January 9, 2024

CHAMPION—January 8, 2024



The Arkansas Barefoot Boys recorded the old fiddle tune “The Eighth of January” back in 1928, and that same year Dr. Humphrey Bate and His Possum Hunters released their version of it. In 1936, Jimmie Driftwood used the melody for a history lesson on the “Battle of New Orleans,” for his high school students in Arkansas to get them interested in the event. It was not recorded until 1957. Driftwood came from a musical family and enjoyed writing songs to teach his students history in an entertaining manner. He had an illustrious musical career and did a lot of good work for the Ozarks up until his passing in 1998 at the age of 91. He wrote over 6,000 songs in his lifetime, including the “Tennessee Stud.” He won three Grammy Awards and sang for Nikita Khrushchev. His real name was James Corbett Morris–an interesting fellow.

Elvis was born on the eighth of January in 1935. He did not live as long as Driftwood, but he also had an illustrious career. Elizabeth Johnston, a Champion granddaughter, was born on January 9th. Tetter Creek herbalist, Bob Liebert enjoys the 11th for his birthday. That was also the birthday of Wilburn Hutchison. He said that one time when he was a kid, he and Fleming Gear saw a dirigible flying over the field where the Skyline School now sits. The 12th is the special day for another talented herbalist, Edie Richardson. She and Lee were Champion neighbors for a little while, and now they are good neighbors up on the other side of Norwood. The 13th is for Diane Wilbanks. She and Jerry used to join the wagon train behind their mules. We miss Norris Woods on his birthday on the 13th. He played “Hot Corn, Cold Corn” and a hundred more banjo tunes. Melanie Blankenship Upshaw also parties that day. She took some great photos of her father-in-law’s big 80th birthday party at the end of last year. Hopes are that her day is so well celebrated. Skyline School’s coach, Mr. Shane Gray, celebrates on the 13th and third grader, Joshua Eaves, will have the 14th for his big day. The 16th is for Champion granddaughter Miley Schober, and her cousin, Rese Kutz, shares the 17th with our old friend Brook Quietwood. Eight grader, Jacob Kyle Brixie will have his party on the 18th, the same day as fifth grader, Railynn Dixon, and the lovely Mary Beth Shannon. The 19th is a big day for lots of people including J. C. Owsley over in Cross Timbers, for Skyline School bus driver, Robert Hall, for Dolly Parton in Nashville, for Edgar Allan Poe, who was born in 1809, as well as for Janis Joplin, Paula Dean and Pete Buttigieg. Some folks really do not like to see their name in the paper, but their many friends and admirers will still gather to express their love and appreciation. Happy birthday you wonderful Champions!

The little winter mix starting on January 8th may be the precursor of something more serious in a second wave. Wet and 35 degrees is about the same as the weather in Scotland today. One must just imagine the bagpipes and hope for the safe travels of those who must be out in it. As we endeavor to stay informed for our own safety, we cannot help but learn of the plight of millions across the world in desperate straits for many reasons, natural and man-made. Here, in warmth and comfort, people of widely divergent philosophies and political viewpoints share a feeling of gratitude for our own security and a hope for a more peaceful and compassionate world in the year ahead. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


CHAMPION—January 2, 2024


Loretta Upshaw, Robert Upshaw, Elva Upshaw, Michael Upshaw, Debora Barker

Friends, neighbors, kinfolks and blood relatives from several counties and various states gathered in Vanzant on Saturday to celebrate the birthday of a truly unique individual. Born January 31, 1943, Robert Upshaw has now officially entered his ninth decade. He has done it with flair and with fanfare, good humor and with the respect and admiration of all those attending as well as scores of others. The community building may never have been so lavishly decorated. The Upshaw daughters are to be applauded. A steady stream of well-wishers came and went through the whole afternoon with only eighty of them signing the guest book. It is not that the others could not write, but that they were busy renewing old acquaintances and making new friends among the many admirers of the gentleman–The General. When the sheriff stopped by, it was a relief that he was there to pay respects and not to haul anybody off to jail. The internet was fairly awash with well wishers all that day and the next right on into New Year’s Day!

