June 30, 2023

CHAMPION—June 26, 2023



Summer arrived in Champion on Wednesday as it did in all the other places in the northern hemisphere. The wide veranda was full to overflowing with regular loiterers, good neighbors, newcomers, and special guests of notoriety. It began with a little music. Then newcomers were enticed to sit a spell. Hog farmers, Sandy and Erick Jones, who bought the old Heart place, had just moved in the week before from Wisconsin. Customers in and out of the store welcomed them as they were introduced, and almost all of them knew of the Heart place. There was some laughter about the ‘old place’ names, even from someone who has owned the old Ezra Henson place for 49 years. About that time our Ozarks Alive friend, Kaitlyn McConnell, stopped in for a visit on her way home from Ozark County. In a week or so she will be headed to Washington D.C. for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, where she will be sharing her knowledge and appreciation of this part of the country with the rest of the Country. She shared a copy of her “Passport to the Ozarks” with the Joneses. ‘Err long, came the Fox Creek Farmers. Wyatt and Keller entreated The General to sing their favorite song, “Go and Wash Your Dirty Feet Before You Go to Bed.” Madelyn sang along with her sweet voice on a new song she is learning about little baby ducks and old pickup trucks and shared her lovely poem “In the Meadow.”



Friends sharing stories, poetry, art, and music make for a pleasant community. A friend and a good neighbor to Felix the Farmer shared something tamed and something wild and a song celebrating the summer solstice: “So come all you roving minstrels and together we will try to rouse the spirit of the air and move the rolling sky.” We would like the rolling sky to drop some water on us. Farmers and gardeners are not looking forward to last year’s lack of rain and are not enjoying this year’s early heat. Champions are whispering hope that things moderate. The Vanzant Bluegrass Jam and Potluck is cancelled for the 6th in order to get the facility ready for the Vanzant Picnic coming up on July 7th and 8th. The music lineup includes Sean McCormick, Whetstone, Backyard Bluegrass, and the Finley River Boys. It’s going to be a lot of fun with good food and games from 6:00 to 10:00 pm both nights. See you there together with all the friends you have not seen since you were there together last year.

The All-time Winner of the Old Curmudgeon Award starts July off with his birthday celebration on the first, something he has been doing since 1939. Charming Beverly Barnhart’s party on the second will likely include some of Alvin’s 1959 high school classmates in town for their reunion. Champions expect Dawn and Hovey to show up from Texas for the occasion and to hobnob around the old stomping grounds. Local swimming holes will be full of revelers on the Fourth. The Old Tree Huggers Jamboree is a tradition for one spot and other groups will meet in their usual places to celebrate Country, kinship, friendship, barbeque and watermelon. Virginia Canada of Moline, Illinois; Davenport, Iowa; and Columbia, Missouri has also been seen in the Denlow area in the past. Her birthday is on the fifth of July. The next day is for Janet Burns, now of Little Rock, and for the Dali Lama and Walter Darrell Hayden, who lived from 1931 to 2014. He was a native of Smallett and a local celebrity who told in music the straight skinny of Douglas County politics at the time. He went on to become a respected English professor at the University of Tennessee. Connie’s Dad, Robert Brown, was 79 on July 7, 2019. The 7th is also the birthday of Sharon’s grandson Kruz Kurzt. Deward’s granddaughter up on the family Centennial Farm, will be partying somewhere around this time too. All of you, party on! You too, Loni Upshaw, up in Idaho or Alaska or wherever you may be! We know you know how to party.

