May 26, 2023



Bud Hutchison's Memorial Trail Ride
Conditions were perfect for Bud Hutchison’s Annual Spring Trail Ride from Champion on Wednesday.
Left to right:  Dana, Caleb and Andrew Harden, Kay Rex, Bob Wheeler, Loran Cockrum, Jacquelyn Svobda, Juniper Wiley, Don Hamby, and Kyle Benson.

The long and short of Bud Hutchison’s Memorial Trail Ride on Wednesday: Ten saddled up; Nine left the Champion Square; Seven returned. About ten that morning the riders took their places in front of the Champion Store for their traditional photograph, then Andrew led them north. Gravel in the parking lot proved uncomfortable for the right rear foot of Don Hamby’s mount and it was discovered the horse was missing a shoe. So, Don joined the loiterers in the shade of the wide veranda for a good three hours of yarn spinning and reminiscing. Larry Warrick came over from Wasola to hobnob with the porch full of locals. Some of what went on: Don’s father had told him that a mule will wait his whole life to kick you once. Then, there was a story about a counterfeiter who was trying to change $18.00 bills down in Arkansas and was asked if he wanted two $9.00s or three $6.00s. Sad songs suggested were Marty Robbins’ “Little Joe the Wrangler” and “Lorena,” a song so sad that commanding officers forbade it to be sung during the Civil War, as troops were prone to turn homeward. Then, there was a ballad about a true event concerning a side of bacon called “The Swirl Hole Hill.” Book recommendations were “Hicks from the Sticks” about Bradleyville’s basketball team and their 64-game winning streak that brought them to the state championship in 1960, and “Song of a Woods Colt,” poetry by Billy Edd Wheeler. Champion is a genuine seat of learning.

Kay Rex

About the time Mr. Gray stopped in to discuss his recreational tomato plants with the Prominent Champion, trail boss, Andrew Harden, called for Mr. Hamby at the store to report that a horse had strayed away and to be on the lookout. Don loaded his horse in the trailer and headed east to meet the riders. He located his runaway Appaloosa, which had escaped from Kyle Benson, and loaded it and Calvin Chambers’ Gin, ridden by Jacquelyn Svobda and headed back to Dora. Directly, long after a while, seven of the riders came ambling into the square looking for ice cream. They had lunched at the scenic overlook near the Shannon Ranch and reported unanimously to have had a beautiful ride. The Harden family was planning to do some weed eating at home that afternoon. Loran Cockrum had a ‘go-pro’ camera on his cowboy hat and went back to West Plains to download his video. Kay Rex and Bob Wheeler headed back to Ava and Juniper Wiley rode home just a little way up the hill.

Bob Wheeler and Andrew Harden

A General reminder: “The annual Denlow/Fairview School Reunion will be Saturday, 27 May 2023, at the Denlow Baptist Church and cemetery. Ed Williams will be providing fried fish and chicken for lunch. Everyone else should bring a side dish and/or dessert. Donated items will be auctioned off around 2 pm. Johnny (IOU) Cox will be playing guitar and singing accompanied by the Fox Creek thunder road high flying unstrung band. I hope to see you all there.”

Sharry and Jack Lovan celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary at the Vanzant Jam on Thursday. This is a busy time of the year for Sharry’s band, Stringed Union, and all the local bluegrassers. The Spring Social Season is well underway. A benefit for Sandie Emery Saturday night at the Vanzant Community Building proved the reputation of this part of the world as being generous and supportive of its citizens. As usual, Teresa Wrinkles shared some of her famous pies, two of which sold for a cool $1,000.00 each. Esther would be proud. Her own pies often brought a very pretty penny for good causes. So, the tradition goes on—people helping people—Champions! Looking on the Bright Side!

Headed north . . .

May 24, 2023

CHAMPION—May 15, 2023


Fire Pink

Aging rural Champions are getting in touch with themselves, not so much as might be considered introspection, but of tick inspection. Much of the aggravation associated with the itching is directed at The General who routinely relocates Vanzanticks to the west side of Fox Creek. Friends and alumni of the Denlow and Fairview Schools will have the opportunity to call him to task for that and other shenanigans at the Denlow School Reunion on Saturday the 27th. Folks will come from Iowa, Arkansas, St. Louis and other places for the potluck luncheon followed by serious socializing, auction fun in the pavilion, and the chance to discuss history with the gentleman. Monday he was trimming weeds up at the race track memorial, expecting an onslaught of tourists over the Memorial Day weekend.