Skyline fourth grader, Pearson Matthews, had his birthday on December 30th. Charming Arne Coon and Teeter Creek’s lovely Jan Liebert enjoy the first day of January for their birthdays. Kabella Clark is the great niece of Uncle Arne. Her birthday is January 2nd, and the fair Anastasia will have a party on the third. Sweet Sami McCleary and motorcycle hoodlum Lee Ray share their birthday with The General’s nephew, David Upshaw, on January 4th. Probably David will be serenaded at the Vanzant Jam that night. The 5th is for Skyline kindergarten student Amelia Johnson. The sixth is the big day for Felix the Farmer and for Bud Watkins. Felix just had a good adventure at the Memphis, Tennessee Zoo. Bud is a Skyline VFD firefighter and a much appreciated school maintenance engineer. Skyline seventh grader, Renee Wagner, will celebrate on January 7th. These birthdays that occur in and around the Christmas and New Year holidays add to the joy of the season. You are even more reason to celebrate—Happy birthday!

If we can meet the new year with open hearts, open minds, and optimism, perhaps 2024 will be better than expected and even better than we might have hoped for. Charles Dickens said, “Do all the good you can, and make as little fuss about it as possible.” Those are good words to start a Happy New Year in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!



CHAMPION–December 21, 2023



The Grinch left the Skyline R2 School and somehow made it over to Roy’s Store in Dora by Tuesday, having lost weight and height.  After cavorting with The General to the tune of Bertie’s “Lady Mule Skinner,” the green fiend slipped away dancing with a tall brown bottle that had been sitting close to the preacher.  The theft was captured in video surveillance.  An official spokeswoman for the Jam Organizers was quoted, “Crimes of this nature will NOT be tolerated at this jam, and when caught, the guilty party will be laughed at until everyone passes out.”  Reports of the theft later circulated in Vanzant around the music circle with Ruby saying, “Why does everyone think it was me in that Grinch costume?”  Plausible deniability would be more plausible were she not such a great dancer.  The always festive Vanzant Thursday pot-luck bluegrass jam had an extra layer of flavor provided by the Joneses singing in the music circle and by one of their roasted Yorkshire pigs in the pot-luck fair.  Go to www.joneshillranch.com to find out more about them and their pastured pork.  They are a welcome addition to the Drury/Champion neighborhood.

Jody Henson writes, “Hope all is well down Champion way!  I love coming to see the store, Royce’s school, and church and all the ‘Championites.’  We are fine.  Vic lives with me now, as I guess you many know.  He loves to cook, and I don’t, so all is well!  Have a good one!”  Hillbillies in Texas, Wesley and Karen Freeman say “Howdy from North Texas.  It’s 52 degrees today.  Made my cards again this year.  Give most of them to strangers and people who wait on us in the store.  Making a pretty star quilt top.  Each block has 32 pieces.  The other one has 72 pieces per block.  Got a new God great grandson September 19, 2023.  Named him Noah.  He is so cuddly.  We have no children, so we’ve adopted ours.  God bless you and hope for you the best of holidays.”

We know Karen as ‘Susie’ and know that she and Wesley would have loved to have attended Champion’s Christmas party.  With big tables of great food and thirty people, the store was packed.  Stories about the good old days and lots of catching up with seldom seen friends made for the kind of gathering that makes this a sweet spot in the hills.  The fun spilled out on to the wide veranda on an unseasonably warm and pleasant afternoon.  Kaitlyn McConnell calls Champion “the community that begins beyond the blacktop.”  She is a frequent, welcome visitor, happy to meet new folks and to learn the stories about how they came to the Ozarks.  She has struggled for years to get an interview with The Prominent Champion who declines each time.  She did learn something about wood butter from him.  It has to do with bees’ wax and coconut oil.  It seems that there is something interesting to be learned from everyone, even those who prefer to keep their light under a bushel, or hide it in a bread box.

In these tumultuous times, Teddy Roosevelt’s quote might be a good motto for the year ahead:  “Do what you can with what you have where you are.”  We are in Champion!  Looking on the Bright Side!


December 21, 2023

CHAMPION—December 18, 2023


Luthier Lee Richardson unafraid of the Grinch.

The Grinch, unmasked as Superintendent Donnie Luna.

