August 13, 2022

CHAMPION—August 8, 2022


Naked Ladies

Our few little episodes of recent rain have brought some relief and some lovely reminders of the beauty of this spot in the world.  It is the time of the year when we expect the Surprise Lilies, a.k.a. Naked Ladies to appear, and after these seem all the more beautiful for their endurance.  Deer dally in Nelson Park and shady lanes show us the way to go home.

Hovey (Kenneth) Henson, a Champion living in Houston, Texas wrote, “I was sorry to read about the passing of Elva Ragland.  Her grandmother called her Little Elvie.  When a preschooler, I threw Little Elvie’s shoes into Fox Creek.  I’m so glad that I saw her at one of the Champion School Reunions and got to apologize.”  Weather permitting, it looks like the Champion School Reunion will happen this year.  The pandemic put the kibosh on it for a couple of years, but if the heat is not too bad, it will be a go.  It happens the Saturday of the Labor Day week end.  From the 1985 publication Champion School Memories:  “Let us not forget the people who founded the district over one hundred years ago, who had a dream for a better education for their children.  They ignited the spark which was carried down through the years by people who had the same dream.  Also our parents, who in most cases sacrificed a great deal so that their children might have a better education and an easier life than themselves.”

A shady Champion lane

A line from an obituary of an unknown person:  “May the sweet example you have left behind you animate and encourage others to ‘go and do likewise.'”  Now, there is an admonition!  An old time encourager said, “We’re all just doing the best we can.”  He made it sound like a hymn as his aim was to say, ‘give each other a break.’  A double cousin of the Bright Side said, “Work together to make the community work.”  That was her response to a local newcomer having said she thought it unfair to have to pay school taxes when one is retired or has no children in school.  Who does not benefit from having an educated population?  School starts August 22nd at our great little rural school.  Skyline music teacher, Cheyenne McIntosh, responded to an inquiry by Tim Tamburrino of the Southwest Bluegrass Directory.  He wants to know if Skyline is still looking for donations of good, playable guitars.  Cheyenne says, “Yes we are!  I just got another one donated a few days ago which brings it up to seven guitars, but we could use more.”  Warner Minor donated one last year.  Probably there are more good ones under beds that are not being played.  Music education has far reaching benefits.

For fun, call your friends and wish them a happy birthday.  If it is not their birthday, you can both have a good laugh–just one birthday a year, please.  Champion grandson, Seamus Heffern, had his birthday on August 2nd.  Clark Shannon, affectionately known as ‘Sparky,’ had his big day on the 3rd, along with R.D., who was 66 in 2018.  He is fond of saying, “It’s like the old boy says, everybody’s got to be somewhere.”  Gina Hollingshad is often on stage making wonderful music.  Her birthday was August 6th, as was that of Jaxton Harley, a Skyline Student.  Another student, Caleb Haden, celebrated on the 5th.  The 8th is for Kalyssa’s old dad, Roger, born in 1968.  A mandolinist, who frets a lot, Lynette Cantrell, celebrates on the 9th.  She is the L in the popular local group called TLC.  Skyline’s Jaycee Hall shares her birthday on the 10th with Skyline staff member, Whitney Smith.  Cryslynn Bradshaw enjoys her day on the 12th.  Dean Upshaw will have the 13th for his big day and will be roundly celebrated in Champion, Vanzant and elsewhere.  Happy birthday to all you Champions.  You are making our world sweeter by just being yourselves.  Champions all–Looking on the Bright Side!

Nelson Park

August 5, 2022

CHAMPION—August 1, 2022


John and Family

The relief Champions are enjoying with an accumulation of more than two precious inches of rain and a few delicious days of moderate temperatures is comparable to the relief we will enjoy when the election is over.  Learning how awful some people are and how good the same people are, depending on who is spending the money for the advertising, is exhausting to anyone who is paying attention or anyone who cares.  The expenditure could be better allocated to philanthropy.  Everyone wants what is best for everyone, win or lose.  We are all in this together.