Summer school is well underway at Skyline. Teresa Wrinkles has spent lots of time in school. She is retiring this year. Her birthday is May 22nd. She is still making Esther’s coconut pie recipe. Prekindergarten student Jennings Harley may not be in summer school but will be celebrating a birthday on the 24th of May along with Chase Cauthron’s mom. Skyline staff member, Leslie, enjoys Mountain Dew, caramel popcorn, and Snickers. Her birthday is May 26th which happens to also be that of lovely Lena Bell. She has been seen waltzing with Jerry Wagner and is known to be a staunch defender of her infamous younger brother. Ed Henson was born May 23, 1903. The many stories about him around Champion are full of good humor. Memories of him still bring smiles. Smile for Brylee Clark, born May 28, 2010. That day is also a big one for Dale Thomas and Jessie Mae Miller, though we will not ask in what years. Happy birthday to you. Have some fun.

Back in the early 1950s the Maxwell House Coffee people sponsored a radio show “Life with Luigi.” It always started with a letter to Luigi’s mother: “Dear Mama mia,” and would go on to tell the story. That was the way an old Champion began every letter to her until her mother, a fan of Luigi and Pasquale, passed away in 1975. An excerpt from another letter, postmarked May 13, 1993, begins: “Dear Mother, The birds of morning have been singing for quite sometime and even if you had never seen the sunrise or even heard of morning, you would know that something really groovy is fixing to happen.” The phone lines were smoking on Sunday with declarations of love and devotion for the all the dear ladies. A lovely geranium in a beautiful blue pot, hand painted by a sweet young friend, has topped the holiday off in a marvelous way. On behalf of many mothers, thank you all for your loving gestures.

Wednesday’s treat came with a Champion visit by Bob and Ethel Leach. Like everyone, they have been busy this spring, but they plan to be back in the Historic Emporium more often this summer. The band will have to update their Gene Autry songs. Tom Petty said, “Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There’s not some trick involved in it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things….” Bob might like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. He knows a lot about music and still will not sell the beautiful little mandolin banjo that sits languishing on his mantle unplayed. Alas. Perhaps Bob and Ethel’s neighbors, Richard, Dawn, Lorelei, and Wade, will find time to play out on the wide veranda this summer. They are a dulcimer family.

Miss Denlow’s dad, freshly home from an East Texas hog hunt, stopped by to lend a much needed hand to some old folks wrangling a washing machine. It did not take long, but it was a great help. We are blessed to have good neighbors. The memorial trail ride named for Bud Hutchison heading up in Champion Wednesday looks like it will be blessed with good weather. The riders always have a good time and come back to the store with stories to tell and a serious hankering for ice cream. This is one of the traditions that keeps Champions Looking on the Bright Side!

Another Champion Spring

May 10, 2023



The General's pink dogwood in Vanzant

Hark! The merry month of May is all over us. We have had May Day, Cinco de Mayo already. Mother’s Day is coming up, then Memorial Day. Preschoolers have graduated to kindergarten, from there to first grade and on and on through high school and beyond! A pioneer of America public schools in the 19th century called education the “great equalizer of the conditions of men.” Champions value our little rural Skyline R2 School. Even those of us with no children, grand or great grandchildren enrolled understand the importance of an educated citizenry. We are so impressed with the dedication and hard work of our school board, our administrators, teachers and staff and our wonderful Skyline students, who will be in charge of the world soon. That they then may recall their unique rural beginnings gives hope for the continuation of this kind of community. Congratulations to all you matriculates. The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend will see attendees of the Fair Grove and Denlow Schools having their reunion. The celebration is open to friends and neighbors and to people who just wish they had gone to school there or who have no reunion of their own to attend—always a pleasant gathering.

