March 27, 2022



Turnout for the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department chili supper on Saturday was excellent even with all the other events going on in the area. It was lovely to see old friends and neighbors again after such a long time. The food was tasty, the music wonderful, and the support of the community for this vital organization was most heartening. It will be exciting to see construction begin on the new fire station which is being funded by a block grant from the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. When that will happen has not been determined, but it will be a boon to the organization and to the community when it does. Tim and Sara Tamburrino made the trip down from Springfield to enjoy the evening and to video the bands. Tim is about to have a knee replaced, so he said he would have plenty of time to edit and post while he is recuperating. He has also asked if the Skyline School is still looking for donations of guitars for their music program. There are probably good guitars languishing under the beds of any number of folks in these parts that could come to life again in the hands of Skyline students as taught by Cheyenne McIntosh of the New Grass Attack. An old timer said that if these instruments are not being played, they might as well be stove wood. There were several ‘old timers’ in the crowd on Saturday. In the event that some of them might not consider themselves to be in that group, names are being withheld to protect their illusion of youth. It was a good time for young and old thanks to the hard work of many volunteers. Champions all! Looking on the Bright Side!

Tim Tamburrino
Tim Tamburrino recording the show for the Midwest Bluegrass Directory.

Possum Trot
This band is called Possum Trot. Herbie Johnston is the fiddler. In the front row watching is Alvie Dooms, Jerry Wagner and Sally Prock.

Finley River Boys
The Finley River Boys’ fiddler started playing when he was 4.

The New Grass Attack
Skyline School’s music teacher, Cheyenne McIntosh, is on guitar and vocals with The New Grass Attack.

Sally, Jerry, and Alvie
Sally, Jerry, and Alvie enjoying the show.

Alvie and Bret
From one end of the fiddle to the other, these two have it covered.

March 17, 2022

CHAMPION—March 16, 2022



Saturday’s sixteen degree morning did not seem to hurt the daffodils and the clock springing forward has little effect on old Champions who are no longer ruled by it. They awoke on ‘Pi (e) Day’ (03-14) with gardening in their thoughts. The almanac informs them that good potato planting time will be coming up from the 18th through the 21st. Meanwhile, one saw a bee on Sunday, a wonderful harbinger of Spring, which arrives officially on the 20th. The 23rd is a big day for birthdays. Skyline VFD firefighter, Don Powell, shares the day with Elva Upshaw, The General’s daughter, with Don Bishop whose firewood has not yet rolled down onto Highway 14, and with Judie Pennington who is ready for mushroom season. Enjoy your special day and all your other days as well.

One time, shortly after the turn of the century, a Champion invited Geoff over for chili. The dinner was going well until he said, “Chili? Where’s the beans? This is just hamburger soup!” It turns out the Champion was an ex Texan and couldn’t help it. She said her Daddy had said, “If you’re gonna have chili, have chili. If you’re gonna have beans, have beans.” But over time, she has grown to appreciate Ozarkian chili and especially as it is served up by the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department’s Ruth Hamilton. She and her friends are stirring up a batch that will hit the spot at the chili supper at the Skyline School on Saturday night. To their credit, there will also be ham and beans, an Ozark specialty, and pies of all kinds, baked up by the Skyline VFD membership. Ruth has also turned out a beautiful Double Wedding Ring quilt that will go on the silent auction block, together with some Branson tickets and other goodies. The benefit is for the volunteer fire department that helps us get home-owner’s insurance and helps us when we need help the most. First responders are cool. They will start serving food at 5:00 and the music will start at 6:00! Great music, by the way—Finley River, Possum Trot, and New Grass Attack. The proceeds of the evening will go toward essential firefighting equipment and general operating expenses. A chance to step up and help out is a chance to take!

The big circle at the Vanzant Jam leaves listeners and musicians all feeling better at the end of the evening. Woody Guthrie said, “Music is the winds that sigh in the leaves on the tree of life, and I find it pretty hard from day to day to keep from getting out on a limb. But in my day, there was lots and lots of folks out on limbs—I’m just hoping that in your day there won’t be so many.” It turns out that these days there are quite a few in that situation. In all the ways we can, if only in our best hopes and prayers, we strive to be of help to those struggling in these difficult days—Champion! Looking on the Bright Side!