July 4th became a National holiday in 1941 marking our Independence now for 247 years. Seeing the turmoil in the world, we cannot help but be grateful for our freedom and for the many who have served and sacrificed to preserve it. Jim Hightower, of the “Hightower Lowdown” down in Texas, talks about politics in terms like “Two foxes and a chicken vote on what’s for supper.” Politics are getting sort of comical and sort of worrisome at the same time, but our sense of community is strong, and we have learned to get along with people who believe differently though there may be some head shaking and eye rolling going on. “It is the duty of every man, as far as his ability extends, to detect and expose delusion and error.” Thomas Paine admonished us thusly way back then. We try to take it to heart without causing trouble in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


June 21, 2023

CHAMPION—June 19, 2023



The old man was remembered, recognized, and roasted as he reveled in reuniting and reminiscing with offspring in person and over the telephone. Our fathers teach us things like turn the air conditioner off in the car before you shut it down. That way it will not be hard on the battery when you start the car again. Batteries often fail in the winter, but the summer’s heat is what weakens them. It takes more energy to turn over a cold engine. Also, he says to know where you are going to put it down before you pick it up and keep your hat out of the creek. He is a wise guy. He provided for us, protected us, prepared us for life with his many valuable lessons, and made our mothers happy. That is why we love him.

Darci Upshaw Cecil up in Boise, Idaho and her husband Ronald E. Cecil just celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary. Don and Rita Krider, up in Peoria, IL have just celebrated sixty-five years of marriage. Other Old Champions just marked their fifty-third. Growing old together is a genuine gift. We just did not know it would happen so quickly. Judy and Eldon Russell were seen in photographs shared on the internet by David Vaughn Jr. of Saturday’s fish fry at the Gentryville Church. Forty pounds of fish and seventy pounds of potatoes fed over a hundred people who had responded to the invitation: “We can’t feed you if you ain’t there. Come on out and fellowship.” David is a great photographer and a vital member of the Eastern Douglas County Volunteer Fire Department. The EDCVFD will have the Vanzant Picnic on July 7th and 8th. This is a great kick off to the summer social season. There will be music, food, fun and games and the chance to see the people you only see at these great community events. Every year in Branson, young musicians gather from several states to attend a week-long Bluegrass Camp sponsored by the Ozark Mountain Music Association. The OMMA has posted a dozen YouTube videos of the 2023 camp and it makes us happy to see the old songs coming out of young people.

One of the many good pieces of information gleaned from the Wednesday gathering on Champion’s wide veranda is that rodents are not blessed with flatulence, nor can they belch. The rat that built its nest under the hood of the car, feasting on wiring and insulation has had a couple of nice dinner trays prepared for him or her. One consists of a generous dollop of peanut butter infused with baking soda and a mixture of sweetened water and vinegar. The other tray has dry instant potato flakes and serving of Coca Cola. The combinations react inside the critter’s digestive system so as to render it lifeless. Poison is not an option for people with pets, so this seems to be a good alternate method to deal with a persistent and sometimes expensive problem. Another Champion keeps a pan of moth balls under the hood of her truck to dissuade the pests. These are not exactly the same kind of rat problems that people living in high rise apartment buildings in big cities endure. We will stay here and endeavor to persevere.

The weekend’s wonderful rain has been a boon to gardeners. Weeds almost jump out of the ground into their hands and beans and cucumbers seem to grow a foot overnight. These beautiful days pass quickly. A sunny Monday morning finds the countryside humming again with haymakers going up and down, round and round with their big heavy equipment. Livestock will be well fed in the winter ahead. Summer starts on Wednesday. We are ready and we rejoice in our good fortune to be Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


CHAMPION—June 12, 2023



June is the middle of the year and why we spend the long winter looking forward. Champion Brixey kids and others had a wonderful showing at the Tri County Fair. Sharry Lovan was an inspiration to a bunch of budding musicians at the Ozark Mountain Music Association Bluegrass Camp. The first announcement of the 57th annual Vanzant Picnic, scheduled for July 7th and 8th showed up on the internet. Through the mail came a notice to the Mountain Grove Class of 1959 Back Room Breakfast will happen on July 1st at the L & A Cafe on the Square. They have a request for RSVP at (417) 259-0742. We live in an interesting and exciting part of the world. Lucky us.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has a program for black vulture control. (573) 893-1416 for information. They are increasing in population and their aggressive nature can cause problems for livestock producers. Turkey vultures are gentle and non-aggressive, usually found in large groups. The species are easy to tell apart. The turkey vulture has a read head and a white beak. The black vulture’s head is black or gray with a dark bill. One kind or the other once had a roost in the old Champion chicken house, which has since been washed away. Sometime back in 2011, at 11:05 a.m., the Cowboy, and some so called or ‘erstwhile’ friends ventured inside the shack to view the vulture hatchlings. As the Cowboy ventured closer to see the white fluffy little critters, his friends backed out and shut the door, locking him inside with the hissing little birds. The ruckus that ensued was epic with pounding and yelling and language to embarrass the clergy, sailors, and oil field roughnecks alike. How long he was trapped in there with the scary baby birds and how he got out were not part of the story, though after an undisclosed period, somehow the friendships were renewed. The incident is one of many that get recounted in the place where they happened by the very Champions involved.

