April 16, 2019

CHAMPION—April 15, 2019


The world over people are suffering hardship and loss.  Folks in the mid-west are not nearly recovered from the severe flooding there.  Hurricane victims in Florida, Puerto Rico and other places like the countries in East Africa are struggling.  Now we hear of the tragedy at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.  Sometimes all we can do to help is to say that we acknowledge your suffering and wish you well.

Gardens are beckoning.  There is optimism in laying out the rows, in the tilling and raking, the transplanting, seeding and mulching.  There is every chance that this will be the best, most fruitful and lovely garden yet.  For some older gardeners, the paths are getting wider and the garden beds more narrow, but the enthusiasm is there, balanced out with the rheumatism.  When it is time for weeding, some old folks alternate the chore with reading in the shade, perhaps Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “What is a weed?  A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.”  Some say that dandelions are not weeds at all, but are from the same family as sunflowers.  The seeds can travel on the air up to five miles before they land to sprout in someone else’s garden.  They say every part of the dandelion is edible.  (1 cup of greens has 535% of your daily recommendations for vitamin K and 112% of vitamin A)  Up until the 1800s, dandelions were seen as extremely beneficial.  People would remove grass to plant dandelions.  They are one of the first blooming plants in the spring that support our very important pollinators.  The dandelion is the school flower of the University of Rochester in New York.  Pete informed some garden enthusiasts over at the Vanzant Bluegrass Hall last Thursday that it will be time to plan the corn when the hickory leaves are as big as squirrel’s ears.  There are eight species of hickory trees in Missouri and four species of squirrels, so we are blessed with latitude so long as the signs are right.

Wilma Hutchison says that if you need to have a place like Heart of the Ozarks Healthcare Center, that one is great.  She says the people are friendly, the food is good and there is always something interesting going on.  She is anxious to go home, but since she will have to be there for a little while, recovering from a fall, she is going to make the most of it.  Wilma has a sunny disposition and likes people, so she will enjoy the visiting until she can get home.  Her Champion friends wish her a speedy recovery.

Texan Dave Thompson used to sing Old Lost River for his friends in these parts.  His birthday is April 17th.  Myrtle Harris will celebrate her 90th birthday on Saturday the20th at the Vanzant Community Building.  It will be at 1 o’clock with cake, ice cream and a three piece country band.  She is celebrating on the 20th, but Myrtle’s birthday is the 19th, also the day for Mrs. Heather, an aide at Skyline School.  Mrs. Mayberry is a teacher there with a birthday on the 21st.  Jordan Ellingsworth, second grade student, and fifth grader, Shelby Wilson, will enjoy the 23rd and 24th, respectively, for their big exciting birthdays.  Tree-guy, Jacob Moffett, celebrates on the 24th as well.  Happy birthday wishes to all of you from The Champion News.  Have some fun.  The Skyline Fun Run 5K Donut Dash has been rescheduled for Saturday the 27th.  Hopes are that the weather will be altogether better and that the run will indeed be fun.  For fun, spell this out loud:  “OICU812!”  Here is an interesting conversation:  “AB, C D goldfish?” “M N O goldfish, AB.”  “O S A R.”

For the many who have not yet become so old and poor that they no longer have to pay taxes, it is a relief to have April 15th finally over.  There are complaints about new forms and refunds are not turning out to be what people were expecting.  But still, what a gift it is to be a taxpayer and to reap the rewards of our communal alliance.  We pool our resources to support our infrastructures, our schools, our wonderful Medicare, our Military, our environment, and many other things that benefit us all.  If gormless administrators squander, siphon and misappropriate our investment and shirk their own contributions, never mind.  We have sports, television, church, the internet, the garden and our jobs, complete with FICA deductions, to keep us occupied and our attention diverted from the realities.  Being ever so vigilant is exhausting.

We are reminded that mushroom season is also about the time that the copperheads make themselves known.  Some information from reliable sources on the internet say that if an adult bites you, you may only get a dry bite.  If you smell cucumber for no reason, you are within striking distance of a copperhead and you have already disturbed him.  Juveniles often have a yellow tip on the tail.  Possums eat copperheads, so leave the possums alone.  Other snakes, such as rat snakes compete with copperheads for food.  King snakes eat copperheads so leave them alone.

