April 27, 2024

CHAMPION—April 22, 2024


A sunny afternoon found a couple of hundred people milling around on a hillside in north Ava. They were there reminiscing and celebrating the life of a dear fellow whose good humor and good heart touched them all. Though he will be much missed, any old fiddle tune will bring him sweetly to mind.

Where are those April showers? March winds have overstayed their welcome. That the weather is just weird in these parts these days is preferable to it being catastrophic and destructive as in numerous other parts of the country. We count our blessings and knock wood. The origin of that activity seems to go back to ancient pagans who worshipped and mythologized trees. Touching them could bring protection and show gratitude that would bring good fortune. The Gaelic May Day festival Beltane celebrated on May 1st, marking the beginning of summer, is another of those ancient beliefs that find their way into our modern world.

Skyline seventh grader, Jordan Ellingsworth, has his birthday on April 23rd. His big day is a palindrome 4-23-24—the same read backwards. It will not happen again. Jacob Moffett will enjoy the same anomaly the next day. He got his birthday present early—a turkey on the 19th. Ruby’s son, Gary, will celebrate on the 26th and Juniper Wiley, an eighth-grade student at Skyline, will still enjoy her palindrome on the 28th. Champion granddaughter Taegan Krider will be celebrated on the 30th. Third grader Holden Johnson will have his birthday on May 1st, the last day of school.

Summer school is slated to start on May 6th with all kinds of fun planned in the program. Our Skyline School’s central role in the community played out in a sweet way on Saturday with the fundraiser benefit for the Crews family. Mrs. Crews said that she would rather have met all these nice people under different circumstances but was so appreciative of the community support during this difficult time. Terri Ryan said, “Thank you to everyone who came out to support the Crews Family. Every dollar donated went directly to them, which means so much. I think the fundraiser was a huge success!!!” Many local merchants contributed merchandise and services, dedicated volunteers organized the event and did all the work, then the people arrived, friends, neighbors, new commers, and old timers.

The first alert for an important annual event comes from The General himself: “Denlow/Fairview School reunion, on Saturday, 25 May 2024, Memorial Day weekend. The scalawags, scoundrels, and scholars (a.k.a. formers students) are inviting themselves, their families, and friends to their annual school reunion to be held at the Denlow Baptist Church and cemetery. Master chef Ed Williams will again prepare fish and chicken under the close supervision of Sonja (his boss). Attendees are encouraged to bring a side dish and/or desert. Coffee and soft drinks will be provided. There will be an auction for any donated items/treasures. Hopefully, the Kentucky colonel (auctioneer) will be here with his lovely (ahem) beautiful wife. (P.S./FOOTNOTE: If you have been or have never been to one of these school reunions – you may be entitled to compensation).”

The quote of the week comes from a guy named Francis. “Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself, and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We are all born to help each other. No matter how difficult it is…Life is good when you are happy; but much better when others are happy because of you.” He sounds like a Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


CHAMPION—April 15, 2024


The joke was that Friday the 13th was going to happen on Saturday this month.  Perhaps it was an April Fool’s joke.  In any event, the Second Saturday Skyline Swap-Meet came off beautifully on Saturday the 13th.  There were chicks and eggs and little baby ducks, jewelry, jam, popcorn, cookies, cinnamon rolls, puppies, bunnies, kitties, creeping phlox, aloe vera, baby goats, and much more.  Ten vendors set up for the first of these events, but the community response was such that we can look forward to May 11th with the expectation of lots more support and fun.  It is great to see this kind of thing happening again and lovely to meet up with friends and neighbors on a beautiful spring day.  We can look forward to hearing more about it on the radio on KKOZ.

Another good thing coming up is a benefit for the Crews family who lost all their possessions in a tragic fire back on March 30th.  It will take place on Saturday, April 20, at the Skyline School starting at noon.  There will be a silent auction from 12:00 to 2:00 with pies and desserts and a variety of other things that the community will donate.  Enjoy a lunch buffet of hamburgers and hotdogs, sides, and drinks.  Volleyball tournaments and prize drawings will add to the fun. Contact Talisa Harvey at (417) 259-0154 or talisaharvey1989@gmail.com for more information or for what you might be able to do help.  We are reminded that everything can change in a second.

Income Tax Day hits some heavy and others not so much.  If Elon, Jeff, Mark, and others of their income bracket paid their fair share along with monstrously huge corporations, imagine the good that could be done.  Meanwhile beautiful things can happen on any day.  Down in Louisiana a Champion great, great niece made her way into the world.  Her brother Georg calls her Bertie, but she will get another name.  Other good things come with the memory of a good friend, George Gary Jones, whose birthday was the 15th of April.  He passed away a few years ago but is often in the good thoughts of many friends whose lives he touched.  Back in the 70s he had a big truck he called ‘Coming-at-cha.’  He had a big personality, a great laugh and was competent in every endeavor.  We miss you, Mr. Jones.

