May 28, 2024

CHAMPION—May 27, 2024


Champions are feeling blessed and grateful that the wild, dangerous weather passed us by. At the same time, neighbors all around the country are cleaning debris, calculating their losses, and formulating plans for how to proceed. Like the song says, “Time is filled with swift transitions.”

The 38th Denlow/Fairview School Reunion went off without a hitch. It also went off without many who, for reasons of traffic and health, were unable to make it. The number of surviving students is dwindling. There were four Denlow students in attendance and three from Fairview this year. The rest of the crowd was made up of descendants of alumni, friends, and neighbors. The fish, chicken, and sides were scrumptious, and the fellowship sweet. Pete and The General did a fine job with the auction, eliciting as much laughter as money.

Memorial Day—a time of remembrance and reverence. While only about one percent of the population are serving, most Americans are descendants, relatives, friends, neighbors, or acquaintances of people who are serving or who have served. The many who lost their lives in that service, the service of keeping the rest of us free in our precious democracy, are the reason for this holiday. One hundred eleven flags in the Denlow Cemetery mark the Veterans resting there. Putting their lives on the line is the nature of that service.

Ed Henson, genial storekeeper, friend, and neighbor was born May 27, 1903. He is well regarded by people who never met him but have heard the many rich stories of Champion’s early days. Paula Mudd celebrates that day and has the benefit of having many of her children and grandchildren near to help her party. A few of the others who started their lives that day are Henry Kissinger—1923, Vincent Price—1911, Rachel Carson—1907, Dashel Hammett—1894, Wild Bill Hickock—1837, and Cornelius Vanderbilt—1794. Every day of the year has some notable attached to it.

Walls are going up! Bright red walls are going up on the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department’s new fire house! It has been a long process. Back on December 12, 2023, a Skyline Assistant Fire Chief posted: “We had the exciting opportunity to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new fire station. This project has been in the works for several years now. Some of you may not be aware that there is no running water at the station and no facilities such as bathrooms. This makes it difficult to hold board meetings training events and so on. But the wait is finally over. As you drive by the firehouse, you will start to notice progress being made. Skyline area volunteer fire department would like to thank everyone who came out and showed their support—Squires Fire, Good Hope Fire, Sheriff Degase, and Commissioner Travis Chaney. A big thank you to CDBG and Jessica Moran with CDBG and South-Central Ozark council of governments for making this happen.” It is happening and the whole community is glad.

On Saturday, June 15th, the Ava community will come together in support of the Haro Family. The benefit will be held at the Ava Middle School Cafeteria. At 5 pm Hucklebucks BBQ will serve dinner with donated sides for $15.00 per plate—water, tea or coffee provided. There will be an auction at 6 pm with donated items. Reach out to Deannetta (417) 683-0840 or Rose Zella 683-0826 to donate. Deanna Riley writes, “Sal and Silvia Haro were two of the kindest people in Ava! It didn’t matter if you were at the restaurant or saw them a store, you could always be sure Sal was going to wave big with a giant smile on his face, while Silvia always greeted with a big smile and the hugs that only a mother could give. They treated everybody like family. They cared about their community, and they showed it. This loss hits deep and hard. Please make time to join this benefit and help this family, just as they have helped others. Please show up and pack the building just as so many have done at their restaurant.”

Sudden tragedy, dangerous weather, horrific disasters, and merciless warfare join old age, disease, famine, and crime to reduce the global population. Still, there are a lot of us. We endeavor to persevere, to be grateful, compassionate and optimistic—Champions! Looking on the Bright Side!


May 25, 2024

CHAMPION—May 20, 2024



Between bouts of tumultuous weather, nature is providing us with much beauty. We appreciate it and the many other beautiful things that come around this time of year. Graduation gatherings celebrating the accomplishments of young people are some rich moments. Teachers see the results of their work. Young students look forward to their own commencements. Parents, families, and friends get to revel in the accomplishments of their special graduates and to wish them success in their new beginnings. It is a memorable time for all involved.

Those who had asked Santa for mud back during those long dry days are now enjoying the garden lushness brought on by copious amounts of rain. It would be alright if things were to balance out a bit. If it were possible to order rain, some would ask for half an inch or a little more per week. We will just work with what we get and be glad of it. The moon will have changed, and the last days of the month will be good days to plant root crops and to prune to encourage growth. The garden gives us more than food and good exercise. Watching things grow boosts our spirits. Wildflowers along our winding, bumpy country roads help us to drive slow enough to keep our rigs intact. Early on, the wild purple phlox caught our eye. Then we had miles of blooming multiflora rose and now we are enjoying little daisies. The bees enjoy them too and we are forever grateful to the bees for their part in keeping the world in food.

This is a musical part of the world. Sunday singing is a good way to start the week. Monday has the time honored McClurg Jam and Sharry Lovan’s jam in Willow Springs. Gina Hollingshad hosts a jam at Roy’s Store in Dora on Tuesday. Wednesday has the Barber Shop Jam in Ava, and a porch jam in Champion. Thursday is a lively affair in Vanzant and Ava’s Barn jam has moved to the Senion Center. Saturday surely has something musical going on. The New Grass Attack performed at a well-attended political function in Vanzant on a recent Saturday. They have been a mainstay in local music for a good many years.