If there is one thing Vanzant could use, it is a few more Upshaws.  The General’s sister-in-law, Sue Upshaw, is coming to town together with her daughters, Loni and Darcy, and Darcy’s husband, Ron Cecil.  They will enjoy the beauty of spring in the Ozarks for a few days, lodging at Chateau Upshaw in the City Center.  They live way out west and Loni lives way, way out west in Alaska where she is a Major in the Salvation Army.  This bunch proves that a family can be close even if they are far flung.

The charming instigator of the Third Annual Champion Spring Fling has not, and will not come unglued, but she has finally set the date!  Saturday, May 11th starting at about 11 a.m., there will be lots of great food and music on the Square.  Bring your lawn chairs, your sun bonnet and your friends and get ready for an old fashioned spring social down on the wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek where country roads meet the pavement.  Everyone is welcome.  Go to the May 7, 2018 post and to the one for May 8, 2017 in the archives at www.championnew.us to see what it is all about.  You are liable to see people you have not seen in years and likely to meet some new friends and neighbors.  Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


April 9, 2019

CHAMPION—April 7, 2019


Riding the ridges, hitting the high spots, on the way to town is glorious this time of the year.  Luscious greens spread across the undulating hills.  The winds have taken the last of the leaves from the deciduous trees giving us a last glimpse of the voluptuous topography before they leaf out again.  Redbuds will soon be bursting forth to dazzle the already busy mushroom hunters.  The brilliant yellow Forsythia blossoms that grace so many yards will begin to fade before long.  Then it will be time to prune them, looking forward to next year’s beauty.  Meanwhile we have flowering quince, the wild phlox, wild plum and “cherry pink and apple blossom white” lets us sing of spring.  The first hummingbird was sighted on April 6th this year.  The ratio for ‘hummer-goo’ is 1 to 4, one part sugar to four parts water.  They say red food coloring is not only not necessary, but harmful to the birds.  It is also important, they say, to thoroughly clean the feeders between fills.  The first farmer’s market day in Ava was a great success.  The weather was beautiful, then windy and foggy, then beautiful again.  It is a splendid market, well worth a Saturday morning trip to town.  Back in the old days, a Saturday trip to town was a big deal.  J.T. Shelton said that back in the 1930’s the Square in Downtown Champion would be packed with wagons and people visiting.


Beverly Coffman Emery will have that song sung to her on Thursday, though her birthday was Saturday.  Chances are that her wonderfully enthusiastic (wild) sister will have given her a good deal of attention.  Buddy gets his attention too.  The bunch might as well sing to Studebaker Bob Berry at the same time since his birthday will be Sunday the 14th.  The lovely Mary G. will treat him to some spoiling for days before and after the event.  Tennessee/Champion, Dillon Watts celebrates his birthday on the 12th.  He has picked a banjo in the Vanzant Bluegrass Hall as recently as last summer.  His Uncle Dustin Cline, also now of Tennessee, and his great Aunt Vivian Krider Floyd, of Rogersville, share their birthdays on the 15th with Skyline students, Wyatt Lake, fourth grader, and Justin Hammett in the eighth grade.  Mr. George G. Jones, now of Stockton, also enjoys Income Tax Day as his birthday.  His many friends are hoping for a reprise of last year’s party.  Happy birthday wishes to all of you from your friends at The Champion News.

Friends remember Bud Hutchison on his birthday.  He was born April 8, 1935 in Champion.  He passed away in April last year.  His spring and fall Champion Trail Rides became a tradition that the community enjoyed.  Twenty or so of his riding friends held a memorial ride for him back in the middle of October.  See pictures and the story in the October 22, 2018 post at www.championnews.us.  It was reported that Bud would have had a great time.  Mysterious Mountain Grove cowboys had come out for the expedition.  “The tall one with the big hat made the whole trip.  The good looking one had a pulled muscle and just came out to see his friend and the others off on their big adventure.”  The spring ride generally happened in May, so perhaps there will be some to come ambling through again.  Wherever his friends are out on their Happy Trails, they will carry with them fond memories of their old friend, Bud.