June 11th is the birthday of Blaine Denlow’s grandpa Buzz! He is rarely seen without a smile—a happy guy and with good reason. The 15th and 16th are days to celebrate the birthdays of Champion grandchildren, Anastasia and Foster. Tyler, Bella’s dad, was born June 20, 1988. Tennessee newcomer, Waylon Watts, has a young Champion grandmother born on the 21st. That is a big day for Felix’s cousin, Sierra, out in Oregon. Local celebrity, Cinita Brown, author of “The Black Kettle Ride” and other works celebrating this part of the world, celebrates on the 22nd. The 24th is for Skyline cross country star Kash Hurt. Skyline prekindergarten’ Danielle Shaffer will have a celebration on the 25, as will the delightful chanteuse, Sherry Bennett. Sherry spreads musical joy. She can’t help it and we are the beneficiaries. Surely there is a video of her that we could share here, but we have been unable to find one. Enjoy her at the Vanzant Jam any Thursday evening and other places around the area. Thank you, Sherry. Skyline’s Alexander Bradley will enjoy the 28th for his big day. That was the birthday of Champion Esther Wrinkles, who is much missed, as is her contemporary, Eva Powell, whose birthday was the 29th. Here and now, far away, and long gone, your birthdays remind us of our affection for you. Past, present, and distant, to us you are Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


June 20, 2023

CHAMPION—June 5, 2023



The Heart of the Ozarks Bluegrass Association had its spring festival Thursday, Friday, and Saturday over in West Plains.  For those of us who could not attend, the internet gave us some wonderful photos and videos of music being made.  Cheyenne McIntosh, in addition to being a talented musician herself, is an amazingly patient music teacher at our Skyline School.  She has set a bunch of young guitar players on a good learning path.  It turns out she is also an excellent videographer.  Sharry Lovan, of Stringed Union, expressed her appreciation for the videos and photos, as do we.  Among the many musicians attending were those Backyard Bluegrass fellows, as well as the TLC women—Theresa, Lynette, and Carol.    Music is a great unifier.  It is medicine for many of us and a great help for Champions who are continually striving these days to look on the Bright Side.


The John Deere Model 40 tractor was manufactured from 1953-1955 in Dubuque, Iowa.  A total of 18,000 were made with an original price of $1,500. based on the 1954 model.  One of these is to be given away at the fall show of the Ozarks Older Iron Club fall show on October 14th.  Get tickets from any club member or call (417) 259-0648. You do not have to be present to win, but the show will be a lot of fun to attend.  The pulling contests and barrel rolling events are fun to watch and there are vendors and demonstrators from the Spinners and Weaver’s Guild and others.  It is a real farm festival with a lot of nice people and maybe some music.

June is busting out all over!  It started with the birthday of Dr. Amanda Zappler, audiologist, and artist extraordinaire.  For some beauty, optimism and whimsy check out her work at https://www.arteparalavida.info/  Talented multi-media artist, Margie Cohen, up in Kutztown, Pennsylvania surely had a beautiful birthday on the 3rd.  The porcelain work pouring out of her studio is amazing.  The Vanzant bluegrass jammers will be singing a belated birthday to banjo virtuoso David Medlock when they meet again on the 8th.  Dave’s birthday is on the 6th.  Ava Hurt’s birthday is on the 8th.  She was a Skyline R2 School student in the 2nd grade and will start the third grade in a new school in the fall.  Skyliners have been having an exciting summer school session.

