August 7, 2023

CHAMPION—July 24, 2023



Friends gathering at the creek on Saturday swapped squash and cucumbers. The water was cold, but warm, long lasting friendships balanced things out on a beautiful afternoon of good conversation under the leafy shade. Garden talk about the peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, corn and beans reminded them that the mild, lovely day they were experiencing ought to have been spent in the garden instead of lollygagging around on the creek bank with a bunch of other people also neglecting their gardens. The pleasant and relatively cool day may be advanced payment for some brutally hot days ahead. Champions will find a way to deal with whatever comes and will not regret for a moment the time spent with seldom seen dear ones.

Russel and Elgin


Congratulations to Russel and Elgin Upshaw who celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary on the 23rd. Their daughter, Arkansawyer LaSchell Upshaw Bearden, shared that information along with a family picture taken by in 1972 or so. They are a handsome family. One need not look hard to see the sibling resemblance to The General. Years seem to be going by quickly. Birthdays come in rapid succession, particularly for old people. Skyline student Eli Johnstone might be ready for fun when school starts. His birthday was July 18th. The 19th was for Ethan Alexander and Zee Heffern, related, but not blood kin. (Ethan’s Dad is married to Zee’s sister.) Skyliner, Joseph Hastings, has the 24th for his big day. The 25th is for John Webber, who along with The General, often has morning coffee in a place formerly known by some as The Bloated Goat. Jaci Borders is a Skyline Tiger too. She and Wade Day share the 27th for their birthday, though they probably are not acquainted. Wade is a dulcimer player in a family of dulcimer players, playing “Wildwood Flower” and “Old Rosin the Bow.” Reba Bishop has a couple of sisters who will party with her, or for her, on Friday the 28th. Karen Ross was 55 on July 29, 2016, and had a great party at Champion that day. She was our letter carrier then and always a joy to see coming. She always had dog treats and sometimes tomato plants. Now, up on her new route, she is neighbors with Master Gardener Edie Richardson and Lee, her handsome beekeeping husband. Another matriculating Skyline student, Eugene Elliot, will have the 30th to celebrate. Happy days to all of you. You will never be this young again.

The Eastern Douglas County Volunteer Fire Department folks are very good about acknowledging the birthdays and important dates of their members. On the 24th the message was, “Happy blessed anniversary to our photographers and donation procurement specialists, Dave and Salena Vaughn.” Local volunteer firefighters and first responders are a real amenity to our rural communities. They leave their dinner tables and jobs to help us when we need it. Thank you one and all.

The VFW post 3770 is having a potluck dinner for a fundraiser at noon on Saturday the 29th. The post is at 306 West 3rd in Mountain Grove. (417) 349-5810. The meal will cost $7.00, and everyone is welcome to come out to support the Veterans and all the good work they do. You will have time for a nap and then you can take your lawn chairs and go out to the 4 H Up’n At’t Picnic. That sterling event will start at 6p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights at the picnic grounds a quarter of a mile North of HWY 76 on EE HWY. Newcomers to the area will be delighted to enjoy another picnic with all the food, games, music, free drawings, and the chance to meet more of their good neighbors while supporting a worthy cause. Champions! Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Veggies

July 26, 2023

CHAMPION—July 17, 2023



Ash Borer

The effects of the Emerald Ash Borer are clearly visible in Douglas County. Beautifully shaped trees without any leaves stand along roadsides and in open fields. They will provide a lot of firewood for country people and, hopefully, material for our many local woodcrafters and trinket makers. Ash wood is used for all kinds of things including baseball bats, tool handles and boat oars, as well as fine furniture. The U.S. Forest Service says that the exotic insects are likely to kill 99% of the U.S. ash wood trees. The Department of Agriculture is working on ways to mitigate the problem but says it will be years before balance comes back to the ecosystem. Meanwhile we have learned things about trees in general. Every day, a forty foot tree takes in fifty gallons of dissolved nutrients from the soil, raises this mixture to its topmost leaves, converts it into ten pounds of carbohydrates and releases about sixty cubic feet of pure oxygen into the air. Hug a tree if you want to or just appreciate the beauty of this wonderfully forested part of the world.

Some old Champions are still thinking about the Vanzant Picnic and the joy of seeing romping children and grandchildren, laughing, and running amuck. We are told that seventy-five percent of the time we ever spend with our children is over by the time they turn twelve. Ninety percent is gone by the time they are eighteen. We are admonished to enjoy these short, sweet years as they will soon be over. They are long over for many, though many fortunate old folks have the joy of being with and seeing their children and grandchildren often. Count your many blessings. Blaine Denlow had her third birthday on Saturday. She runs the Wolf Pen Cattle Company, helping her old Dad with the hay and calling her Mom a tractor driving cowpoke. Her neighbors and her big family enjoy watching her grow.