It looks like the Skyline Doughnut Dash Fun Run will be blessed with cool weather on Saturday.  The race will start at 8:00 AM, early for some folks.  Five kilometers is 3.10 miles and quite a dash for any save the young and fit.  Some old folks are going to stroll along the race course while it is being protected by the Skyline Fire Department and law enforcement in order to pick up some litter.  C Highway, with its two narrow lanes and no shoulders, is up and down and significantly curvy, making it hazardous for pedestrians, so the opportunity to be out there tidying up is a nice part of Champion spring cleaning.  The Skyline Wellness Committee is doing a great job promoting health with great activities like this Fun-Run.  Staff appreciation days this year will be April 15-18th.  It is a chance for students and parents to show teachers and all the other nice people who keep our precious little rural school running how important they are to the whole community.  If you can read, thank a teacher—Champions all!

Just sit around all winter being comfortable and then, at the first crack of spring, get up and get busy.  See where that gets you–fatigue, sunburn, tick bites and disproportionate satisfaction with accomplishment and/or disbelief at your diminished abilities.  “Thanks for what little you did do.”  Warm days might cause a person to get ahead of himself, [not ‘their self,’ because we, at The Champion News, steadfastly reject the ‘singular they,’ which has caused one to be labeled as a ‘grammatical dinosaur.’  The implication is that the English language is a living language that evolves.  Hogwash a bunch of evolution.] causing him to plant tender plants prematurely.  Here in Champion, we have had frost as late as May 10th.  Remember that old adage:  Thunder in February, frost in May.  The adage may be old, but the weather is a whole new ballgame.  Greta Thunberg is a Swedish teenager who speaks better English than most of us living here in America and also speaks to the importance of recognizing that the climate is changing.  Once it was said, “The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain.”  Perhaps the best we can do here in the Ozarks to mitigate our part of the human effects on the climate is to not throw a tire onto our brush pile to keep it burning.  Welcome to Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


April 2, 2019

CHAMPION—April 1, 2019


Old Champions and old folks everywhere seem to enjoy harkening back to their youthful, vital days. The other day one was remembering what Ava was like when he was in his late teen-age years and early twenties. There were two theatres on the square and a roller rink. He almost killed himself, he said, trying to learn to roller skate backwards and it sounded like he was on the snapping end of crack-the-whip pretty often getting thrown up against the wall. He said the soda fountain at the Rexall Drug Store was a long one that filled up with factory workers on their thirty minute lunch breaks. He cited a time when a car load of them were headed back to work when the driver took that turn (by the new bank at the roundabout) too fast and overturned. Apparently no one was badly hurt, so they rolled it back on its wheels and went on their way with the top of the car all caved in. Then he went on to tell about a fast trip to Omaha in his new 1969 Chevelle with Charles Lambert. That was an interesting story that ended up wishing that Charlie would make it back to Champion more often.

If you get to Mountain Grove, you will see that Downtown Pawn on the East side of the square has a ‘For Sale’ sign in the window. The business has been there for a long time. Owner, Marjorie Carter, and sister, Linda Keys, have been great Champions of the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department over the years. They have displayed flyers in their windows, bought quilt tickets, donated great things for the silent auctions, and big items for the fire department fund raisers, including a wonderful Dobro a couple of years ago. They have kinfolks down in this neck of the woods and are fans of the Skyline R-2 School. Marjorie says she would like to sell the business and not just the building. There are too many empty buildings on the square already and the business is vital to its customers. Skyline and Champion friends appreciate their support over the years and wish Marjorie and Linda good luck. They will have a special invitation for The Champion Spring Fling when the date is set for that epic affair.

That epic affair is on the horizon, but Champions do not yet know exactly where. Well, we know where, we just do not know when. It is all up to the Prominent Champion Spouse to set the date. It is, after all, her birthday present, though her birthday is in January, this is her party. She has had a couple of little things going on, so when she feels like it, she will mark the calendar and we will all shout, “Woo hoo!” Skyline fourth grade student, J.P. Rhodes’ birthday is on April 1st. His birthday will always be celebrated with fun. He will surely develop a splendid sense of humor as the years go by. The General thinks April Fools’ Day is a National Holiday. He has already made arrangements for a hangover cure at the Junction on Tuesday morning with his coffee klatch buddies. They will share their favorite quotes of the day. Edgar Allan Poe, “I have great faith in fools—self-confidence, my friends call it.” From the Talmud, “You can educate a fool, but you cannot make him think.” From Will Rogers, “The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected.” And last by a guy named Miguel de Unamuno, “A lot of good arguments are spoiled by some fool who knows what he is talking about.” Jerry Wagner does a fine version of “Now and Then There’s a Fool Such As I.”