The warm days have gardeners trying not to be too early in their planting.  The chance of a freeze persists.  A good weather forecast and a trip to one of the great garden centers in the area will keep their enthusiasm up despite the ticks which are already being a nuisance for some.  They seem to attract and gather them just stepping out to the garden or to the clothesline.  They are the little crawling dark spots in an otherwise beautiful time of the year in a beautiful place.  Maybe some itching musician will write a song about them.  Music is good medicine.

Interesting quotes this week include one from Kurt Vonnegut who said, “You meet saints everywhere.  They can be anywhere.  They are people behaving decently in an indecent society.”  Another guy, Paul Hawken, said, “What I see in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore grace, justice, and beauty to the world.”  A favorite one comes from a peanut farmer who said, “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something.  My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”  He sounds like a guy who would be willing to pull you out of a mud hole—a real Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


April 14, 2024

CHAMPION—April 8, 2024


Plentiful, interesting information and reports about today’s solar eclipse have been big news and will continue to be for a while yet. It has been enjoyable. As for much of the rest of the news, some of the persistent partisan political poppycock and primacy of fact is interesting. For example, in the Skyline R2 school board election, The Prominent Champion cast the 80th and final vote. Steve Moody, Samantha Adler, and Wes Woods won their seats and will be doing good work for our great school. Politicking will be pervasive from here on out for a while. Civility is the watchword in Champion where candidates for the District 2 Commissioner’s seat stop in to explain their philosophy and their qualifications. We are fortunate to live in a part of the world where we have a say in what happens out on our beautiful country lanes. They are particularly beautiful now with the redbuds, the dogwoods beginning to open, the little wild purple phlox, and all the other wild treasures.

In addition to politicians, Wednesday had some pleasant and interesting visitors from Idaho spending time in Champion. Another bunch of pleasantness came to the Vanzant Jam along with Joann Lawrence and with Toni the equestrian who plans to be there on a regular basis henceforth. A call is going out for fiddlers for the jam. Music has significant positive properties however you find it. “Keep a little song handy, wherever you go, and nothing can ever go wrong.” That thought is attributed to Rude Valle in 1932, but it has merit today.

Mushroom aficionados are having their hay day and hummingbird scouts are checking us out to see if we are ready. We are ready! Bees are buzzing in the dandelions and redbuds. Gardeners are out there doing what must be done to give us the potatoes and onions, turnips, and beets. The tender stuff that cannot stand a freeze will go in later. The almanacs tell us that the 13th and 14th will be good days to plant flowers and other above ground crops. These are good days to start seedbeds too, or you can go see Sue or some of the other wonderful nurseries in the area. Our first Skyline area swap-meet farmer’s market is happening Saturday from 8:00 to noon. Helen Batten says there will be eggs and chicks and sweet Williams. She is hoping that some other participant will have some creeping phlox of the pink variety to sell or trade. It looks like there may be some nicknacks and whatnots. The folks at the Brushy Knob Church at the intersection of Highway C and 76 have donated their parking lot for this venture. With good luck and good community support, we will enjoy second Saturdays at Skyline all spring and summer. See you there.

Tennessee Champion grandson, and now father, Dillon Watts celebrates his birthday on April 12th. He will probably go fishing. On his birthday on the 14th, Bob Berry will likely drive around in his pretty red Studebaker truck, like himself a 1946 model. Another Tennessee gent, Dustin Cline has a birthday on Tax Day, the 15th. He might be in a race car somewhere, or behind a desk. Happy birthday to all of you. While acknowledging special people in our lives, special thanks go out to grown Champion children who come back to help the old folks. Sons and daughters who show up know what is needed and how to make things better. Love and gratitude go together. Meanwhile, we shall gaze at the beauty around us and hope for peace and ease to all the suffering in the world. Blessed in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


CHAMPION—April 1, 2024


Mr. Stone came into the store on Wednesday with a 1997 copy of the Historical and Genealogical Society Journal of Douglas County, Missouri. The article he brought to the attention of The General was about a Civil War rifle that had been abandoned by a soldier who left it leaning up against a tree. The tree grew around it over time. It had been discovered many years later, an interesting local artifact. The gentlemen had both had occasion to see it in various locations. The 1996 issue of the Douglas County Journal has a great piece on The Champion Store. It is featured on the cover. Find a copy in the reading room at the Recreation of the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square in Downtown Champion.

A cool misty day with a brisk breeze may have hampered Easter egg hunts in various Champion haunts, but family gatherings and church meetings still made for a lovely day. Holidays, especially religious ones, call us to closeness with our dear ones, those close at hand, those far away and those who have gone on. We count our blessings to have, and to have had, so many precious people in our lives as we feast and fellowship with family and friends. These days find much of the world in furious turmoil. Wars and disasters both, natural and manmade, are taking their toll. Even if all we can do to help is hope, Champions hope for peace and mediation of suffering.

Grandparents invaded the Skyline R2 School on Thursday afternoon. They came ready to play games and to enjoy some quality time with their young ones. Cookies and punch sweetened the already sweet time, and the library was jam packed with the wonderful book fair going on. Some of those grandparents are alumni of the school and have stories to tell about the old days. The quality improvements to the building and campus over recent years were met with approval. More than one expressed gratitude that such a great little country school still exists out here in the middle of Douglas County and that it is staffed with such genuinely good people. Our Skyline Tigers will go on to run the world before long, and they are getting a good start right here.