June 2nd, Felix the Farmer sang that happy birthday song to his grand-Papa who has fifty some odd tomato plants in his garden, lots of peppers, basil, and many other good things.  He noticed that his garlic is about ready to be harvested. The 2023 Blum’s Almanac indicates that good harvesting days will be the 11th and 12th, also the 15th-17th.  Some try their best to garden by the signs, that is, with the moon phases, but they often wind up just doing what they can when they can.  The almanac indicated that the 5th would be a good day to prune to encourage growth.  One Old Champion, while pruning the suckers from her tomato plants, accidentally pruned the top off the plant.  It is in a glass of water now where she hopes it will root.  Though Shakespeare said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache,” gardeners cannot help but be optimistic.  Richard Feynman, a noted theoretical physicist, said, “Knowledge isn’t free.  You have to pay attention.” Henry van Dyke said, “Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is not.”  So, time seems subjective.  Some thought that growing old would take longer.  In Champion—Looking on the Bright Side.


June 7, 2023



Strength-Freedom-Justice, an original by Cathie Alsup Reilly

“Those we love don’t go away. They walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard, but always near, so loved, so missed, so very dear.” This unknown author summed it up for us as we made the rounds of the local cemeteries where we have laid to rest our friends and family members over the years. We used to celebrate Decoration Day for them and now it is Memorial Day for them and for all those in our armed forces who have served and sacrificed and for those still serving. Thank you.

Karen Fae Upshaw Krider, Cathie Alsup Reilly, Beverly Coffman Emery

The Denlow/Fairview School Reunion, occurring every year on the Saturday of the Memorial Day holiday, encompasses the solemnity of the patriotic observance as well as the pure joy of rejoining with old friends and family members. Lots of good food, a little music, and a hilarious auction all played out in perfect weather this year. Mickey Reilly, one of the famous twin chefs of Kentucky, was the auctioneer, skillfully causing The General to bid against himself several times. Barbara Anderson, a gifted artist herself, could not resist a painting by Cathie Alsup Reilly. Cathie shared several prints of her original works. After a pause of several decades, she has taken up her brushes again, depicting butterflies and flowers, eagles and flags. Her deep ties to Denlow go all the way back and beyond Cletis Upshaw. His clan was well represented, together with the Proctors, Andersons, and the likes of Johny (IOU) Cox and many others. Elizabeth Johnston Lawrence enjoyed spending time with cousins and had tickets for the Ozarks Older Iron Club’s drawing for a John Deere Model 40 tractor. The drawing will be October 14th, and you need not be present to win. There is plenty time to get your tickets. Out by the pavilion, Mothers were pitted against sons and fathers against daughters in the ‘corn hole’ competition. Catching up and sharing memories of the good old golden rule days made for a beautiful afternoon.

Corn Hole Competition

The unofficial first day of summer found fishers and swimmers at the Bryant Creek crossing down by the Assumption Abby. If those waters could talk and sing, generations of intriguing tales could be told, and songs sung “to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks and bend the knotted oak.” The Google folks say the human body is about 60% water. A cardiologist explains the best moments to drink water to maximize its effectiveness in the body. He says drink two glasses of water shortly after waking up to activate internal organs. A glass of water 30 minutes before a meal improves digestion. A glass or two before taking a bath or a shower lowers blood pressure. He says a glass before bedtime prevents a stroke or heart attack. Drinking water before bed prevents leg cramps overnight because when there are cramps, leg muscles are going for water and moisture. We might sing “Cool, Clear Water.”

Bryant Creek crossing near the Monastery

Teeter Creek has some charming music about it. Old and new friends gathered there on Sunday for fellowship, a delicious feed, some deep reminiscing, and philosophical discourse. Down on the wide, wild, woolly banks of Old Fox Creek the Sometimes Porch Band sometimes strums out a tune while philosophers discuss the high principles of dignity, civility, patience, respect, tolerance, goodness, sympathy, and empathy. They also talk about each other, their grandchildren, their gardens, and hay making. They are Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

Making Hay