March 10, 2022

CHAMPION—March 7, 2022


Country lanes are beginning to bristle with daffodils planted long ago by previous residents and scattered by the road graders over the years.  That bright yellow heralds the beauty to come.  Many gardens will feature sunflowers this year in solidarity with the folks in Ukraine as they struggle to defend their democracy.  While we acknowledge our own good fortunes in these difficult times, we are mindful of the suffering and chaos going on elsewhere.  In a rare and welcome consensus, we send our best wishes and prayers for those folks in harm’s way wherever they may be.

Sunday night’s threatening weather reminds us that spring is indeed on the way.  The almanac says that the next good days for starting seedbeds will be the 11th and the 12th.  The 13th is the day to remember J.R. Johnston on his birthday.  He passed away in 2019, but any banjo strumming to an old tune brings him sweetly to mind.  In last year’s episode of The Champion News we read, “The soothsayer said, ‘Beware the Ides of March!’”  We can be wary any day of things unknown, and we can celebrate any day for the good things we do know.  As to good things, the 15th of March (the Ides) is the birth anniversary of Supreme Court Justice Ruth B. Ginsberg; of Sam Lightnin’ Hopkins, Texas bluesman; of Jacob Masters, now batting about 400 for the Saints over in Liberal, Kansas; and of his crooning second cousin, 30 years his senior far over the wide Atlantic.  Another good thing coming up is the Skyline VFD Chili Supper on Saturday the 19th.  The star of the silent auction will be the Double Wedding Ring quilt made by Ruth Hamilton.  Good music, food, and fellowship in support of the VFD will make for a great evening.  Kaitlyn McConnell has been sent her Chili Supper Invitation.  She will get to see Ozarks Alive!  Many local activities will be happening that night, so everyone, be safe in your travels.

Hovey and Dawn

Champion friend, Kaitlyn, is out collecting stories from folks with long memories.  On March 3rd Dawn Henson posted a picture of herself and Kenneth (Hovey) marking 55 years of marriage.  She said, “55 years with this guy!”  The picture is of an attractive and optimistic young couple starting out on life’s journey together.  Their friends, Beverly and Alvin Barnhart, have recently commemorated their 60th anniversary.  Hovey and Alvin must have been a real pair of rapscallions back in Mountain Grove High School.  They could tell you stories.  Long lasting marriages and friendships are well worth celebrating.  It is a treat when distant Champions stay in touch.  Distant Kentucky cousins, Mickey and Cathie Alsup Reilly, made a surprise visit to the Vanzant jam on Thursday, treating The General and his big, wild bunch to a bunch of fun.  They were just out on a tear, dropping in on friends and kin who did not know they were coming.  Surprise of the good kind–always welcome in Champions!  Looking on the Bright Side!


March 7, 2022

CHAMPION—February 28, 2022


Way back before former President Regan did away with the F.C.C.’s Fairness Doctrine and deregulated the media, there was a news commentator named Walter Cronkite. He was often called ‘the most trusted man in America.’ He said, “War itself is, of course, a form of madness. It’s hardly a civilized pursuit. It’s amazing how we spend so much time inventing devices to kill each other and so little time working on how to achieve peace.” Some Champions managed to spend most of the week with no television, instead, enjoying the company of some young, energetic, interesting visitors who arrived just ahead of the ice storm. The grimness of the world situation will still be there when the fun of a family visit is just another lovely memory stored up in the hearts of Old Champions.

The Finley River Boys, Possum Trot, and New Grass Attack will be the entertainment at the Skyline VFD Supper on the 19th of March. Save the date! It is a chili/ham and bean affair with deserts donated by the fire department membership. If it is anything like those kinds of events in the old days, it will be a lively affair. Seldom seen neighbors will be there along with some of our new neighbors, all expressing support and appreciation for the dedication and hard work of our Volunteer Firefighters. Perhaps some representative of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks will be there to talk about the new fire station. For sure, it will be a good time for a worthy cause.

Buffy St. Marie was born on February 27th on the Piapot Cree First Nation reserve in Canada. She was adopted by a family in Massachusetts where she flourished in her musical gifts as she grew up. One of her great songs is “Little Wheel Spin and Spin.” In some cultures, it is a custom to burn a candle on the birthday of a deceased beloved family member or friend, just as an acknowledgement of that person’s life and of the affection felt for him. So, on March 2nd, a candle is lit for Leopold—a dynamic individual, much missed. Dennis is bluegrassing in the back yard and picking and grinning on various stages, in area living rooms, and local barbershops. His birthday is the third of March. The fifth is for Linda up in Norwood, tending her beautiful garden and dealing good bridge hands. That is also a day to celebrate Krenna Long who lives north of Norwood and Cindy Winchester, Texas’ precious San Antonio Rose. One of Diamond Jim Brady’s kin has the sixth of March for her big day and the eighth is for Sue Murphy over in Mountain Grove, playing her mandolin singing ‘Just Because.’ Kay, who used to make brooms and maybe still does, shares her birthday on the ninth with Micha who is a California cousin of Felix the Farmer. Birthday candles burn with delight because of you!