The Grinch tried his best to steal Christmas from the Skyline School, but it did not work. Thursday found the green Grinch and Cindy Lou Who roaming the halls. The fiend burst into classrooms and made off with trees and presents. He had a whole roomful of loot. In the middle of this tumultuous scene came Lee Richardson, dedicated luthier to the school. He has rehabilitated, strung, and donated several good instruments to Skyline’s guitar program. He was happy to meet music director Cheyenne McIntosh in the middle of her rehearsal for the Christmas Program scheduled for that night. She wrangles the whole student body into a performance that sweetens and tickles the hearts of parents, grandparents, family, friends, and neighbors, kinfolks, and others too numerous to mention, as well as the dedicated professional school staff and the important PTO. Before it was over, the Grinch was unmasked and revealed to be Superintendent Donnie Luna. He happily relinquished his booty and posed for a picture with the new friend of the school. We are delighted to have so much support for our little rural school, busy educating and encouraging the young citizens who will be running things ‘eer long. It will be an exciting spring session at Skyline as construction of the new Skyline VFD firehouse just next door. Watching the building go up may cause some students to consider going into the building trades. Whatever fields they choose for their life’s work, they will have had a great start in Skyline R2 School.

Champions are looking forward to the annual potluck lunch at the Historic Emporium. Residents and people with a history in the neighborhood or just a liking for it get to mingle, reminisce, renew old acquaintances, and make new ones. Histories, genealogies, tall tales mix with optimism. Champion! Looking on the Bright Side!


December 20, 2023




The groundbreaking ceremony for the new fire station for the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department happened on December 12th. It has been a complicated process, but thanks to the CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) and the South Central Ozark Council of Governments (SCOCG), our dedicated first responders and fire fighters will have a place to hold board meetings and training events. The new facility will have running water and bathrooms and other amenities the volunteers have done without for many years. Gentry Construction will follow the blueprints of architect, Joe Haberline. Jessica Moran of SCOCG will administer the grant. She attended the ceremony along with Fire Chief Veldencamp and Chaplin Merridith from the Squires Fire Department, and Fire Chief David Roberts of the Good Hope Fire Department. District One Commissioner Travis Chaney and Sheriff Chris Degase came out to show their support. The Skyline VFD was represented by Fire Chief Doug Hutchison, officers and fire fighters, D.J. Mastrangelo, Charlie Johnson, Robert Hamilton, Donald Powell, and Bud Watkins. Other Skyline volunteers planned to attend, but missed the ceremony because they were busy responding to a semitruck wreck on Highway C. They were taking care of business. Applications are being accepted for volunteers for fire rescue and first responder. (417-349-9150) No experience is needed. Training will be provided. The Skyline area covers Brushy Knob, Skyline, Evans, Champion, Denlow, Sweden and Black Oak. Residents in the Skyline VFD district are grateful for the service and dedication of volunteers and to neighboring fire departments who provide mutual assistance. This new fire station will make it easier for hard working volunters to do their important work and perhaps it will entice some young folks and newcomers to join this vital organization. Recently the Wright County Crisis Center made a significant donation to the Skyline VFD. Community support makes it all happen.


CHAMPION—December 11, 2023



Two weeks ahead of Christmas the excitement is building. School programs fill parent hearts with sweet satisfaction. Fantastic yard decorations in town and out on highways and, even on long dirt roads, light us up to the joy of the season. Big family gatherings with family traditions and solitary individuals, remembering old times and perhaps feeling blue about it, pass the same day. Telephone calls can ease that longing. Lonely hearts are urged not to wait for the call, but to make it. Meanwhile, much of humanity is suffering and the urge to help mixes with gratitude for our own wellbeing, making for a sweet and sad season. We say, “Happy New Year,” hoping for the best.

Spike Jones (December 14, 1911—May 1, 1965) was an American actor, comedian, and musician who was able to combine music and laughter to lift spirits. Judy Gale Ing (December 14, 1941—May 22, 2010) photographer, photographer at an important cancer research lab, artist, pilot, writer of historic fiction, was active in the Audubon Society, completing the bird count every year. She received a National Audubon newsletter award. She was a great friend and visited Champion with her children many times. Once she floated her Subaru down Clever Creek during a big spring rain. She is a much missed, dear friend, a Champion in many ways. Another great photographer, Shannon Alexander, lives up in Springfield where he does some beautiful work making people feel beautiful. He enjoys his birthday on December 14th. He is a Champion son-in-law, husband of a Skyline alumnus. He is probably friends with Amanda Masten, who has her birthday on the 16th. That is Judy’s son Jesse Ing’s birthday too. He is a big time movie maker out in L.A. The 20th is for the lovely Mary Goolsby. She enjoys a ride to the Vanzant Jam in a Studebaker. Mary is retired from an important role in the critical air evac system.