The Skyline Wellness Committee is hosting the second annual 5K Fun Run on Saturday, April 13th. They are calling it “The Doughnut Dash.” It is too late to order a t-shirt, but you are welcome to check in at 7:30 AM and start the race at 8:00. The PTO will have snacks available and everyone is welcome to run the race or to stand at the finish line to cheer the competitors as they complete their run. There will be prizes for the top finishers in each category. Last year Levi Hicks won first place with a time of 23:39. Andrew Harden was in second place with a time of 23:45. Rowdy Woods had a time of 24:33 for third place.

Old friends meeting up recently were happy to have the chance to catch up on each other’s heath, families, and mutual friends. One was wearing a button on his lapel that said, “Clemency! Leonard Peltier #89637-132,” which sparked a lively discussion. The friend with the button said that enough is enough. Peltier has been in jail for 42 years for something he did not do. His friend agreed but contended that the word ‘clemency’ implies guilt—that it shows mercy in the severity of a punishment due. He said Leonard Peltier is not due punishment. He is due a pardon for having been wrongfully convicted. “In the Spirit of Crazy Horse” is a ballad by Jim Page that tells some of the story.

You hear it said that a person would not know a snake if it bit him, or a certain substance from Shinola, a bodily orifice from a hole in the ground, or a gift horse if it looked you in the mouth. That last one should be “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Anyway, now we have another for that list. He doesn’t know ‘come here’ from ‘sick ’em.’ A newcomer once told The Prominent Champion just where the raccoon excrement was on the pump handle. He said, “Around here, we say axel grease.” That is genteel Champion speech.

One fellow, already with a case of poison ivy, reports moving seamlessly from one season to another, picking his first tick after hauling in his last load of firewood. He will be scratching, but warm in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


March 26, 2019

CHAMPION—March 25, 2019


Fancy finches…

Spring has had an auspicious beginning.  The last time we had a full moon on the vernal equinox was in 2000.  The next time will be in the year 2030.  These nineteen years have gone by in a hurry, though in some ways it seems like a very long time ago.  The next eleven years are the mystery before us.  As Exer Hector said, “Just act like you have good sense.”

There is a Morel Mushroom Hunting Club that a person can join on the internet.  It can be found on YouTube.  Chris Matherly does an annual Morel Season forecast including many detailed maps, amazing photos, current hot spots and ten day forecasts.  Local hunters will wake up after a few warm nights, step away from their computers and get out in the woods.  Expectations are for a good year in the Missouri Ozarks.  A successful hunter says, “We’ve had a lot of moisture but not too much.”  Will Cowboy Jack find his?  Competition for the first, most and best in Champion will soon be on.  Soon the Ava Farmer’s Market will be open.  The first day is scheduled to be April 6th.  If there are Morels there, they will not last long.

Guess where…

Organizers of the Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks are already meeting on a regular basis getting ready to lay the groundwork for this great event which will occur in October.  It requires a lot of planning.  Sherry Bennet is on the lookout for ‘old time’ musicians.  She is not necessarily looking for old folks, though old musicians are welcome and much appreciated, but for folks who play the old music.  If you are one of those folks, or if you know someone who would like to share the good old stuff, get with Sherry.

I heard the bluebird sing.”  Eastern bluebirds are already making an appearance in Champion.  The Missouri Department of Conservation has good directions for building bluebird houses and they tell you where to place them for best results.  Bluebirds, phoebes, red wing black birds, and those fancy, feuding finches fill the air with the sounds of Spring.  The obligation for ‘spring cleaning’ is easy enough to ignore when sweet tweets and twitters call us outside.  Good deeds so often go unsung.  That will not be the case for the gentleman routinely strolling down Ivy Lane.  Thanks to his efforts, that section of the Road to Champion is pristine, free of refuse, and presenting a portrait of a well-loved place, and of a people with principals.  It is inspiring more righteous litter picking.  Bravo, Sir!