Our warm Wednesday found the porch full at Champion. An Arizona resident who started life in Bakersfield was back for a visit, and a little surprised that The Champion Store does not sell pocketknives. He is a collector. He buys big wind chimes and would not live here again because he is afraid of tornadoes. There was a little music that day and a lot of visiting. Don Hamby has asked about the best time to get some ice cream on the wide veranda when music was going on. He was encouraged to bring his own instrument or some musician friends to join the band from about 11:00 on Wednesdays until time to go home for a nap. That is when The General leaves. The music is invited to move inside when it gets too hot. Surely someday someone will invent a banjo that can be transported on a Suzuki. Banjos are not like fiddles which can go anywhere on a motorcycle. Ask Mike. Missey Rogers lets us know that the “Up’n At’t 4-H Picnic” will happen on July 28-29th. That is another opportunity for some great music and some good chances to join old friends having fun celebrating Head, Heart, Hands, and Health and the young folks learning good life lessons.

It was nice to see that some of the big longstanding, deep and rugged washed out spots on county road 239 have been repaired. Thanks to a good neighbor, we may not have to see our dentist after all. A particularly favorite hairpin curve can now be navigated at the speed which makes the experience exhilarating. Perhaps Wednesday’s evening rain was enough to save some of the big corn patches up on Fox Creek Road. Gardeners say a teacup of rain is better than a gallon irrigation. Weather everywhere is causing concern for those of us living out on the surface of the planet. We have had our share of weather related difficulties here in the beautiful Ozarks, but these days we empathize with the struggles of those suffering unprecedented flooding up in the northeast and searing, unrelenting heat in the south and west. Here, we acknowledge and enjoy it when conditions are lovely and endure them when they are not
like Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


July 25, 2023

CHAMPION—July 10, 2023



Gratitude and optimism define the beginning of July. Sweet family and other reunions, the pomp, pageantry, and patriotism of the Fourth of July, the Starvy Creek Bluegrass Festival, and the Vanzant Community Picnic together filled to wonderfully overflowing the first full week. Optimism for what the rest of the month has in store will keep us going. Farmers and gardeners are hoping for rain for their beans and corn. Cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, and squash are thirsty. That optimism accompanies planning and work.

Extensive planning and work went into the Smithsonian Folklife Festival up in Washington D.C. featuring the Ozarks. Kaitlyn McConnell shared much of the excitement with us through her online blog “Ozarks Alive!” Those of us who do not have computers, most likely have friends and families who do. Ask them to look up Kaitlyn and her blog up on Facebook. She is dedicated to sharing and preserving stories and histories of the area. Marideth Sisco, David Scrivner and the Ozark Highballers were part of the festivities that made the festival a marvelous event, sharing our part of the world with the rest of the world. Back home, the Starvy Creek Bluegrass Festival wound up in Conway on Saturday. If you had been missing your bluegrass friends, that is probably where they were.

Sean McCormick
Finley River Boys


Laura Biddick of Wild Care Oklahoma, says, “Turtle racing has an interesting history and is still popular at events and festivals across the Midwest. But animal welfare groups, conservationists, and scientists are concerned about the effects these races have on individual turtles and the species as a whole.” The late Cathy Odneal’s grandchildren and their cousins who participated in Saturday’s race at the picnic were instructed to take their turtles back to the place where they found them so they could resume their normal lives. Some of those critters may be fifty years old.

Backyard Bluegrass Grandson

Friday night’s amazing sunset washed smiles and wonder over the Vanzant Picnic. The enjoyment in seeing old friends and making new ones is the heart of community. Romping little children, delicious picnic food of all kinds, the door prizes, raffles, games, and music made both nights memorable. Remembering the many missing for known and unknown reasons filled conversations. Catching up with everyone’s news, health, number and accomplishments of grandchildren, gardens, road conditions, plans and prospects made lively chatter. Dramatic, billowing clouds dropped just a dribble of drizzle to start things Saturday but did not dampen the spirit of the gathering. David Whetstone flew his drone over the picnic and later connected with the talented Eastern Douglas County Volunteer Fire Department photographer, David Vaughn. Thanks to the Davids, perhaps soon, on one of the Facebook pages or on YouTube, we will have the opportunity to observe the fun we had from the air. We had the joy of continuing the traditional old fashioned summer festivals and the excitement of embracing new technology, all set to the great music of Sean McCormick, Whetstone, Backyard Bluegrass, and the Finley River Boys. We appreciate the good planning and hard work of the EDCVFD for giving us a beautiful picnic. They are East Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


July 16, 2023

CHAMPION–July 3, 2023


White River wiring high-speed Internet
White River wiring high-speed Internet.