Hopes are that everyone enjoyed some good shut-in time during the cold spell. Lots of hot chocolate and afternoon naps have us rested up for warmer days to catch up on the outside chores. Country people rarely run out of something to do. Sometimes they just spend an hour gazing out at the beauty of the countryside. Get an eyeful of it for yourself down at the end of the pavement on the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Daffodils
Champion daffodils in the snow.

February 24, 2022

CHAMPION—February 21, 2022


Ozark beauty.
Ozark beauty.

“Time goes by so slowly, and time can do so much.” This up-tempo doo-wop song tells the tale. Sharry Lovan and Gina Holligshad donned their poodle skirts and bobby socks to sing back-up with Do-Wop David Whetrock at the Star Theatre in Willow Springs on Saturday. The General, illustrious (and authorized) reviewer of all arts for The Champion News, reported: “This was a super fantastic excellent show.” The New Grass Attack had played there on Friday, also to excellent reviews. Here is a great YouTube video of that performance. Cheyenne McIntosh, one of the guitar players and singers in that group, is our music teacher at the Skyline School. We are fortunate to live in a part of the world so rich in musical talent and appreciation.

The Road Home

Certain songs remind us of certain people. “Waiting For a Train” and “I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home” make us think of Jerry Wagoner, a favorite fine fiddler. “Hot Corn Cold Corn” and “Life is Like a Mountain Railway” bring banjo player Norris Woods to mind. “Once More” calls up memories of Lonnie Krider with Wayne Anderson and his family. Who will be the entertainment at the Skyline VFD chili supper on March 19th? It is sure to be a stellar evening with all that good food, the chance to hob nob with neighbors and to meet new ones in support of our volunteer firefighters. And music!

Esther's Place
Esther Keller Wrinkles’ home place.

More Skyline birthdays in February are those of first graders, Makenzie Jonas and Rayleigh Harvey, on the 9th and the 18th. Prekindergarten student, Sadie Hurt, has her birthday on February 23rd, the same day as third grader Antonella Castillejos. Other Champion birthdays are those of Joanna Bell on the 21st, and of Skyline alumnus, Staci Krider Cline, on the 23rd. The 24th is for Ruth Fish Collins with her lovely velvet voice, and for Arne Ahlstedt, already in the garden starting seeds on the most fertile days, the 21st and 22nd. Those are also Presidents’ day and Washington’s birthday. Tomorrow will be written numerically as 02-22-2022. Time is nebulous already, and with eleven days in the month sporting twos, it is just two too much. March on. Spring is on the way in just 28 days!

Thunder in February–frost in May is a local adage. Old Champions used to say, “There’ll come a day in February when the dog looks for the shade.” Those are the nice days, the warm ones. And on the cold ones, some are doing the deep cleaning that brings surprises. Many old folks are paring down, trying to let go of their life-long accumulation of worldly goods, a daunting task. Newly found letters from old friends, long gone, and rediscovered precious mementoes fuel nostalgia. We look back lovingly on sweet parts of the past and we look forward to better days ahead in Champion–Looking on the Bright Side!

Orville’s Barn

February 17, 2022

CHAMPION—February 14, 2022


Good news comes from the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department that they will be having a chili/ham and bean supper on March 19th. There will be lots of good live music and it will be like old times. The ongoing pandemic has played havoc with Skyline Picnic for the last two years, so it will be a real treat to get together again in support of the little organization that allows us to have homeowner’s insurance, in addition to protecting our lives and our property. Firefighters responded to a structure fire off Highway 76 on Saturday afternoon. Photos posted on the internet showed the residence an almost complete loss, though some personal items may be salvaged from rooms not totally involved. Imagining such a loss might cause us to be more cautions in our daily lives, though fires can be sparked by any number of things beyond our control. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter or looking to find some other way to support the Skyline VFD, call 417-543-2377. Meanwhile, save the date March 19th and get ready for some good food, good music and good fellowship.