Far East Champion was rocking and rolling in celebration of one of three favorite daughters on Saturday.  It was a soggy affair, but well attended.  Grandmothers and aunts stayed inside but were able to enjoy the music vibrating through the walls.  That happy birthday song shook the rafters.  Kalyssa, who has the distinction of being the Great Niece of The General, sat with her avuncular kinfolk, letting her clear, lilting voice override his relentless strumming, enough so that it was surprisingly harmonious.  “Farther along,” she sang and it went out over the air and into the house to grandmothers and aunties, and out over internet for the enjoyment of Champions near and far, lovely.

Some of the world’s most interesting people were born on March 31st.  On this side of the Atlantic Ocean we had Cesar Chavez (1927-1993), a great Civil Rights leader who did good work for farm workers in California and across the country.  Christopher Walken will be 75 years old on the 31st.  He has appeared in more than 100 movies and is a fantastic dancer.  Check out the movie “Pennies from Heaven” if you have not seen it.  On the other side of the ocean, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is described as an immortal composer who revolutionized religious and secular music.  He was much admired by Mozart.  Bach was born on the 31st as was the gifted artist, Morag Edward.  She currently has works hanging in prestigious galleries and venues across Edinburgh.  She is, in addition, a fine musician, a Sea Swimmer, and much sought after coxswain for local rowers, a wonderful cook, and a student of squirrel behavior among other things.  Your Champion friends wish happy birthdays to you talented people on both sides of the wide ocean.

Matthew Henry said, “If truth is once deserted, unity and peace will not last long.”  Though the Welshman passed away in 1714, his words ring true yet.  His was the first quote edited from The Champion News by the Herald staff back in August 2006.  There have been a few edits since then.  A look back ten years ago in the archives at www.championnews.us finds detailed instructions, though not illustrated, for the building of a genuine washtub bass.  Further reading revealed that David Richardson, from out west of Norwood somewhere, had produced the Stradivarius of washtub basses.  He joined with Sue Murphy, Norris Woods, Jerry Wagner and a welcome visitor, Mr. Hancock of Idaho, plus a number of other regulars to make a lovely evening of music at the Junction.  Lynette Cantrell came over from Cabool with her mandolin to add to the fun.  Later on, at the behest of Russell and Sue Upshaw, that jam was relocated to the Vanzant Community Building, where it still flourishes.  There was also a notation in the archives about the First Ever Biennial Armadillo Round Up and Art Fair that was to be held on the 32nd of March that year.

Folks in Nebraska, Iowa, northern Missouri and other parts thereabout will not have the luxury of Morel mushrooms this year, but it is the least of their worries.  The flooding there will have far reaching, long lasting effects for mushroom hunters, for farmers and their communities.  Recovery will take time.  Many here and there are experiencing hard times and loss.  Words of comfort are hard to find.  Empathy is in the consolation of that hug from a friend or from family with the pat on the back, “There, there.”  Our best thoughts go out to everyone struggling with illness, injury and the loss of loved ones–from Champion—Looking on the bright side!

Good night Champion.

March 19, 2019

CHAMPION—March 18, 2019


Daffodils dazzle…

Faith and Begorrah! It is another miracle! After an off and on brutal winter and with spring arriving on Wednesday, St. Patrick’s Day already sees buds swelling on fruit trees and lilacs, flowering quince and the carpets of daffodils dazzle us. The secret meeting of the Champion Parade Committee (CPC) must have been a quick one because the annual parade of four revolutions around the Square (celebrating the four leaf clover) was such a speedy affair that virtually no one saw it. Litter left behind was scant but of good quality. Ask Fae Krider. She and a friend found a green back dollar bill crumpled in the grass Sunday afternoon. Most likely it flew off the ‘Pot ‘o Gold’ float in the early hours. She said the find was reminiscent of a time when Pat Smith and her oldest daughter were walking down by Auld Fox Creek sometime after the water had receded from an inundation. They found a billfold partially buried in sand. There was no identification, but there was somewhere in the neighborhood of two to three hundred dollars in it. This happened quite a number of years ago, so no use trying to claim the cash at this point. But, back to the parade–it must have been a doozy.