Champion Spuds
Champion Tomatoes

Talk around the cold wood stove in Champion Wednesday had to do with tomatoes and potatoes. Gardens are starting to produce. The Cowboy said that in years past people would have ripe tomatoes before the Fourth of July. The changes in the weather may have something to do with that, or maybe the older gardeners knew things we do not know. Jaime and Wes Woods dropped into Champion that day while they were enjoying some quality time together in celebration of their tenth wedding anniversary. Congratulations. Charlie Lambert popped in for a few minutes but did not bring his mandolin in to jam. He had been to the barber shop and said he was played out. Music is good for us. It was a treat to see Larry and Teresa Wrinkles at the Vanzant Jam Thursday. He said he drove down a creek bed to get there. The Day family, dulcimer players, also made an appearance after a long absence. They have been working hard and have not had time to practice much, so they did not bring their axes. Lorelai requested the Possum Song and Sherry complied with the five pounds in her headlights. Sherry and Ruby are part of “The Elderberries” dance group, and if one is to believe photographs in the newspaper, so is David Whetstone. Their performance at the Heart of the Ozarks Festival will be talked about for some time.

A Champion Washout

Kaitlyn McConnell is in Washington participating in and reporting on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. She said despite the smoke from the Canadian wildfires, the festival is getting a good turnout. The internet is giving us some excellent glimpses and we look forward to seeing more about it. The Ozark Highballers, a band out of Fayetteville, Arkansas performed on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center on June 30th. You can find a YouTube video of their show online. The 30th was also the birthday of Susana Handcock who has been married to Wesley Handcock, a native of Denlow, since 1963. They live up in Wilder, Idaho. Dawn and Hovey Henson have been married quite a spell too. They are in the neighborhood attending the Mountain Grove High School Reunion. Mountain Grove is well dressed for the reunions and the 4th of July Celebration with beautiful flowers and beautiful Flags. Huzzah! It is a long trip from Houston for Dawn and Hovey, but they are likely enjoying the (relative to Texas) moderate temperatures. Saturday’s little rain showers were a real relief to gardeners. We harbor hopes for more rain and perhaps cooler evenings for the music, fun, and games of the Vanzant Picnic. Bring some pies, cakes, or cookies for the cake walk and help support the Eastern Douglas County Fire Department that does so much good for the area.

On the bright side, the lovely wildflowers growing along our beautiful country lanes get extra attention and appreciation as it is imperative to drive at a prudent seven to ten miles per hour to preserve the integrity of our shock absorbers and tires. It takes longer to get anywhere. Speed on up if you are looking to feel like a rock in a bottle and have no concern for the longevity of your rig. At times like these we remember fondly Jimmy Thompson, a knowledgeable hardworking gentleman, who was wont to go fox hunting and coyote hunting with the likes of Deward Henson, Russel Upshaw, J.T. Shelton, and others. They may not have killed many critters, but they loved to hear the dogs run through the hills. Along some of the paths north of Champion, friendly ITG Communications contractors for White River Connect are busy stringing fiberoptic cable with the electric lines. Once they get it all up and get it tested, thanks to the America Rescue Plan Act, very rural residents will be able to have truly high-speed internet, unlike the Bright Speed stuff that sometimes seems to require a kerosene pilot light and might well blow you up. Come down the wide, wooly banks of Old Fox Creek on the pavement if you can. You will find some optimistic Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Chicory

June 30, 2023

CHAMPION—June 26, 2023



Summer arrived in Champion on Wednesday as it did in all the other places in the northern hemisphere. The wide veranda was full to overflowing with regular loiterers, good neighbors, newcomers, and special guests of notoriety. It began with a little music. Then newcomers were enticed to sit a spell. Hog farmers, Sandy and Erick Jones, who bought the old Heart place, had just moved in the week before from Wisconsin. Customers in and out of the store welcomed them as they were introduced, and almost all of them knew of the Heart place. There was some laughter about the ‘old place’ names, even from someone who has owned the old Ezra Henson place for 49 years. About that time our Ozarks Alive friend, Kaitlyn McConnell, stopped in for a visit on her way home from Ozark County. In a week or so she will be headed to Washington D.C. for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, where she will be sharing her knowledge and appreciation of this part of the country with the rest of the Country. She shared a copy of her “Passport to the Ozarks” with the Joneses. ‘Err long, came the Fox Creek Farmers. Wyatt and Keller entreated The General to sing their favorite song, “Go and Wash Your Dirty Feet Before You Go to Bed.” Madelyn sang along with her sweet voice on a new song she is learning about little baby ducks and old pickup trucks and shared her lovely poem “In the Meadow.”



