July 26, 2023

CHAMPION—July 17, 2023



Ash Borer

The effects of the Emerald Ash Borer are clearly visible in Douglas County. Beautifully shaped trees without any leaves stand along roadsides and in open fields. They will provide a lot of firewood for country people and, hopefully, material for our many local woodcrafters and trinket makers. Ash wood is used for all kinds of things including baseball bats, tool handles and boat oars, as well as fine furniture. The U.S. Forest Service says that the exotic insects are likely to kill 99% of the U.S. ash wood trees. The Department of Agriculture is working on ways to mitigate the problem but says it will be years before balance comes back to the ecosystem. Meanwhile we have learned things about trees in general. Every day, a forty foot tree takes in fifty gallons of dissolved nutrients from the soil, raises this mixture to its topmost leaves, converts it into ten pounds of carbohydrates and releases about sixty cubic feet of pure oxygen into the air. Hug a tree if you want to or just appreciate the beauty of this wonderfully forested part of the world.

Some old Champions are still thinking about the Vanzant Picnic and the joy of seeing romping children and grandchildren, laughing, and running amuck. We are told that seventy-five percent of the time we ever spend with our children is over by the time they turn twelve. Ninety percent is gone by the time they are eighteen. We are admonished to enjoy these short, sweet years as they will soon be over. They are long over for many, though many fortunate old folks have the joy of being with and seeing their children and grandchildren often. Count your many blessings. Blaine Denlow had her third birthday on Saturday. She runs the Wolf Pen Cattle Company, helping her old Dad with the hay and calling her Mom a tractor driving cowpoke. Her neighbors and her big family enjoy watching her grow.

Our warm Wednesday found the porch full at Champion. An Arizona resident who started life in Bakersfield was back for a visit, and a little surprised that The Champion Store does not sell pocketknives. He is a collector. He buys big wind chimes and would not live here again because he is afraid of tornadoes. There was a little music that day and a lot of visiting. Don Hamby has asked about the best time to get some ice cream on the wide veranda when music was going on. He was encouraged to bring his own instrument or some musician friends to join the band from about 11:00 on Wednesdays until time to go home for a nap. That is when The General leaves. The music is invited to move inside when it gets too hot. Surely someday someone will invent a banjo that can be transported on a Suzuki. Banjos are not like fiddles which can go anywhere on a motorcycle. Ask Mike. Missey Rogers lets us know that the “Up’n At’t 4-H Picnic” will happen on July 28-29th. That is another opportunity for some great music and some good chances to join old friends having fun celebrating Head, Heart, Hands, and Health and the young folks learning good life lessons.

It was nice to see that some of the big longstanding, deep and rugged washed out spots on county road 239 have been repaired. Thanks to a good neighbor, we may not have to see our dentist after all. A particularly favorite hairpin curve can now be navigated at the speed which makes the experience exhilarating. Perhaps Wednesday’s evening rain was enough to save some of the big corn patches up on Fox Creek Road. Gardeners say a teacup of rain is better than a gallon irrigation. Weather everywhere is causing concern for those of us living out on the surface of the planet. We have had our share of weather related difficulties here in the beautiful Ozarks, but these days we empathize with the struggles of those suffering unprecedented flooding up in the northeast and searing, unrelenting heat in the south and west. Here, we acknowledge and enjoy it when conditions are lovely and endure them when they are not…like Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


July 25, 2023

CHAMPION—July 10, 2023



Gratitude and optimism define the beginning of July. Sweet family and other reunions, the pomp, pageantry, and patriotism of the Fourth of July, the Starvy Creek Bluegrass Festival, and the Vanzant Community Picnic together filled to wonderfully overflowing the first full week. Optimism for what the rest of the month has in store will keep us going. Farmers and gardeners are hoping for rain for their beans and corn. Cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and squash are thirsty. That optimism accompanies planning and work.

Extensive planning and work went into the Smithsonian Folklife Festival up in Washington D.C. featuring the Ozarks. Kaitlyn McConnell shared much of the excitement with us through her online blog “Ozarks Alive!” Those of us who do not have computers, most likely have friends and families who do. Ask them to look up Kaitlyn and her blog up on Facebook. She is dedicated to sharing and preserving stories and histories of the area. Marideth Sisco, David Scrivner and the Ozark Highballers were part of the festivities that made the festival a marvelous event, sharing our part of the world with the rest of the world. Back home, the Starvy Creek Bluegrass Festival wound up in Conway on Saturday. If you had been missing your bluegrass friends, that is probably where they were.

Sean McCormick
Finley River Boys


Laura Biddick of Wild Care Oklahoma, says, “Turtle racing has an interesting history and is still popular at events and festivals across the Midwest. But animal welfare groups, conservationists, and scientists are concerned about the effects these races have on individual turtles and the species as a whole.” The late Cathy Odneal’s grandchildren and their cousins who participated in Saturday’s race at the picnic were instructed to take their turtles back to the place where they found them so they could resume their normal lives. Some of those critters may be fifty years old.