The Woo-Hoo Girls are likely to make an appearance at the Vanzant Jam again one of these days. A chance run-in with Bobbi Gast confirms as much. She and MaryJo Jolly are hoping to make it to the jam some Thursdays this summer. Bobbi says she has really missed it since she moved farther away and since the pandemic. She asked to be remembered to everyone and was glad to know that the music circle is unbroken. She and MaryJo and their friend Treva Harris were recently in Branson expressing their ‘woo hoo’ enthusiasm for Elvis which captured The King’s attention. There are photos. A lovely meal at Paula Dean’s place at Branson Landing was another highlight in the weekend that she described as ‘crazy fun.’

Audrey Hepburn said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” The meteorologists will have us believe that we are now free of the fear of frost. Cautious locals will start their transplanting of tender plants on the 13th, 14th, 17th, and 18th. The long awaited best time of the year is here even though mushrooming has been pitiful, and the ticks are being plentiful. Alas. Hummingbird entertainments during our rest periods divert attention from our worries to the wonders of our wonderful world.

Wesley Boyd was a Skyline prekindergarten student this year. His birthday is May 11th. The 12th is for Conner Jonas who was an eight grade student and now off to another school. On the 14th we remember our friend Candi Bartsch who passed away recently. She played “Old Indiana” in G on her fiddle and made many friends with her thoughtful kindness. Champion granddaughter Elizabeth Heffern and Linda Cooley share the 15th for their birthday. Famous local luthier, Alvie Dooms, has the 16th for his big day. He may be part of the proof that music can be a positive effect on longevity. He has a very long history in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

A horse named Steel

May 8, 2023



Skyline Fun Run


It was a cool Saturday morning for the Skyline Fun Run, a 5K walk/run, hosted by the Skyline Wellness Committee.  In the eleven-year-old and under category Kash Hurt came in first at 20 minutes, Alexander Bradley was second, and Blake McIntosh was third, also with good times.  They were followed by Caleb Barker who took first in his division (12-17 year old).  Second place in that division was Ray Hurt and Joseph Hastings came in third.  Deborah Barker was the only competitor in the adult division.  She was the last to finish the race, but was first in her division, crossing the line to a rousing welcome.  Several others started the race but caught a ride on the way back with the pilot UTV driven by Jim Hurt.  Doug Hutchison, Terrell Johnson, and D.J. Mastrangelo of the Skyline VFD provided traffic control for the event and joined the after race festivities for the awarding of prizes and the Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  Mr. Gray said the weather looked great for the Skyline Field Day on Tuesday afternoon.  The school year ends on Friday and summer school begins next week.  Our great little rural school is a busy, exciting place, preparing our young folks for good futures ahead and making good memories of their “good old golden rule days.”

D.J., Terrell, and Doug

Andrew Harden won the adult division in last year’s Fun Run, and in previous years as well.  He was in attendance but did not run this time for reasons of his own.  He did inform that Bud Hutchison’s Memorial Trail Ride will head up in Champion at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 17th.  Saddle up for the ride or just come to see some beautiful animals and nice people.

As to nice people, it is good to hear from Jerry that Sally is coming home.  Almost everything a person hears from Jerry is nice unless he is talking about his cousin, The General.  Jerry does not talk about his motorcycle hoodlum brother-in-law at all, though there is probably much that could be said.  He was out on the porch at the Historic Emporium Wednesday pointing out into the Square saying that it was Jerry’s car that ran over Bud right out there, but Jerry was not driving.  Is more investigation warranted?

May Day conjures up images of fair maidens weaving in and out with ribbons dancing around the May pole.  Workers of the World United on May 1, 1886, brought us the eight-hour workday and other labor benefits.  In Ireland and Scotland, it is celebrated as Beltane, halfway between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice.  Many superstitions or traditions are associated with Beltane. In Edinburgh, for example, if a young woman climbs a certain hill to wash her face in the morning dew there, she will be blessed with youthful beauty always.  Then we hear the cry, “May Day! May Day!” as a call of distress when the plane is going down in the movies.  May first is also the birthday of Skyline second grade student Holden Johnson and of retired Skyline teacher, Terri Ryan.  She enjoys retirement and being Selina’s grandmother.  Dovey Dooms has her birthday on the second of May.  Her sisters will likely celebrate with her.  One time Ava resident Brenda Lee now lives in Springfield also enjoys her birthday on the second.  Cinco de Mayo happens on Friday this year and is said to be celebrated here these days more than it is in Mexico.  Ole! The sixth is for Linda Heffern, a Champion up in Springfield.  She and her husband have just marked their 35th wedding anniversary.  The eighth is for kindergarten student, Dahlia Winter.  The ninth is for remembering Bonnie Brixey Mullens who always loved the Denlow School Reunion.  She and Pete never missed it.  We miss them.  The reunion is coming up on the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend—always a pleasant event.

