January 28, 2024

CHAMPION—January 22, 2024




Old Champions enjoyed sitting by the fire Monday afternoon watching the ice build up on every little branch and twig. It is a fanciful, pretty sight. They are grateful that they do not have to venture out and are concerned for all those essential people who do have to be out in dangerous weather. Farmers, fire fighters, first responders and others keep things going for the rest of us. Our new Rt. 72 mail carrier, Brittany Webster, is getting well acquainted with the route. We would be pleased to wait a day for our mail for the sake of her safety. Champions beseech all you important people to be safe. Much needed rain is on the way. We prefer mud to ice.


“There is an Old Store down the Hill, By the stove, we all sit by still. As the years come and go We all learn, and we know That Champion is the best place to blow.” So began Pat Smith’s epic poem for the birthday celebration of Champion Betty Henson. She shares her birthday with Robert E. Lee (1807), with J.C. Owsley (1943), with Dolly Parton (1946), with Edgar Allen Poe (1808), with Janis Joplin (1943), with Scottish inventor James Watt (1736) and artist Paul Cezanne (1839). All this is to say she fits well with all the creative, intelligent, talented, hardworking, productive people born that day. The community came together with two cakes, lots of candles, cupcakes, ice cream, cobblers, hot apple pie, and with many genuine expressions of affection and appreciation for the Preeminent Champion for her good humor and all her good works for the community.

At the Vanzant Jam the question may be asked, “Why didn’t Nelly just turn around and follow her own footprints in the snow back home?” By Thursday the frigid weather will have passed, and no one will be interested Nelly. She may not have been all that smart or perhaps she was just looking to be rescued. Music is full of romance, mystery, fun and good medicine. “Keep a little song handy wherever you go, and nothing can ever go wrong!” That song was popular in 1934. Rudy Valley sang it, as did Betty Boop. Music lovers often remember the first time they heard a certain song or associate a song with a certain person. Judy Russell likes Jerry Wagner’s version of “Just Bumming Around.” Judy and Eldon frequented the Vanzant jam often in the past. Perhaps warm weather will see them out again. “Once More” will always remind Champions of Lonnie Krider and Wayne Anderson. Norris Woods gave us “Life’s Railway to Heaven” and many others. Whatever our taste in music might be, it has been proven to be good for us.

There is no glory in defeating a weak opponent. So, when the KC Chiefs bested the Bills by just a little they were gracious in their victory and appreciative of worthy advisories. The Baltimore Ravens will offer a good challenge next week. The excitement of sport helps to alleviate some of the stress and anxiety so pervasive in our world these days. Eric Blair made reference to sport as a diversion in his novel, but was short sighted in 1949, when, as George Orwell, he published “1984.” He could have named it “2024.” It has taken only forty years to get to the “1984” that he imagined. The book may not be part of high school literature classes or social studies curriculum these days, but it is a worthy, eye-opening read. Dystopian novels generally portray an imaginary place or state in which the condition of life is extremely bad, as from deprivation, oppression, or terror. We are not there quite yet. We are Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


January 21, 2024

CHAMPION—January 15, 2024



A joyful beginning to the new year comes with gratitude that Beverly Coffman Emery sustained no serious injury out on Highway 76 when her car hit a slick spot.  A trip into the ditch and a close encounter with a tree totaled her car.  She admitted to being a little sore from the sudden stop but was in fine spirits for the jam in Vanzant on Thursday.  More joy came along with the seldom seen Dennis and Sherry Lynch.  Dennis filled in for some missing musicians with several Johnny Cash songs including “A Boy Named Sue.”  Sherry beamed her sweet smile and shared the pew with Beverly and more visiting Upshaw kinfolks.  Music is good medicine.  Sherry was good medicine for our old friend Esther Wrinkles and was a great help to her in her later years at home.  Enjoy a transcript of conversations with Esther in the July 29, 2007 post on the website at www.championnews.us.  Esther wrote community columns for the Douglas County Herald for over fifty years while it was still owned and operated by the Curry family.  She had a hand in every good work in the area.  Her pies are legendary, the legend living on through her daughter-in-law, Teresa.

While shoveling a path to the woodshed, Champions were thinking about that old song, “I traced her little footprints in the snow.”  Back inside, by the fire, they looked it up and found that Bill Monroe claimed authorship under the pseudonym “Rupert Jones,” but the song was much older.  He had learned it in the early 1930s at the National Barn Dance in Chicago.  It turns out to have more lyrics and to have been written in about 1880 by Harry Wright.  This may be the same English born William Henry “Harry” Wright (1835-1895) who had a long career in early baseball as a player and a manager.  He is said to have assembled, managed, and played center field for baseball’s first fully professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings.  Considered the “Father of Professional Baseball,” he was the first to make written mention of the seventh inning stretch in a game he watched.  On these cold, wintry days we think of the ‘boys of summer’ giving fans the opportunity to stretch, to get refreshments, and to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”  Meanwhile, those of us without ‘Peacock’ were happy to see the news highlights of the KC Chiefs’ big win on their frozen field—defeating handily the feisty frosty Floridians.  Though it may be wonderful fun and exciting to be in the stands at those big games, Old Champions think they get a better view on their tv screens, and the snacks are better.