What is best is family.  A marvelous example of that came Thursday evening at the Vanzant Jam when family from Seattle and New Jersey, some flew and some drove, all congregated to wish a happy birthday to the nice man in Drury.  It was a surprise.  Daughters and their families, grandsons and granddaughters, cake, sweethearts and friends, music and laughter all made for a beautiful evening.  John is smiling yet.  Everyone was smiling to see siblings, Sally and Jerry, back at the jam.  Bluegrass needs a fiddle and Jerry plays a sweet one.  Asked about his sweetheart, he said she is as mean as ever.  Some part of the lively evening banter caused Sherry to think about the Purple People Eater.  It made her smile and she has a sweet one.

Stocked Up

For those who were unable to attend the Holt Picnic, the great photos posted online by the Eastern Douglas County Volunteer Fire Department, plus the fifty eight pictures shared by Pete and Phyllis Proctor were a real gift.  Those pictures were taken by David A. Vaughn Jr.  He said, “The second and last day of the 4H Picnic was a blast!  We had the cake walk, music, liquids, games, sack races and especially the turtle races.  If you were unable to make it this year, we hope to see you next year.”  It is a great event for a great cause.

Felix with his Wild Monk

Back in the old days, school generally started on the first Monday after Labor Day.  These days it starts earlier—August 24th according to the internet.  Summer seems shorter than it used to—well, maybe not this summer.  Stores are full of school supplies and students are getting excited, especially first time students.  So are their parents.  Felix the Farmer will be off to kindergarten, leaving his old Papa to take care of the garden and to look after his Wild Monk.

We are refreshed and ready for the next round of difficult weather.  Some gardeners are having to relax about the damage the drought and wildlife are doing to their crops.  Tony said his twelve forty foot long rows of corn with pumpkins planted among them were trampled and slept upon by deer last week.  It looks like some folks will be living on black eyed peas and the bounty put by from last year’s good harvest.  Consult with experts like Linda, Karen, and Edie to determine what might be best to plant in August.  Some are thinking about collards, turnips, and beets as they summon all the optimism they can muster for a fall garden in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Black-eyed Peas

July 26, 2022

CHAMPION—July 25, 2022



Compensation for the cost of sugar comes in the form of swarming hummingbirds. The mesmerizing fights and flights beat television for entertainment. Entertainment promises to be lively on Thursday as a surprise birthday celebration is planned for a Drury resident. Granddad John knows that young Thomas is on his way, but he is not expecting the young man’s aunt to show up from the opposite coast. Long distant travelers may find adventure on their way, and they will surely find open arms of welcome when they arrive. If months or a year goes by between visits, a child may seem to have grown and changed astonishingly. Old folks wonder if we too are changing that quickly.

J.c. Owsley, up in Cross Timbers, bragged about an inch and a half of rain with it still coming down on Sunday evening. Gina Hollingshead, somewhere over southeast of Champion posted a picture of rain there. Meanwhile, Champion gardeners felt five or six drops while they were watering their gardens at about 8 o’clock that evening. At the same time gardeners are attempting to discourage the deer and groundhogs from dining on garden plants, they know that all the wildlife is suffering. We will appreciate the deer being fat and healthy come hunting season this fall.

“Oh, the night was dark and stormy. The air was full of sleet. The old man stepped out in the yard, and his shoes were full of feet. Oh! It ain’t a gonna rain no more, no more, it ain’t a gonna rain no more. How in the world can the old folks tell that it ain’t a gonna rain no more?” The purpose of singing this song out loud with all its many comical verses is to tempt nature into proving us wrong. In some cultures, children draw a turtle in the sand and dance around it to beseech their creator to make it rain. We will pray for rain and make the best of what we get while we stay continually grateful that it is not worse. A favorite Texan has recently relocated to a little town south of San Diego, California. He said that if it gets to be 78 degrees there, people say, “I’m melting!” If it gets into the low 60s, they are wearing coats. He said, “I just keep my mouth shut.”