Champion Kenneth (Hovey) Hovey Henson emails to to say: “Wes Lambert can tell you a story about he and I tying a tin can to the tail of Ed Henson’s coon hound.  Making a lot of racket, goes running through the school yard, past the Champion school house, during Wednesday night prayer meeting, goes over the bluffs along Fox Creek and into Oscar Krider’s field.  Ed Henson was livid’ had to do some crafty lying to get out of that one.  Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.”  Then out on the porch at the Historic Emporium last Wednesday, Wes said it was he and Randy Henson who manufactured this mischief.  Both the doors of the school were open, and the dog ran all the way through the building during the prayer meeting.  The can got lost somewhere but the hound came back with the wire still on its tail which was swollen.  Wes said Ed was indeed mad.  Hovey did manage to get into trouble, though not for this prank.  He and one of those Proctor boys were described as rounders, along with various others, most likely Wes included.  There may be conflicting versions of this story.  The Prominent Champion remarked that animal rights groups would be up in arms over such a prank.  We can use our imaginations and not worry about it.  Overall, we figure worry is the misuse of imagination and it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


Indigo Buntings

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

CHAMPION—April 24, 2023


The Champion Store

On Earth Day, April 22nd, Texas Champion Becky Heston shared, “If you want evidence that the world is a terrible place, watch the news and surf the web. But if you want to remember how incredible this planet is, go out into nature. Unlike social media and the news, nature has no incentive to keep us agitate, angry, and anxious.” We feel blessed to have smart friends and doubly blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the world. Sunday and Monday mornings were frosty in the low spots. The weather seems most unsettled.

Young family folks from big cities marvel at spring happening in the country. “It’s so quiet” they say, “except for the birds! How can such a little thing make such a big sound?” While marveling they lent their hands to some of the hard work that gardening requires this time of the year. Joe tilled and raked rocks and tilled again. Corinne planted beets and radishes and made a significant improvement to the Sometimes Porch Band on Wednesday, the first time they have played outside this year. She is a classically trained musician playing the big fiddle called the viola, steeped in Eastern European music, but most interested in learning the kind of stuff played around here. Before she left, she had “Ashokan Farewell” mastered. Butch Stone happened by and requested “The Eighth of January” and “Faded Love” among others. She made a list and plans to be back on the porch sometime soon.

Soon we will find out from Andrew Harden when the spring trial ride in memory of Bud Hutchison will happen. Skyline seventh grade student Juniper Wiley knows Kaleb Harden and figures she can find out from him when it will occur. She rides her horse to the Champion Store. Her birthday is coming up on the 28th. This is her first year at Skyline and she loves it. There is a lot to love about Skyline. The Tigers just had their ‘field day’ on Friday. Also, on that day the Pre-K, Kindergarten, and First grade had a good time at Rutledge Wilson Farm. The annual ‘fun run’ sponsored by the Krispy Kreme folks will happen at the end of the month. Graduation is on the horizon and summer soon to follow–all a testament to the swift passage of time.

While pausing in the middle of the road to photograph some beautiful chickens, an Old Champion happened to meet a pleasant young man by the name of Eric. He is originally from Lincoln, Nebraska and his wife is a native of Houston, Texas. They are Juniper’s friends, staying in Downtown Champion, hoping to locate permanently in the area with their two month old baby. He is operating a business Called Property Beautification Services. (417-259-1672) He does roof and gutter cleaning, power-washing, yard and garden work, and builds garden beds, trellises, and planters. It is encouraging to have young, hardworking people interested in becoming Champions. There are any number of old folks who can use the help.