Backyard Bluegrass Grandson

Friday night’s amazing sunset washed smiles and wonder over the Vanzant Picnic. The enjoyment in seeing old friends and making new ones is the heart of community. Romping little children, delicious picnic food of all kinds, the door prizes, raffles, games, and music made both nights memorable. Remembering the many missing for known and unknown reasons filled conversations. Catching up with everyone’s news, health, number and accomplishments of grandchildren, gardens, road conditions, plans and prospects made lively chatter. Dramatic, billowing clouds dropped just a dribble of drizzle to start things Saturday but did not dampen the spirit of the gathering. David Whetstone flew his drone over the picnic and later connected with the talented Eastern Douglas County Volunteer Fire Department photographer, David Vaughn. Thanks to the Davids, perhaps soon, on one of the Facebook pages or on YouTube, we will have the opportunity to observe the fun we had from the air. We had the joy of continuing the traditional old fashioned summer festivals and the excitement of embracing new technology, all set to the great music of Sean McCormick, Whetstone, Backyard Bluegrass, and the Finley River Boys. We appreciate the good planning and hard work of the EDCVFD for giving us a beautiful picnic. They are East Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


July 16, 2023

CHAMPION–July 3, 2023


White River wiring high-speed Internet
White River wiring high-speed Internet.

Champion Spuds
Champion Tomatoes

Talk around the cold wood stove in Champion Wednesday had to do with tomatoes and potatoes. Gardens are starting to produce. The Cowboy said that in years past people would have ripe tomatoes before the Fourth of July. The changes in the weather may have something to do with that, or maybe the older gardeners knew things we do not know. Jaime and Wes Woods dropped into Champion that day while they were enjoying some quality time together in celebration of their tenth wedding anniversary. Congratulations. Charlie Lambert popped in for a few minutes but did not bring his mandolin in to jam. He had been to the barber shop and said he was played out. Music is good for us. It was a treat to see Larry and Teresa Wrinkles at the Vanzant Jam Thursday. He said he drove down a creek bed to get there. The Day family, dulcimer players, also made an appearance after a long absence. They have been working hard and have not had time to practice much, so they did not bring their axes. Lorelai requested the Possum Song and Sherry complied with the five pounds in her headlights. Sherry and Ruby are part of “The Elderberries” dance group, and if one is to believe photographs in the newspaper, so is David Whetstone. Their performance at the Heart of the Ozarks Festival will be talked about for some time.

A Champion Washout

Kaitlyn McConnell is in Washington participating in and reporting on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. She said despite the smoke from the Canadian wildfires, the festival is getting a good turnout. The internet is giving us some excellent glimpses and we look forward to seeing more about it. The Ozark Highballers, a band out of Fayetteville, Arkansas performed on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center on June 30th. You can find a YouTube video of their show online. The 30th was also the birthday of Susana Handcock who has been married to Wesley Handcock, a native of Denlow, since 1963. They live up in Wilder, Idaho. Dawn and Hovey Henson have been married quite a spell too. They are in the neighborhood attending the Mountain Grove High School Reunion. Mountain Grove is well dressed for the reunions and the 4th of July Celebration with beautiful flowers and beautiful Flags. Huzzah! It is a long trip from Houston for Dawn and Hovey, but they are likely enjoying the (relative to Texas) moderate temperatures. Saturday’s little rain showers were a real relief to gardeners. We harbor hopes for more rain and perhaps cooler evenings for the music, fun, and games of the Vanzant Picnic. Bring some pies, cakes, or cookies for the cake walk and help support the Eastern Douglas County Fire Department that does so much good for the area.

On the bright side, the lovely wildflowers growing along our beautiful country lanes get extra attention and appreciation as it is imperative to drive at a prudent seven to ten miles per hour to preserve the integrity of our shock absorbers and tires. It takes longer to get anywhere. Speed on up if you are looking to feel like a rock in a bottle and have no concern for the longevity of your rig. At times like these we remember fondly Jimmy Thompson, a knowledgeable hardworking gentleman, who was wont to go fox hunting and coyote hunting with the likes of Deward Henson, Russel Upshaw, J.T. Shelton, and others. They may not have killed many critters, but they loved to hear the dogs run through the hills. Along some of the paths north of Champion, friendly ITG Communications contractors for White River Connect are busy stringing fiberoptic cable with the electric lines. Once they get it all up and get it tested, thanks to the America Rescue Plan Act, very rural residents will be able to have truly high-speed internet, unlike the Bright Speed stuff that sometimes seems to require a kerosene pilot light and might well blow you up. Come down the wide, wooly banks of Old Fox Creek on the pavement if you can. You will find some optimistic Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Chicory