Former students and graduates of the Denlow and Fairview Schools will be enjoying their 38th School Reunion on Saturday the 25th. Alumni from far and wide, together with friends and family members, will get together at the Denlow Baptist Church and Cemetery starting around ten in the morning. For the potluck luncheon, Master chef Ed Williams will again prepare fish and chicken with the good supervision of Sonja. 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 wife who has ‘Alsup’ in her name. There will be time for some reminiscing, yarn spinning and all kinds of merriment. Everyone is welcome.

This gathering happens annually on the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend. That is the time designated to honor the men and women who died while in serving in the U.S. military. A small percentage of the population of our country serve in the military, but they are there to protect all the rest of us. Thank a Veteran any chance you get. The holiday is still thought of as Decoration Day by many. Our local cemeteries blossom again with the flowers placed on the resting places of dear loved ones. We remember them and acknowledge the parts they played in our lives. Our old folks taught us how to live and would have liked for us to do a good job of it as Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

A Champion Fritillary

CHAMPION—May 20, 2024



Wednesday, May 15, found the Champion Square full of horse trailers and horses. They came from Dora, Macomb, Ava, Norwood, Fordland, West Plains, Mountain Grove, Pontiac, Edgar Springs, and Theodosia. The riders, Calvin Chambers, Cash Depriese, Lynn Johns, Andrew Harden, Caleb Harden, Juniper Wiley, Cody Greenfield, Bob Wheeler, Kay Rex, Loran Cockrum, Frank and Conny M., Corey Finch, Jennifer Wolf, Debi Sims, Jeff Alcorn, and Don Hamby made a twelve-mile loop in about four hours, then repaired to the wide veranda for ice cream and yarn spinning. Reports mentioned no bad dogs or mishaps and the mild and pleasant weather made for a beautiful ride. Many of these folks had the pleasure of riding with Bud Hutchison over the years. Andrew Harden has been leading Bud Hutchison Memorial Trail Rides out of Champion in the spring and fall since his passing in 2018. Bud would be pleased to see the young folks on this ride doing what he loved to do.


May 17, 2024



Mothers could hardly get anything done for all the phone calls, visits and emails commemorating their special day on Sunday. It turns out that we owe them our lives. It does not matter how old we are when we lose our parents, we feel like orphans. How we would love to go back and ask questions. Those of you lucky enough to still have your folks are admonished not to lose the opportunity to ask those questions now. They have stories to tell that you may not have heard.

A whole bunch of us are in our third trimester, that is if we think one hundred years is our possible life span. It goes with the territory that we lose loved ones all along the way. It hits hard, even when we know it’s coming. The parts they played in our own lives tie them to us in memory and our love for them encourages us to love life as they did. We celebrate them, appreciate them, emulate the things about them we loved. Honor them with our own living.

The soft soothing sounds of the singing cicadas made us mindful of the miracles of nature as if the aurora borealis was not enough. Some of us do not have a horizon to gaze upon because there are hills and trees in the way. The brilliant undulating colors were obscured. Even so, Champions enjoyed some especially lovely skies during the solar storm. As to storms, bigger than golf ball hail beat the daylights out of some windshields, some roofs, some Thermopane windows, flowerpots, and garden plants. Even so, Champions are awash in gratitude that it was not worse. Storm stories were shared among friends at the Second Saturday Skyline Swap Meet while they shopped for plants, pigs, ammunition, cinnamon rolls, crochet booties and lots of other things—a nice day. It is good to see progress being made on the firehouse too.

Birthdays to enjoy this part of May start with Teresa Wrinkles on May 22nd, along with a good neighbor, Keller Boehs. Jennings Harley, a kindergarten student at Skyline celebrates May 24th, the same day as Chase’s Mom. Lena Bell Wagner has the 26th for her big day. That may also be the big day for John Webber. Ed Henson was born May 27, 1903. Eva Clark’s mother was born that day some years later. Presleigh Miller was a first grader this year at Skyline. Her birthday is May 28th. Brylee Clark was born May 28, 2010. Dale and Betty Thomas hosted the Pioneer Descendants Gathering ‘down at the end of the world’ for many years. They did a lot of work through the whole year to make that happen. Dale’s birthday is May 28th. Jessie May Miller was born on that day quite a few years earlier and her presence at the Denlow/Fairview School Reunion has been one of the reasons it has always been such a lovely occasion. The reunion will occur as usual on the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend. It is just a week from Saturday. The General entreats scalawags, scoundrels, and scholars (former student) to attend with family and friends. Everyone is welcome, even Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 9, 2024

CHAMPION—May 6, 2024


The merry month of May is full of excitement with birthdays, graduations, and Mother’s Day. The second Second-Saturday Swap Meet at Skyline happens this week at the corner of 76 and C Highways from 8 am until noon. It was well received and well attended last month with hardly any advertising. This time Helen says there will be raspberry plants and other good things. Even if you are not in the market for baby ducks or goats, jewelry or cinnamon rolls, it is a chance to meet neighbors and enjoy another lovely spring morning. While you are there, check out the progress on the new Skyline VFD Firehouse going up across the road. It will be a significant improvement for the community. The planned meeting room might be a spot for a shindig someday.