Friends sharing stories, poetry, art, and music make for a pleasant community. A friend and a good neighbor to Felix the Farmer shared something tamed and something wild and a song celebrating the summer solstice: “So come all you roving minstrels and together we will try to rouse the spirit of the air and move the rolling sky.” We would like the rolling sky to drop some water on us. Farmers and gardeners are not looking forward to last year’s lack of rain and are not enjoying this year’s early heat. Champions are whispering hope that things moderate. The Vanzant Bluegrass Jam and Potluck is cancelled for the 6th in order to get the facility ready for the Vanzant Picnic coming up on July 7th and 8th. The music lineup includes Sean McCormick, Whetstone, Backyard Bluegrass, and the Finley River Boys. It’s going to be a lot of fun with good food and games from 6:00 to 10:00 pm both nights. See you there together with all the friends you have not seen since you were there together last year.

The All-time Winner of the Old Curmudgeon Award starts July off with his birthday celebration on the first, something he has been doing since 1939. Charming Beverly Barnhart’s party on the second will likely include some of Alvin’s 1959 high school classmates in town for their reunion. Champions expect Dawn and Hovey to show up from Texas for the occasion and to hobnob around the old stomping grounds. Local swimming holes will be full of revelers on the Fourth. The Old Tree Huggers Jamboree is a tradition for one spot and other groups will meet in their usual places to celebrate Country, kinship, friendship, barbeque and watermelon. Virginia Canada of Moline, Illinois; Davenport, Iowa; and Columbia, Missouri has also been seen in the Denlow area in the past. Her birthday is on the fifth of July. The next day is for Janet Burns, now of Little Rock, and for the Dali Lama and Walter Darrell Hayden, who lived from 1931 to 2014. He was a native of Smallett and a local celebrity who told in music the straight skinny of Douglas County politics at the time. He went on to become a respected English professor at the University of Tennessee. Connie’s Dad, Robert Brown, was 79 on July 7, 2019. The 7th is also the birthday of Sharon’s grandson Kruz Kurzt. Deward’s granddaughter up on the family Centennial Farm, will be partying somewhere around this time too. All of you, party on! You too, Loni Upshaw, up in Idaho or Alaska or wherever you may be! We know you know how to party.

July 4th became a National holiday in 1941 marking our Independence now for 247 years. Seeing the turmoil in the world, we cannot help but be grateful for our freedom and for the many who have served and sacrificed to preserve it. Jim Hightower, of the “Hightower Lowdown” down in Texas, talks about politics in terms like “Two foxes and a chicken vote on what’s for supper.” Politics are getting sort of comical and sort of worrisome at the same time, but our sense of community is strong, and we have learned to get along with people who believe differently though there may be some head shaking and eye rolling going on. “It is the duty of every man, as far as his ability extends, to detect and expose delusion and error.” Thomas Paine admonished us thusly way back then. We try to take it to heart without causing trouble in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


June 21, 2023

CHAMPION—June 19, 2023



The old man was remembered, recognized, and roasted as he reveled in reuniting and reminiscing with offspring in person and over the telephone. Our fathers teach us things like turn the air conditioner off in the car before you shut it down. That way it will not be hard on the battery when you start the car again. Batteries often fail in the winter, but the summer’s heat is what weakens them. It takes more energy to turn over a cold engine. Also, he says to know where you are going to put it down before you pick it up and keep your hat out of the creek. He is a wise guy. He provided for us, protected us, prepared us for life with his many valuable lessons, and made our mothers happy. That is why we love him.

Darci Upshaw Cecil up in Boise, Idaho and her husband Ronald E. Cecil just celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary. Don and Rita Krider, up in Peoria, IL have just celebrated sixty-five years of marriage. Other Old Champions just marked their fifty-third. Growing old together is a genuine gift. We just did not know it would happen so quickly. Judy and Eldon Russell were seen in photographs shared on the internet by David Vaughn Jr. of Saturday’s fish fry at the Gentryville Church. Forty pounds of fish and seventy pounds of potatoes fed over a hundred people who had responded to the invitation: “We can’t feed you if you ain’t there. Come on out and fellowship.” David is a great photographer and a vital member of the Eastern Douglas County Volunteer Fire Department. The EDCVFD will have the Vanzant Picnic on July 7th and 8th. This is a great kick off to the summer social season. There will be music, food, fun and games and the chance to see the people you only see at these great community events. Every year in Branson, young musicians gather from several states to attend a week-long Bluegrass Camp sponsored by the Ozark Mountain Music Association. The OMMA has posted a dozen YouTube videos of the 2023 camp and it makes us happy to see the old songs coming out of young people.