Good news came from Jerry Wagner that his sister Sally is getting stronger. It will be good to see her back at the jam one of these days. Sherry Bennet has a whole CD full of ‘possum’ songs. There is another to add to the list, a favorite of the Prominent Champion, “The Possum Creeps Tonight.” It turns out that there are also several songs about pigs. One was just a poem shared by fellow Veteran, Mr. Chaffey, to The General, who summarily set it to music and then proceeded to introduce it with a flourish at the Vanzant Jam, much to the delight of the Shumate sisters and others who had already been giggling over the antics of David Richardson. Another pig-specific song was requested, but the hour was late, and we missed it. Chances are good the whole community will eventually be subjected to it. We can wait in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Goldfinches

Blue Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak

May 1, 2023

CHAMPION—April 17, 2023


A quote from an unknown source: Respect the old when you are young. Help the weak when you are strong. Confess your faults when you are wrong. Because one day you will be old, weak, and wrong. Twenty-three years from now, will the young folks be sitting around the old stove at the Historic Emporium talking about the old guys who were there on Wednesday talking about the old guys of previous generations? Wes Lambert says, “Probably not.” Then he went on to spin a yarn about some shenanigan he and Ray Hicks had pulled back in the day. (Chances are pretty good that Ray will be down from Bluegrass, Iowa for the Denlow School Reunion on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. He will be sad to know that about half the roof is off Orville’s old barn now and buzzards are roosting there.) Among the other recollections that day was a story about a ten year old girl named Mable who often rode her horse from Drury to Rockbridge and back, about a three hour trip. Her uncle sent her there for medicine for her grandfather, Henry Shannon. Uncle Harry ran the Drury Store. The General’s younger sister said, “We all loved Harry. He treated all us kids good at his store.”

Myrtle Harris was someone to remember. She loved flowers and it was impossible to get out of her presence without her, “God bless you!” She left us in 2019 just a month after her 90th birthday on April 19th. The 20th is for Wyatt Boehs. He was born in 2010 and is a bow hunter and hide tanner among his other skills. Jordan Ellingsworth is a sixth grade student at Skyline where the field day and fun run and other exciting things are going on this time of the year. His birthday is on the 23rd. Jacob Moffett‘s is on the 24th. He finds arrowheads in creeks, fields and woods and is a guy who can take down a tree with great precision—a big one next to house. We can thank his sister, Rachel Barry, for keeping Jean’s Healthway going so beautifully. The 26th is for Gary, one of dear Ruby Proctor’s sons. Juniper Wiley is a seventh grade student at Skyline. She is new to Champion, a barrel racer, archer, and musician—a welcome addition. The 30th is for Champion granddaughter, Teagan Krider. She lives up around Springfield and is a regular visitor to the old home place.

Concern that the men might be outnumbered eased as The General joined the circle at Vanzant on Thursday. To have as many women in the circle as men is unusual, six of each. The music was up to its usual musical marvelousness—magical medicine. Even those in the audience, not plucking, strumming, or bowing, get noticeable health benefits from music. Introduced as the Vice President of the Booger County Studebaker Association and Preservation Society, Bob Berry was roundly celebrated in song for having been born 77 years ago. Mary joined in the singing and the visiting and smiling.

The 18 mile trip from Champion North to Rockbridge takes about 45 minutes going by way of the monastery, taking it slow for taking pictures along the way. We know of Dogwood Hill over west of Ava, but on this beautiful Saturday, hills, glens, gulches, hollows, dales, vales, and valleys were all named Dogwood. They and the red buds and great sweeping vistas made a lovely trip. Friends gathered for a luncheon on the birthday of their friend who passed away back in the winter and thanked him for causing them to go out together on a glorious spring day. He had given himself a ‘living wake’ party a few years ago when he realized he would not be living much longer. So, his friends said if we can have a wake for a guy who is alive, we can have a birthday party for a dead guy. Friendships sweeten life.

The first hummingbird scout arrived on Cold Springs Road on April 13th. The little fellow has been back every day since. Soon filling the feeders will add to our spring and summer chores along with weeding and watering. Gardeners struggle to get things ready and struggle to hold off planting the tender tomatoes and peppers this early. May 10th is said to be the last ‘possible’ frost day here. Of all the struggles going on in the world, these are some of the good ones to endure in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!