She shares her big day with the fine fiddler, Herbie Johnston, son of the much loved and missed J.R. Johnston. Herby plays all around the area, even Grandpa’s fiddle over at the Laura Ingall Wilder place in Mansfield. The next day, the 21st, the shortest day of the year, is for Jonas Paige, a sixth grade student at Skyline. He shares his big day with another fine fiddler, Jerry Wagner, who yodels while he is Waiting for a Train. Prekindergartner Braxton Loveless celebrates on the 22nd. Fourth grader Chase Cauthron and his dad have the same birthday on the 23rd. Their neighbor, Sharon Skies, celebrates that day too. She just lives a little way down the road from her great granddaughter, cowpoke Blaine Denlow. Talented flint knapper and bow maker, Butch Stone shares the day with Sharon, Chase, and David. Christmas Day is the birthday of the lovely Joanne Anderson. She is known as Grannie Grunt to her grandchildren. Happy Birthday to all of you and Merry Christmas two wonderful weeks from now.

Champions are excited about the groundbreaking for the new Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department fire house. It has been a long time coming, and, hopefully, the enhanced facility will encourage participation by a bunch of young folks and newcomers. Champion! Looking on the Bright Side!


December 14, 2023

CHAMPION—December 4, 2023



Long afternoon shadows tell us the year is winding down. In a couple of weeks, we can start observing the days getting longer by miniscule increments and before we know it, it will be June 21st after which the days will begin shortening up again. Meanwhile, every day has some unexpected beauty about it. Cloudy gray days give some housekeepers a break when the dirty windows, the dust and cobwebs hardly show up at all the way they do in a brilliant streak of sunshine. That brilliant sunshine lifts our winter spirits and lets us see deeper into the woods. New structures and old ones that we had forgotten about are revealed now that summer’s heavy foliage fills the forest floor.

Thursday’s all day drizzle with an occasional shower was welcomed by Champions who had been worried about fire and the dry summer foliage on the forest floor. The rain, what little of it there was, seemed to reduce the turnout at the Thursday Vanzant Jam, but those who were there had a good time. From a newcomer’s clear voice came a couple of murder ballads, one in first person, and from another newcomer with a beautiful voice, a melodic song that says change happens unexpectedly all the time everywhere whether you like it or not. Lyrics in a foreign language are always interesting. They could mean anything. But music speaks to all of us. We are connected deeply to our music friends. To name all those who have passed on might cause one to be left out, so we just hold on to the many songs and tunes they taught us and the memory of their voices. We still have some venerable musical treasures among us. You know who you are, and you know who they are. Music is good medicine. Good news comes from Jean’s Healthway that Jeff Barry is on his way to a great rehabilitation center in Colorado where he will get the best of care in his recovery. Ava has stepped up in a big way to help this family. It will be a long process. In a world so in need of help, knowing we cannot help everyone, we can still help someone.

Who does not relish the opportunity to straighten up, whether from stoop labor, accumulated years, or bad behavior, intentional or not? A recent straightening to The Champion News had to do with the reporting of birthdays, citing confusion in determining whether the person being celebrated on a given day is living yet or is being remembered posthumously. Living in Louisiana, Professor Zack Godshall celebrates on the 6th of December, as does Ed Bell, living in Wright County. The 7th is for the lovely Ethel Leach, with a Norwood mailing address from which she frequently sends thoughtful greeting cards, including the first Christmas card of the year. Noam Chomsky was born December 7, 1928, and is known for his work in cognitive science, among other things. Artist Chris Tharp lives in Veracruz and has his birthday on the 8th. Richard Johnston was born December 9th, 1955. He lives over around Salem these days. Skyline prekindergarten student Elizabeth Johnson has that day for her party too. Two third grade students at Skyline have their birthdays on December 10th. They are Levi Hall and Westin Nava. Felix’s aunt Kai, up in Portland, Oregon and Loretta Upshaw, The General’s fair daughter both enjoy the 11th. Sixth grader Kennedy Hinote celebrates on December 13th. We hope your birthdays are all happy and that you are blessed with friends who will help you straighten up and straighten out. Straighten up and fly right, Champions!

December 7, 1941, ushered the United States into World War II. World conditions these days seem almost as tumultuous. We live in an era with a mindset that divides–predator or prey, a grifter or mark. How about friends and neighbors who can amicably disagree? In football we see it all the time. Fierce competitors help each other up off the field and after the game, no matter who won, there is camaraderie and respect for the opposing team. There is no glory in defeating a weak opponent. Yes, it is just a game, but civility is still Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!