Champion Blaine Denlow’s beautiful mother, Jaime Woods, had her birthday on the 13th and her lovely grandmother, Sharon Woods, will have her big day on January 20th.  That is also reason to celebrate Alvin Barnhart.  Skyline School’s fourth grader Paxton Elgie will share January 22nd with Brenda C. Massey.  Brenda can teach us all how to have fun year round.  Skyline sixth grader, Blake McIntosh, has his birthday on January 24th, along with Todd Jarnigan up in Washington state.  The Cowboy’s sweetheart, Joyce Coonts, will be indulged on her birthday on the 26th and Skyline Alumnus Kay Heffern Alexander will party all over Springfield on the 27th.  The 30th is for James Brixie who was 40 years old in 2012, and for charming Loneda Bennett Hutsell.  Her mother has a song to sing for that occasion and generously shares her beautiful voice with many local lucky listeners.

Some Old Champions are grateful not to have to go out in the dangerous weather and are hopeful for the safety of those who must be out in it.  John, our Rt. 72 mail carrier, and his coworkers are some of those required to be out in it.  We acknowledge their conscientious hard work and appreciate it.  Louis DeJoy does not seem to understand how things work in the country.  Or maybe he does.  ‘Anyway,’ good for John and the USPS to get the day off for the Martin Luther King Holiday.  Good for us to celebrate that important and influential man for his remarkable good works.  And good for the lessons we have learned from our forbearers.

Esther said not to worry about making a mistake in the ‘items.’  She said it gives you the chance to revisit a subject.  Last week, our last sentence ended in the middle.  The whole thing was to have been:  “Here, in warmth and comfort, people of widely divergent philosophies and political viewpoints share a feeling of gratitude for our own security and a hope for a more peaceful and compassionate world in the year ahead.”  Stay safe, stay optimistic, and stay home if you can when the weather is worrisome.  Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


January 9, 2024

CHAMPION—January 8, 2024



The Arkansas Barefoot Boys recorded the old fiddle tune “The Eighth of January” back in 1928, and that same year Dr. Humphrey Bate and His Possum Hunters released their version of it. In 1936, Jimmie Driftwood used the melody for a history lesson on the “Battle of New Orleans,” for his high school students in Arkansas to get them interested in the event. It was not recorded until 1957. Driftwood came from a musical family and enjoyed writing songs to teach his students history in an entertaining manner. He had an illustrious musical career and did a lot of good work for the Ozarks up until his passing in 1998 at the age of 91. He wrote over 6,000 songs in his lifetime, including the “Tennessee Stud.” He won three Grammy Awards and sang for Nikita Khrushchev. His real name was James Corbett Morris–an interesting fellow.

Elvis was born on the eighth of January in 1935. He did not live as long as Driftwood, but he also had an illustrious career. Elizabeth Johnston, a Champion granddaughter, was born on January 9th. Tetter Creek herbalist, Bob Liebert enjoys the 11th for his birthday. That was also the birthday of Wilburn Hutchison. He said that one time when he was a kid, he and Fleming Gear saw a dirigible flying over the field where the Skyline School now sits. The 12th is the special day for another talented herbalist, Edie Richardson. She and Lee were Champion neighbors for a little while, and now they are good neighbors up on the other side of Norwood. The 13th is for Diane Wilbanks. She and Jerry used to join the wagon train behind their mules. We miss Norris Woods on his birthday on the 13th. He played “Hot Corn, Cold Corn” and a hundred more banjo tunes. Melanie Blankenship Upshaw also parties that day. She took some great photos of her father-in-law’s big 80th birthday party at the end of last year. Hopes are that her day is so well celebrated. Skyline School’s coach, Mr. Shane Gray, celebrates on the 13th and third grader, Joshua Eaves, will have the 14th for his big day. The 16th is for Champion granddaughter Miley Schober, and her cousin, Rese Kutz, shares the 17th with our old friend Brook Quietwood. Eight grader, Jacob Kyle Brixie will have his party on the 18th, the same day as fifth grader, Railynn Dixon, and the lovely Mary Beth Shannon. The 19th is a big day for lots of people including J. C. Owsley over in Cross Timbers, for Skyline School bus driver, Robert Hall, for Dolly Parton in Nashville, for Edgar Allan Poe, who was born in 1809, as well as for Janis Joplin, Paula Dean and Pete Buttigieg. Some folks really do not like to see their name in the paper, but their many friends and admirers will still gather to express their love and appreciation. Happy birthday you wonderful Champions!