They sang “Danny Boy” at the Vanzant Jam Thursday and played “The Irish Washerwoman” to recognize the occasion. J.R. Johnston had the happy-birthday song sung to him that night as well. Speculation is that he is somewhere in the vicinity of ninety. Birthday observances that did not make it to ink last week were Skyline’s Willow Townsend, first grader on the 15th, the wonderful Ms. Helen Batten on March 16th, and seventh grader Myla Sarginson on the 18th. Don Powell and the lovely Elva Upshaw share the 23rd with Judie Pennington, who has seen a bear up on Tar Button Road. Don Bishop also celebrates on the 23rd, but he jumped the gun and had a fishing expedition with a grandson that is sure to amount to great birthday memories for both of them. This week’s celebrants include fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Downs, whose birthday is on the 27th. Kindergarten student, Brailynn Cumby, celebrates on the 28th and her classmate, Tucker Johnson, enjoys his day on the 30th along with Mrs. Melissa Willhite, fifth grade teacher. Your Champion friends wish you all happy birthdays and another enjoyable trip around the sun.

Last Wednesday was a damp day in Champion, which must have been the reason for the absence of a couple of regular couples to the gathering. They missed Dave, too-blessed-to-be-stressed, and the charming Kathryn who made the long hour and a half drive from their new home to enjoy the company of old friends around wood stove in the Historic Emporium. Dave said the wind was ferocious and that their truck had been moved around on the highway. It was a little unnerving. The coming week will have the conversations centered around the Real National Emergency happening up in Nebraska as the aftermath of the ‘bomb cyclone’ has left many hundreds of people in shelters with their homes and livelihoods under water. The recovery will be a long time coming. Folks in Nebraska and other effected areas will likely have to start all over when the waters finally withdraw and dry up. They say about nine million people in fourteen states along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers are threatened. Young people all over the world hit the streets on March 15th to bring attention to the issue of climate change. Sixteen year old Greta Thunberg has been nominated by three different notables for the Nobel Prize for inspiring so many of her peers to action. “The times they are a changing,” sang an old troubadour. If our youngsters may not have had time to make their own resounding music, perhaps they will just borrow some from an earlier generation as, once again, the young lead the way. Champions have experienced serious flooding in recent years and we do not forget the hard work of our county road crews as they repaired much of the 135 miles of dirt road in our county. Out here in the middle of the 815 square miles that is Douglas County, we feel fortunate.

All the reports about the Ozark Classic Kountry Show over in Willow Springs on Saturday indicate that it was spectacular. Sharry Lovan organized the event and gathered a bunch of local talent for a great evening of entertainment. Master of Ceremonies, David Richardson, did a fine job even though he is kind of shy. He says he has a photographic memory, but he has no film. Alas! He changed hats a couple of times during the show—from dapper bow-tied dandy to lonesome, rowdy cowboy. Sharry can pick them.

These beautiful days call to the gardener in us. Older people often lament their diminished output while their spouses say, “Why not celebrate what little we did get done?” They claim it is a better use of what little time we have left. The soil is warming, the moon is changing. The 22nd, 23rd, and 24th will be good days to start seed beds or to transplant if you have little seedlings started already. In the reaping what you sow department, from time to time it happens that we think we are doing the right thing and it turns out to have been exactly wrong. The best intentions may not yield the desired results. Something as precious as a friendship may be bruised. Gardeners are resilient and friendships are some of the very best things that grow on the planet. “One planet, one people, please” is the motto of some religious optimists. A bear hunter said that when you skin a bear it looks just like a man. Another old boy said if you were to skin us all, we would look pretty much alike. Ponder these things and others out in the garden. It is one of the best places for deep thought—where we do the best growing—inch by inch row by row, thought by thought. As we learn that friends close to home are suffering great adversity and loss, words of comfort and consolation can be hard to find. They know we are thinking about them with our best thoughts in Champion-Looking on the Bright Side!