A visitor from way over in Wasola and a Highway man spent time visiting with the Cowboy and other locals at the Historic Emporium last Wednesday. They sat around the cold old wood stove and discussed their various experiences with the different sale barns in the area—some good—some bad. Then talk turned to the springs in this part of the country and how fortunate we are to have them. There was a story about a city fellow who could not believe that the water just came bubbling up out of the ground or out from under rocks. He was unable to be convinced and his obstinance was the source of much humor. Let us grab on to any humor we can find to see if we can laugh ourselves out of the doldrums. Or sing. That has proven to be good medicine. A local famous Backyard mandolin player, who frets a lot, might choose the hottest day of the year to play “Jingle Bells” at the local jams just for the fun of it. We are all about fun in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


July 20, 2022

CHAMPION—July18, 2022


Champions were dusting and polishing their thimbles to use for rain gauges when Sunday’s showers netted them almost half an inch of the wonderful stuff. Miss B. Denlow’s old dad had been having to haul water to keep his mud puddle filled up to ward off visitors at Wolf Pen Hollow. When he is not doing that, he is reading “Early Settlers of Douglas County Missouri.” He had been wanting to read it for several years and finally was able to get a copy from Amazon. $32.50 for the 307 pages and well worth the money for helping the good man to stay in out of the heat and pass the time educating himself and his young ones as to their forbearers. The book was written by Bessie Janet Woods Selleck and published in 1974. Not much information concerning the author pops up on the internet. Perhaps the undisputed checkers champion, Sharon Sanders, of the Douglas County Museum and Historical Society can provide some good information about her for inquiring Champions.

Civic minded individuals make up a small number of citizens in any community. Ruby Hicks Proctor’s sons, Lyman and Frank, are a couple of those. They were out on Wednesday and Thursday at the Hicks Cemetery with weed eaters, nippers, and rakes to keep demarked the resting place of many local old timers, distant relatives of any number of current locals. The cemetery is also known as the Hicks, Hutchison, Proctor Cemetery, according to The General, another community activist, who showed up to help he said, “…after the hard work was done.” Victor Hugo may be his inspiration: “A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is visible and invisible labor. To contemplate is to toil. To think is to do.” That may beg the question: “What does he think he is doing?”

Sophia Loren responded to the inquiry about how she stays so young and vital at age 87. “Maintain good posture and don’t make those ‘old people’ noises when you get up.” That put several Old Champions apologizing to Sophia regularly as they struggled up from their chairs and sofas. Then, a friend relayed the information given her by a physical therapist who said that it is good to grunt and to make those noises that help you get up. It adds vigor to your actions and helps to clear your throat. This information has changed the tone of at least one Champion residence. Imagine the concept of entertaining disparate points of view over a simple action. Imagine learning that something you thought was right was not as right as you thought it was. It is sort of like politics where “by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.” (Romans 16:18) Also, there is the matter of fighting a culture war rather than a class war. That is where the advisor to the king says, “You don’t have to fight them. Just convince the pitchfork people that the torch people want to take their pitchforks away.”

The Reading Room in the Historic Emporium in Downtown Champion is an excellent spot to enjoy a game of checkers and to learn about current events and local history from the interesting reading material available there. Likely as not, there will be a loitering old timer, some descendant of early settlers, who can spin an intriguing yard long yarn about the old days. Come sit a spell out on the wide veranda where you can meet good neighbors and soak up some of the beauty of Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


CHAMPION—July 11, 2022


Monkey Business

Deward Henson’s granddaughter, Jenny, had her birthday on July 8th. Skyline Students Lily Trujillo and Sumer Parman had the 10th for their big day. The 19th will be the big day for Ethan Alexander and Zee Heffern up in Springfield. Skyliners, Zoe Georges, Ronnie Trammel, Joseph Hastings and Jaci Borders celebrate on the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, and 27th. Reba Bishop, long time Champion friend will enjoy her day on the 28th. Karen Ross used to be our Champion mail carrier, and now she is delivering on another route. Hopefully, she will find some birthday cards in mailboxes on the 29th, her special day. That is also the birthday of Cheyenne McIntosh, Skyline’s talented music teacher.