A good neighbor who wrote ‘The Champion Items’ for fifty years prior to this permutation once advised that sometimes it is a good thing to make a mistake in the paper. That allows for an opportunity to revisit a subject. Therefore, we gleefully revisit the birthday of Beverly Coffman Emery who will celebrate on April 7th, not April 6th. She will be celebrating with other family members whose birthdays are near her own and with all the population of Vanzant who think she is a Champion.

By the time these words are in ink, the April Fools’ pranks that were played upon us will still be causing chuckles. It turns out that balloons can be used in a wide variety of hilarious ways. It was reported that meatloaf disguised as cupcakes, iced with mashed potatoes, and garnished with chocolate bacon was a better prank than the sandpaper on that other roll of paper. The idea of chocolate bacon might catch on.

Monday’s music jam in Willow Springs is followed by one at Roy’s Store in Dora on Tuesdays, and by jams on Wednesdays at Champion and at the barber shop in Ava. Thursday has one in Vanzant. We have learned via the internet that the Acoustic Jam Session at The Barn will be moving to the Ava Community Center near the square starting April 2nd. All start times remain the same—the door opens around 6:00 to 6:30 pm and the music starts at 7:00pm. Doubtlessly there are jams going on Fridays and Saturdays somewhere in the area. Music is good for us, especially live music. It is especially good for musicians.

Musician and a Champion Scots daughter is sojourning on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. She celebrated her birthday on Sunday and said, “It’s been a crazy Easter weekend here. Madrid must have been empty on Friday because they were all crammed onto the beach in the roasting hot sun. Today we had black skies, howling wind and icy rain, but I still had a good day!” She is a real Champion–Looking on the Bright Side!


April 7, 2024

CHAMPION—March 25, 2024



Wild spring weather changes allowed for the first Champion Sometimes Porch Jam of the year Wednesday. A beautiful day was made more so by Joanne Lawrence, out on a scenic drive, just happening to have her guitar with her. The General’s sweet sister, Fae Krider, and her Tennessee daughter, Staci Cline, enjoyed the music and visiting with friends and neighbors on the warm sunny afternoon. Monday’s wonderful rain and the cold front to follow will have the musicians back inside and pleased for the much needed nurturing moisture.

One old Champion said, “Of the seventeen trees we planted in the 1970s, only this enormous, beautiful, nonbearing, invasive Bradford pear survived the goat. Nanny was her name and she lived on a chain which she regularly broke, to feast upon the bark of the apples, pears, plumbs and peaches. She was not interested in the Bradford pear. For this habit, she was traded off to a woman over by Cobel’s Store who had milk goats. Nanny taught her goats how to jump a fence, so she wound up having to raise all her fences. Why did we have that goat to begin with? The idea of having the goat was that, tethered, she would eat down the grass, brush and weeds on the steep slope we did not want to mow.” Had they been better acquainted with Esther Wrinkles at the time, she would have cautioned them about having goats, and they may have had the sense to listen. Nanny had come with a young Billy, which ultimately became what Texans call “cabrito.” Meanwhile, we hear of a man in the area who is able to graft good pears on to the Bradford. Will it work on a fifty year old specimen?

Skyline archers Jacob Brixey, Joseph Hastings, and Jordan Ellingsworth had a good showing at the State Archery Tournament on Friday at the Branson Convention Center. They had a good time, according to their sponsor.

April has a lot of good things going for it. To start off, there is April Fool’s Day. It has been celebrated for several centuries by different cultures, though its exact origins remain a mystery. Hoaxes, practical jokes and pranks make for fun if no one is hurt. Laughter at our own expense is good for us. More good stuff comes in the celebrations of birthdays. Skyline second grader, Fredrick Smith, will celebrate on April 4th. The 6th is for fun loving Beverly Coffman Emery who will be celebrated by friends and family till the cows come home. Many will be remembering Bud Hutchison on his birthday on the 8th. The memorial trail ride dedicated to him will take out of Champion on May 15th. Meanwhile, back in April, Skyline will be in party mode big time, recognizing Superintendent Donnie Luna and third grade teacher Candance Mayberry who both have birthdays on April 9th. That will be a Tuesday and school will be in session and full of fun.

A commercial on television the other day promoting a certain internet provider went so far as to say, “Come to the Bright Side!” Folks out here in the almost exact middle of Douglas County on the real Bright Side, relying on that provider, BS, find the commercial ironic. They are excited that White River Connect will soon allow them some real, reliable, substantial connection with the internet. Back in January, WRC’s customer service representative, Brock, said connections here would be happening within two to four months. That could be any time now.

We are advised that sometime in mid-April two broods of cicadas are due to emerge and will be around until about mid-May. It will be noisy and messy. Some old timers caution us to be alert to copperheads during that time, because when the insects shed their skins and drop out of the trees, they become soft, tasty treats for the snakes. We have much to learn from our old timers. Some of them may not be ready to be called old timers, but one of them said, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” That is quite a wonderful thought in Champion–looking on the Bright Side!