyline alumnus now fiddling around in Scotland. He likes the old songs too, particularly ones that smack of optimism like “Accentuate the Positive,” and “When You’re Smiling.” Elizabeth Mastrangelo Brown was 23 years old on March 16, 2013. The 16th is also the big day for Skyline second grader, Lillith Jeffery. The 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, the day planned for the Skyline Spring Fling Dance. Fun is afoot.

Gardeners are already busy planning and preparing as spring is imminent. Edie Richardson was a Champion landowner for a short while before she found her paradise up between Macomb and Hartville. There, she and Lee are operating an organic farm and inspiring neophytes with their work through the Wright County Extension Council and the Wright County Master Gardeners. Then, there are Lee’s bees to learn about. They have a good neighbor in Champion mail carrier, Karen Ross, who carries the mail on another route now. Karen will probably still be sharing tomato plants on her route. The wild vicissitudes of March weather, in like a lamb, etc., is not about to thwart the efforts and energies of determined Champions! Looking on the Bright Side!


March 3, 2023

CHAMPION—February 27, 2023



William Wordsworth may have “wandered lonely as a cloud” up Cold Springs Road behind the road grader that spread the daffodils along the fence row last fall. “Tossing their heads in sprightly dance,” they are lovely. It would be lovely if that big road implement would wander up past Miss B.D.’s Wolf Pen place and work on that mud hole/spring branch that just keeps getting more wallowed out. It is 1.3 miles south of 76 Highway and sure to muddy up your undercarriage and jar your teeth. Old Champions must go the long way around to enjoy the many other hosts of golden daffodils, “fluttering and dancing in the breeze.” Monday morning’s breeze was a gale.

World-wide wanderer, Kaitlyn McConnell, wandered into the Vanzant Jam the other night. She was just passing by and could not resist revisiting the spot where she learned about reincarnation. She signed some copies of her recent “Passport to the Ozarks Volume 2” and promised another stop in Champion after her trip to the French Rivera. Lorelai brought Molly to the jam, her 10 week old puppy, all cuddly, brown, and curly. Lorelai’s grandfather strummed a beautiful “Blessed Assurance” on his dulcimer in the key of G, which meant he used a capo, which meant that the device had to be examined for its uniqueness by various musicians in the circle. Said one, “I never saw anything like that in my life!” Sherry Bennett did not bring her eight Yorkie puppies to the jam, but she posted some adorable pictures of them online, looking for forever homes. They are registered cuties with papers and fuzzy little faces that will steal your heart. There are lots of sweet songs about dogs–“Old Shep,” “Old Rattler.” Doug Bean sings one about “Pearl.” It turns out there are lots of songs about possums too. Sherry has a whole CD full of them which she thinks she might put in her car just for the fun of it. The prominent Champion has a favorite one done by the Bar D Wranglers. Now that his tablet is no longer ‘kazaouzed,’ he was able to share the tune a number of times with Wednesday jammers. It might/might not catch on.

Heather Berg along with Skyline Archery coaches, Jana Barnes-Brixey and Melissa Willhite, remark that the improvement in the team over the season has been awesome. Watching them all grow has been fun. Seven qualified for the state competition this year. Conner Jonas, Jacob Brixey, and Elizabeth Hinote in both bullseye and 3D, and Alex Bradley, Joseph Hastings, Aidan Acree and Paige Jonas in 3D. Congratulations to all you hardworking archers. Concentration, discipline, and persistence pay off.

Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash

Skyline third grade students, Lotus Winter and Ryanne Harvey, have their birthdays on March 1st and 3rd. Skyline’s art teacher, Miss Drake, and baloney lover and backyard mandolin musician (who frets a lot) Dennis Shumate, also enjoy March 3rd for their birthdays. The 5th is for sixth grader Gabriel Castillo and Linda Heatherington, Champion bridge player, gardener, and KC Chief’s fan. Sue Murphy sings “Just Because” and “In the Gravel Yard” and many other great songs. Her birthday is on the 8th of March. Happy birthday to all of you Champions and friends of Champions. February 26th would have been the 91st birthday of Johnny Cash. He has been gone for 20 years now and is still missed.

It is a fact that the longer we live, the more people we know who have died. As our contemporaries and old timers slip away from us, we are awash in sadness, memory, and gratitude for the part they played in our lives. We are reminded to stay in touch with family and friends, to appreciate them while we still have each other. Many in the world are missing loved ones as wars and terrible natural disasters have millions displaced and homeless. While we have only gratitude for our own safety and well-being, our thoughts and best hopes go out to the very many in the world not so fortunate. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!