56th Annual Vanzant Picnic

Friday night of the 56th Annual Vanzant Picnic was a meltdown scorcher, causing some to worry for the health and safety of those Eastern Douglas County Volunteer Firefighters and others out directing traffic and doing the hard work that makes an important event like this come off so well. The effort was still significant on Saturday, but the weather was wonderful, perfect timing for a delightful brief reprieve from the oppressive heat of recent days and of days to come, according to prognosticators. The cloudy sky and temperatures in the 80s were the reward for having endured, and, at the same time, reminders of what our days may be like again someday, surely. On Sunday morning, Jody Blackburn said it perfectly: “Last night marked the close of the 56th annual Vanzant Community Picnic! There was lots of laughter, even a few tears (happy ones). Families and friends reunited was a beautiful sight to behold. There was evidence of community and teamwork last night (for the help in closing and cleaning up) …so from volunteers to visitors…THANK YOU.” Then she goes on to suggest that it would be a great idea to do it all over again next year. Some almost rock-and-roll, lots of great bluegrass, some genuine country and sweet gospel music filled the air and had picnic attendees delighted that this part of the country has so much musical talent. It also has a lot of hard working, good-hearted people who know that it is a genuine blessing to be a part of these many overlapping communities coming together in fun and fellowship all these many years. It was another peaceful, pleasant affair—not a dog fight or a fist fight all night.

Experienced, successful gardeners let an Old Champion know that, most likely, the trouble she is having with her tomatoes this year is because over-watering. The complaint was that it was more than just blossom end rot, it was whole tomato rot. She will cut back on her watering and use that time for study. Already she has learned that it is easier to recover from dehydration than from drowning. Now, to the beans: The plants are healthy and vigorous, but the blooms are sparse and underdeveloped. There are no beans. Those same experts attribute this to the unusual heat. Perhaps,if earnest gardeners can keep the plants healthy until the weather cools down, there will be beans. The black eyed peas are going gang busters, however, and the prettiest corn patch in the neighborhood is at Valery and Ronnie Thompson’s place. Get some good gardening advice or just do some afternoon lollygagging in the cool of the Historic Emporium down on the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


July 4, 2022

CHAMPION—July 1, 2022


On the first of July friends and family celebrate the birthday of Skyline student Aiden Yager, as well as that of a charming Old Champion curmudgeon up on Cold Springs Road. Beverly Barnhart and Isaiah Hastings enjoy the 2nd for their birthdays. Isaiah is a student and Beverly is a neighbor living just north of the school. Then comes the birthday of our Great Nation when we celebrate the birth of American Independence. There will be fireworks, concerts, parades, great potluck feastings and barbeques all across the country. Local creek banks will be choked with celebrants. A sign posted at the Mill Pond says, “Warning! Hippies have been spotted in this area! Peace, Love and Understanding could break out at any moment!” Virginia Canada, now living up in Columbia, will celebrate on the 5th. Janet Burns, down in Arkansas, shares her day on the 6th with the Dali Lama and with Walter Darrell Haden. Professor Haden grew up around in Smallett and was famous for a number of things including having written “All the Late News from the Courthouse,” a scathing, hilarious incitement of local Douglas County corruption set to music. A great friend of The Champion News, he passed away in 2014. Robert Brown, an alumnus of the Champion School was 79 on July 7, 2019. A Champion grandson, Kruz Kuzt also celebrates on the 7th, though time has gotten away from us, and we do not know how old the lad must be by now.

The Old
The Old
The New
The New

The Historic Emporium out on the North side of the Square in downtown Champion is a busy place. Commerce is brisk and any day can find neighbors meeting serendipitously or by plan to visit for a minute or a spell. Wednesday’s stories out on the wide veranda involved a couple of fellows who got into it a few decades ago. The fracus started out in the feed room in the back of the old Champion Store and escalated through the store, breaking the front window, and rolling out onto the porch and then into the yard. Their names are still being withheld even as they were from Elsie Curtis way back then, which was a source of much aggravation for her. Just last summer a big guy snatched an ice cream sandwich from a small badly behaved child, took two bites of it then threw it in the trash can with a thud. The kid was amazed. He just stood there with his mouth open. The big guy replaced the ice cream and imagined, as did stunned spectators, that the boy had learned a lesson. In ten or fifteen years we may know.