Coach Jana Barnes-Brixey said, “A big thank you goes out to Ava Reddi Mix and Robert Upshaw for their donation for the Norwood tournament Friday night. Their donation covered the tournament fees for our archers. We are so grateful for the support from businesses and private donors during this archery season!” Coach Debora Barker said, “Congratulations to those who scored a personal best last night! Our season is quickly coming to a close, but here is still time to keep growing. We are proud of all our archers!”

It seemed strange not to care which team won the Super Bowl. Football fever flagged except for the fun of the Pro Bowl where the commercials were in English, but the commentary was in Spanish, and the players were having fun and being gentle with one another. Chief’s fans will look forward to next season, meanwhile the Boys of Summer will be busy with spring training soon. Sport is a good diversion from the strife and vitriol of much current daily discourse. Mrs. Helen Mirren says, “Before you argue with someone, ask yourself, is that person even mentally mature enough to grasp the concept of a different perspective. Because, if not, there’s absolutely no point.”

Great displays of vegetable seeds, seed potatoes and onion sets are suddenly in our local stores. It is a joyful reminder that spring is on the way. Gardeners are eager to get their gloves on and get busy. At the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam on Thursday someone said, “Hello, Judy. How are you?” Lovely Mrs. Russell sparkled, “I’m ready for the garden!” Ere long, regular attendees at that pleasant function will be sharing plants and seeds and then cucumbers and tomatoes. Tony Church shared some tasty jalapeno jelly with The Champion News—sweet and hot!

Donna Mullens Gainer has deep connections to Champion and a birthday on February 16th. That is also the big day for Skyline 8th grader Madison Bradshaw. Trish Davis, who is a great Frank Sinatra fan, and Linda Clark, of a bluegrass dynasty, will both party on the 17th. The 18th is for a favorite Veteran, Pete Proctor, and the 19th for his sweet Mother, Ruby, who is remembered fondly for her wonderful smile and great humor.

Valentine bouquets might still be fragrant and lovely by the time this is in ink, but chances are the chocolate will all be gone. Do not be discouraged, for the candy counter that was the focal point of generations of local children in the old Champion Store is still well stocked and is well situated in the Re-creation of that Historic Emporium located on the North Side of the Square in downtown Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


February 8, 2022

CHAMPION—February 7, 2022



The Year of the Tiger began auspiciously enough with our Skyline R2 School Tigers out of school for much of the week. According to Chinese scholars, the tiger embodies courage and bravery, so even in times of struggle, resilience and strength will prevail. As snowmen melt and school buses run again, our students will be glad to be back in the classroom sharing their wintertime adventures with their friends.

Douglas County Museum

Gloriously beautiful winter weather put the kibosh on the “Wreckreashun (sic) and Liars Club” meeting at the Junction for a few days, but it is doubtlessly back in session now with half a dozen stalwart historians and prevaricators outdoing one another. Meanwhile, Sharon Sanders, of the Douglas County Museum is introducing us to a new place in Douglas County each week. Already we have learned about Ann and Arden and this week she is investigating Arno. She is going through the alphabet featuring spots that were established enough to have a post office. While Champion may never have had a post office, we have had some splendid mail carriers in the past and still do today. Thank you, Homer Akers, Cletis Upshaw, Ben King, Bob Chadwell, Karen Ross and now John Webster and all the substitutes who have filled in over the years. Neither rain nor hail nor sleet nor snow nor dark of night has stayed our swift carriers from the completion of their appointed rounds. Champions every one!

Well, just how independent is a hog on ice? Recent weather prompted such questions. Bob Holt said people should know that he was more independent than that. YouTube is an internet feature that lets us connect with folks we wish we had had the chance to know and to revisit friends and loved ones. This week of staying inside provided an opportunity to watch eighteen minutes of Bob Holt playing fiddle with Hugh Strawn and JR Johnston on banjo, Gordon Peacock and Alvie Dooms on guitar, recorded on November 22, 1999, at the McClurg Jam. What a treasure! Holt said, “Music doesn’t have to be old to be good, but it has to be good to get old.” Speaking of old, as the world turns, The Cowboy has had another birthday. It was Monday at about 11:00. Tuesday, the eighth, is for Skyline fifth grade archer, Aidan Acree, and for the lovely Sarah Rucker down in Austin, Texas. She is an accomplished health care professional and mother of some spectacular Champion Grandchildren. Vanzant native, Clare Shannon Johnson, enjoys the thirteenth for her birthday and Valentines’ Day is for Shelby Ward, a great Champion niece.

Valentines’ Day is for everyone. Smell the roses, eat some chocolate and, like all Champions, Look on the Bright Side!