One of the many good pieces of information gleaned from the Wednesday gathering on Champion’s wide veranda is that rodents are not blessed with flatulence, nor can they belch. The rat that built its nest under the hood of the car, feasting on wiring and insulation has had a couple of nice dinner trays prepared for him or her. One consists of a generous dollop of peanut butter infused with baking soda and a mixture of sweetened water and vinegar. The other tray has dry instant potato flakes and serving of Coca Cola. The combinations react inside the critter’s digestive system so as to render it lifeless. Poison is not an option for people with pets, so this seems to be a good alternate method to deal with a persistent and sometimes expensive problem. Another Champion keeps a pan of moth balls under the hood of her truck to dissuade the pests. These are not exactly the same kind of rat problems that people living in high rise apartment buildings in big cities endure. We will stay here and endeavor to persevere.

The weekend’s wonderful rain has been a boon to gardeners. Weeds almost jump out of the ground into their hands and beans and cucumbers seem to grow a foot overnight. These beautiful days pass quickly. A sunny Monday morning finds the countryside humming again with haymakers going up and down, round and round with their big heavy equipment. Livestock will be well fed in the winter ahead. Summer starts on Wednesday. We are ready and we rejoice in our good fortune to be Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


CHAMPION—June 12, 2023



June is the middle of the year and why we spend the long winter looking forward. Champion Brixey kids and others had a wonderful showing at the Tri County Fair. Sharry Lovan was an inspiration to a bunch of budding musicians at the Ozark Mountain Music Association Bluegrass Camp. The first announcement of the 57th annual Vanzant Picnic, scheduled for July 7th and 8th showed up on the internet. Through the mail came a notice to the Mountain Grove Class of 1959 Back Room Breakfast will happen on July 1st at the L & A Cafe on the Square. They have a request for RSVP at (417) 259-0742. We live in an interesting and exciting part of the world. Lucky us.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has a program for black vulture control. (573) 893-1416 for information. They are increasing in population and their aggressive nature can cause problems for livestock producers. Turkey vultures are gentle and non-aggressive, usually found in large groups. The species are easy to tell apart. The turkey vulture has a read head and a white beak. The black vulture’s head is black or gray with a dark bill. One kind or the other once had a roost in the old Champion chicken house, which has since been washed away. Sometime back in 2011, at 11:05 a.m., the Cowboy, and some so called or ‘erstwhile’ friends ventured inside the shack to view the vulture hatchlings. As the Cowboy ventured closer to see the white fluffy little critters, his friends backed out and shut the door, locking him inside with the hissing little birds. The ruckus that ensued was epic with pounding and yelling and language to embarrass the clergy, sailors, and oil field roughnecks alike. How long he was trapped in there with the scary baby birds and how he got out were not part of the story, though after an undisclosed period, somehow the friendships were renewed. The incident is one of many that get recounted in the place where they happened by the very Champions involved.

June 11th is the birthday of Blaine Denlow’s grandpa Buzz! He is rarely seen without a smile—a happy guy and with good reason. The 15th and 16th are days to celebrate the birthdays of Champion grandchildren, Anastasia and Foster. Tyler, Bella’s dad, was born June 20, 1988. Tennessee newcomer, Waylon Watts, has a young Champion grandmother born on the 21st. That is a big day for Felix’s cousin, Sierra, out in Oregon. Local celebrity, Cinita Brown, author of “The Black Kettle Ride” and other works celebrating this part of the world, celebrates on the 22nd. The 24th is for Skyline cross country star Kash Hurt. Skyline prekindergarten’ Danielle Shaffer will have a celebration on the 25, as will the delightful chanteuse, Sherry Bennett. Sherry spreads musical joy. She can’t help it and we are the beneficiaries. Surely there is a video of her that we could share here, but we have been unable to find one. Enjoy her at the Vanzant Jam any Thursday evening and other places around the area. Thank you, Sherry. Skyline’s Alexander Bradley will enjoy the 28th for his big day. That was the birthday of Champion Esther Wrinkles, who is much missed, as is her contemporary, Eva Powell, whose birthday was the 29th. Here and now, far away, and long gone, your birthdays remind us of our affection for you. Past, present, and distant, to us you are Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!