The New

The Old

A first time visitor to the Historic Emporium was reminded of the Rabbit Hash General Store near where he grew up in Kentucky. Rabbit Hash, Kentucky had a population of 254 in 2020, somewhat larger than Champion. The store dated back to 1831 and was regarded as the best known and best preserved country store in Kentucky. The sign said Tobacco, Potions, Sundries Notions with a big red Coca Cola logo. A fire accidentally started by the old potbellied stove destroyed the store in February of 2016, but by April of 2017, it was restored and reopened. It is to be noted that when the original Champion Store was replaced back in 2011, business was not interrupted for a single day. See a report of “Henson’s Grand Reopening” in Snapshots here. Also find here the video David Richardson shared of the celebration of the new store. Set to music, Ashokan Farewell, you may see yourself in the photo montage of Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


July 3, 2022

CHAMPION—June 27, 2022


The Road Home

Sunday’s sigh of relief whispered all through Champion. The 17.5 drops of rain fell along with the thermometer’s numbers to soothe suffering summer sojourners to the Bright Side, as well as those permanent residents who have lost count of how many days since it last rained. The promise of a few cool days ahead restores some optimism, though the ‘dog days’ will officially arrive on July 3rd and will last until August 11. Ancient Greeks named them after the dog star Sirius for their heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. Champions will persevere in the air conditioning and in wide, cold swimming holes, hoping that our neighbors who are farmers will take care of themselves out there while they are keeping the rest of us fed.

The first day of summer has us celebrating the birthday of native Champion, Linda Krider Watts, and Sierra Parsons out in Oregon, the cousin of Felix the Farmer. Cinita Brown had a birthday on June 22nd. She has long been a force for education and community service in Ava, helping to make it the nice place that it is. Skyline School’s Kash Hurt won this year’s ‘Fun Run’ hands down. His birthday is June 24th. His fellow student, Alexander Bradley, has the 28th for his big day. His Mom, Tabby Hurt of the Skyline administrative staff, celebrates on the 29th. The 25th was the birthday of the well remembered, Nick Massey, from up on Tar Button Road. He had a wonderful laugh, a keen eye for nature and the natural progression of life. The 28th and 29th we remember two great Champion ladies, Esther Wrinkles and Eva Powell. Esther was notorious for her pies and quilts and for writing for The Herald for more than fifty years—the Champion and Vanzant items. She was a founding member and staunch supporter of the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department. She could spin a yarn. Friends are still enjoying the ‘neck-pillows’ that Eva made and shared. She was quite a yarn spinner as well and taught a good lesson about handling barking dogs chasing the car out on our country lanes. She said to just slow way down. The dogs will get bored and give up the chase. She was right.

Sherry Bennet also has the 25th for her day. She is out making music and organizing music. She already has the lineup ready for the Pioneer Heritage Festival in early October. Family and friends let her know how much she is appreciated. Folks at the Barn Jam, the Vanzant Jam, the Barber Shop Jam, and her Dance class all celebrated her beautiful smile, lovely voice, excellent musicianship, good humor, and good works. Music is one of the sweet ties that bind.

Music is happening all over this time of the year. One of the next musical events will be the 56th annual Vanzant Picnic. Friday and Saturday, July 8th and 9th will have Whetstone, Stringed Union, and Backyard Bluegrass on the stage. On Saturday, those great local bands will be joined by the Finley River Boys. The picnic motto is “Bringing the community together since 1967.” The event is the product of hard work by members of the Eastern Douglas County Volunteer Fire Department. Great music, food, games, raffles, and the chance to connect with friends and folks last seen at this picnic will make for a great time. Maybe one of those candidates for Douglas County Presiding Commissioner will be there to assure us that, if elected, he will vehemently support high speed internet in our very rural areas.

George Orwell was born on June 25, 1903. For many who are familiar with his writing, he seemed to have been describing our world today. We are given pause to think and sometimes the amount of self-control it takes to not say what is on our mind is so exhausting that we need a nap afterwards. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!