The little winter mix starting on January 8th may be the precursor of something more serious in a second wave. Wet and 35 degrees is about the same as the weather in Scotland today. One must just imagine the bagpipes and hope for the safe travels of those who must be out in it. As we endeavor to stay informed for our own safety, we cannot help but learn of the plight of millions across the world in desperate straits for many reasons, natural and man-made. Here, in warmth and comfort, people of widely divergent philosophies and political viewpoints share a feeling of gratitude for our own security and a hope for a more peaceful and compassionate world in the year ahead. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


CHAMPION—January 2, 2024


Loretta Upshaw, Robert Upshaw, Elva Upshaw, Michael Upshaw, Debora Barker

Friends, neighbors, kinfolks and blood relatives from several counties and various states gathered in Vanzant on Saturday to celebrate the birthday of a truly unique individual. Born January 31, 1943, Robert Upshaw has now officially entered his ninth decade. He has done it with flair and with fanfare, good humor and with the respect and admiration of all those attending as well as scores of others. The community building may never have been so lavishly decorated. The Upshaw daughters are to be applauded. A steady stream of well-wishers came and went through the whole afternoon with only eighty of them signing the guest book. It is not that the others could not write, but that they were busy renewing old acquaintances and making new friends among the many admirers of the gentleman–The General. When the sheriff stopped by, it was a relief that he was there to pay respects and not to haul anybody off to jail. The internet was fairly awash with well wishers all that day and the next right on into New Year’s Day!

Skyline fourth grader, Pearson Matthews, had his birthday on December 30th. Charming Arne Coon and Teeter Creek’s lovely Jan Liebert enjoy the first day of January for their birthdays. Kabella Clark is the great niece of Uncle Arne. Her birthday is January 2nd, and the fair Anastasia will have a party on the third. Sweet Sami McCleary and motorcycle hoodlum Lee Ray share their birthday with The General’s nephew, David Upshaw, on January 4th. Probably David will be serenaded at the Vanzant Jam that night. The 5th is for Skyline kindergarten student Amelia Johnson. The sixth is the big day for Felix the Farmer and for Bud Watkins. Felix just had a good adventure at the Memphis, Tennessee Zoo. Bud is a Skyline VFD firefighter and a much appreciated school maintenance engineer. Skyline seventh grader, Renee Wagner, will celebrate on January 7th. These birthdays that occur in and around the Christmas and New Year holidays add to the joy of the season. You are even more reason to celebrate—Happy birthday!

If we can meet the new year with open hearts, open minds, and optimism, perhaps 2024 will be better than expected and even better than we might have hoped for. Charles Dickens said, “Do all the good you can, and make as little fuss about it as possible.” Those are good words to start a Happy New Year in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!



CHAMPION–December 21, 2023



The Grinch left the Skyline R2 School and somehow made it over to Roy’s Store in Dora by Tuesday, having lost weight and height.  After cavorting with The General to the tune of Bertie’s “Lady Mule Skinner,” the green fiend slipped away dancing with a tall brown bottle that had been sitting close to the preacher.  The theft was captured in video surveillance.  An official spokeswoman for the Jam Organizers was quoted, “Crimes of this nature will NOT be tolerated at this jam, and when caught, the guilty party will be laughed at until everyone passes out.”  Reports of the theft later circulated in Vanzant around the music circle with Ruby saying, “Why does everyone think it was me in that Grinch costume?”  Plausible deniability would be more plausible were she not such a great dancer.  The always festive Vanzant Thursday pot-luck bluegrass jam had an extra layer of flavor provided by the Joneses singing in the music circle and by one of their roasted Yorkshire pigs in the pot-luck fair.  Go to www.joneshillranch.com to find out more about them and their pastured pork.  They are a welcome addition to the Drury/Champion neighborhood.

Jody Henson writes, “Hope all is well down Champion way!  I love coming to see the store, Royce’s school, and church and all the ‘Championites.’  We are fine.  Vic lives with me now, as I guess you many know.  He loves to cook, and I don’t, so all is well!  Have a good one!”  Hillbillies in Texas, Wesley and Karen Freeman say “Howdy from North Texas.  It’s 52 degrees today.  Made my cards again this year.  Give most of them to strangers and people who wait on us in the store.  Making a pretty star quilt top.  Each block has 32 pieces.  The other one has 72 pieces per block.  Got a new God great grandson September 19, 2023.  Named him Noah.  He is so cuddly.  We have no children, so we’ve adopted ours.  God bless you and hope for you the best of holidays.”

We know Karen as ‘Susie’ and know that she and Wesley would have loved to have attended Champion’s Christmas party.  With big tables of great food and thirty people, the store was packed.  Stories about the good old days and lots of catching up with seldom seen friends made for the kind of gathering that makes this a sweet spot in the hills.  The fun spilled out on to the wide veranda on an unseasonably warm and pleasant afternoon.  Kaitlyn McConnell calls Champion “the community that begins beyond the blacktop.”  She is a frequent, welcome visitor, happy to meet new folks and to learn the stories about how they came to the Ozarks.  She has struggled for years to get an interview with The Prominent Champion who declines each time.  She did learn something about wood butter from him.  It has to do with bees’ wax and coconut oil.  It seems that there is something interesting to be learned from everyone, even those who prefer to keep their light under a bushel, or hide it in a bread box.

In these tumultuous times, Teddy Roosevelt’s quote might be a good motto for the year ahead:  “Do what you can with what you have where you are.”  We are in Champion!  Looking on the Bright Side!