Andrew Harden says that Bud Hutchison’s Memorial Trail Ride is still on schedule for Wednesday, the 15th. He says he will make a trial-trail ride Saturday to be sure. It is exciting to see the square full of horse trailers and to see folks that only show up at Champion once a year. They saddle up and ride off about 10 in the morning and amble back in around 2 or so for ice cream. The reports of the adventure they share out on the wide veranda are of great interest to the porch jockeys who may not have been on a horse for decades.

Along with all the much-needed rain in Champion has come welcome visitors. Wednesday before last, Kaitlyn McConnell of “Ozarks Alive” stopped in with an oatmeal pie she was concerned about sharing, but then discovered that it would have been alright. She renewed some old acquaintances and made some new ones. Her friends here will welcome her, with or without pie, any time. Meanwhile, she is putting more miles on her car traversing the Ozarks for the joy of celebrating its past, present, and future. Last Wednesday, Ken and Barbie of Mountain Grove, out on a lark, succumbed to the lure of the Bright Side. It was a lovely day for a drive and a welcome opportunity to satisfy their curiosity about the fabled hamlet at the end of the pavement. Hopes are they will make it a Wednesday habit. They already have made new friends and made the acquaintance of The General.

The designated whistleblower in the Vanzant Chapter of the Booger County Advisory Committee has revealed that the body has yet been able to solve any local problems. He says they are, however, uncanny with their ability to create problems for good solutions. He harkened back to last year’s meeting of the Booger County advanced technology and waste management fact-check team where, “as usual, after all was said and done more was said than done.” Otherwise, Thursday’s jam at Vanzant is a welcoming community. Some fiddlers would certainly be welcome.

The prognostication for more mild weather pleases gardeners who say it is too wet to plow. All winter’s whining about drought is over and mud takes its place for complaint. By contrast, we have little reason to complain as we look at the storm damage many have endured. The world is in an uproar with terrible natural disasters and the ravages of war with its far-reaching implications. Meanwhile, we are mindful of many who are dealing with serious health issues and continue with our wishes for speedy recoveries and good outcomes for all our families and friends going through hard times. Compassion and optimism are some of the good watch words in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 1, 2024

CHAMPION—April 29, 2024


Champions have stopped fretting over the drought and are putting effort into becoming accepting of the mud. While they try to count and name all the different colors of green showing up in the wonderful wild, they remember that it all looked like a big gray brush pile just a few weeks ago. Things change, sometimes slowly and sometimes rapidly. Weather is an issue that people living out on the surface of the planet must endure. J.C. Owsley over in Cross Timbers said, “My pouting may have paid off. The rain gauge has three inches in it now and it’s still raining. My investment in fertilizer on hay fields may pay off this year.” The General of Vanzant said “I don’t know of any tornado or wind damage. The thunderstorm moved through the metro area quickly. We got 2 and .7 inches of rain.” Teresa Tost keeps us alerted to dangerous weather. We appreciate her warnings, updates, and radar explanations. Clever Creek went from dusty dry last week to a raging torrent on Friday and by Monday just a wide damp ditch with random puddles. T. S. Elliot said, “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.” It has been especially cruel to many across the country whose lives and fortunes have been dramatically altered by recent storms. We count our blessings and hope life gets better for those folks.

We cannot leave April without saying, “Happy birthday, dear Willie (Nelson).” He is 91 years old now and still sharing music and a positive perspective on the world. He said, “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” “We are the same. There is no difference anywhere in the world. People are people. They laugh, cry, feel, and love, and music seems to be the commons denomination that brings us all together. Music cuts through all boundaries and goes right to the soul.” Even bluegrass jams have some Willie in them.

El Cinco de Mayo is on Sunday. It is not really a Mexican holiday, but just a celebration of the victory over the Second French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Mexico has an interesting history. Linda Heffern up in Springfield is a history buff who could likely shed light on that whole era. Her birthday is May 6th. Skyline School’s first grade student Dahlia Winter will celebrate on May 8th. Champion grandson, Jay Williams, was born May 7, 1990. We remember Champion Bonnie Brixey Mullins on May 9th. She and Pete loved the Denlow School Reunion and have both been missed there in recent years. Skyline kindergarten student Wesley Boyd has his birthday on May 11th. The 12th is for another Champion grandchild, Alex Williams, born in 1989. Nurse Candi Bartch is no longer with us, but she was often at the Vanzant Jam with her fiddle and her kindness. Her birthday was May 14th. Elizabeth Heffern, Champion granddaughter, shares her birthday with a Champion grandmother, Linda Cooley on the 15th. Grandmother Karen Griswold shares her day with Champion Grandfather Alvie Dooms on May 16th. Every string playing musician in this part of the country knows Alvie or knows about him, a local treasure. Albert Einstein said, “Do not grow old, no matter how long you live. Never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.” So, happy birthday, you Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!