this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
lion and vehicle
near Slick Rock
A mature female mountain
lion was hit Wednesday, March 4, by an
eastbound Three Rivers motorist at about
6:45 p.m. on Highway 198 in the road cut
just west of the entrance to the Slick
Rock Recreation Area at Lake Kaweah. After
emergency responders had secured the area,
which included dozens of passing motorists
who stopped at the scene, the animal was
euthanized by a game warden who fired
two shots from his service revolver.
According to the female driver
who furnished information at the scene
but wished to remain anonymous, she was
driving her late-model SUV eastbound at
the speed limit when she saw a flash of
something that entered her peripheral
vision from above the roadway on the right
side of her vehicle.
“The next thing I heard and felt
were some thuds that apparently were made
as the animal became caught underneath
my vehicle,” recalled the woman.
“The lion jumped down from way up
on the hillside next to the highway. If
I had come by a couple of seconds sooner
it might have landed right on my windshield.
After the motorist stopped,
the injured mountain lion came to a rest
straddling the curb along the south shoulder
of the roadway. It was still breathing
after the accident and raised its head
slightly several times in an attempt to
relieve some of its obvious discomfort.
Approximately one hour after
the accident, emergency personnel loaded
the deceased mountain lion into the game
The motorist was shaken but
not injured and apparently the vehicle
was not damaged. Several others at the
scene were visibly distraught.
The mountain lion is believed
to be the same one that has been spotted
several times in the area. Its tracks
have been seen periodically at Slick Rock
and around the Cobbleknoll area.
Sightings of mountain lions
are rare, but most accidents between vehicles
and wildlife occur just before sunrise
or shortly after sunset and near wildlife
corridors when animals are attempting
to cross roadways in search of a water
source or their next meal.
Motorists should also use
caution when driving after a rainstorm.
That is when wildlife emerges from their
shelters and become active in their search
for food and water.
Wildlife sightings in the
Slick Rock area, especially of mountain
lions, should be reported to Lake Kaweah
park rangers or the California Department
of Fish and Game.
South Fork heist
has neighbors on alert
A recent burglary at a South
Fork Estates home has area residents wary
and on alert. Investigating detectives
aren’t certain, but the latest burglary
that occurred on the evening of Tuesday,
Feb. 17, or in the early morning of Feb.
18, may be related to others that have
been reported in the last few weeks near
South Fork and Old Three Rivers drives.
A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s
Department said that the entire community
should be on the lookout and take every
precaution, especially when leaving their
property unattended for extended periods.
“We always see a rise in these kinds
of thefts when there is high unemployment
or tough economic times like we are seeing
now,” said Sheriff Bill Wittman
at last Monday’s town meeting.
The latest South Fork Estates
incident occurred while the local residents
were in Riverside visiting relatives.
Apparently a thief or thieves entered
the dwelling through a “doggie door”
and then unlatched a sliding door to carry
out the loot.
The victims’ grandson
reported the theft. Sheriff’s deputies
think that the person or persons responsible
may have been in the house on a previous
occasion and had knowledge that the owners
were out of town.
According to a police report
compiled by investigating deputies, a
number of items were removed from the
dwelling, including two flat-screen televisions,
a wireless router, PlayStation games,
a video game console, and a bank bag containing
a checkbook from a Sierra Drive business.
The missing items were valued
at $5,000. There was an extensive collection
of Hummel figurines in the house that
was left untouched as were several pieces
of jewelry. The victim of the heist said
when she and her husband moved from Orange
County to Three Rivers a few years ago,
she never expected this kind of thing
to occur here.
“When something like this happens,
it’s a terrible, uncomfortable feeling
that makes you feel like you’ve
been invaded,” said the woman, who
requested anonymity. “It just makes
you want to curl up and crawl back inside
yourself and never leave home.”
A possible break in the case
came earlier this week when a $240 check
from the Three Rivers business was written
at a Visalia Target store. The stolen
check was returned by the Bank of the
Sierra and now detectives are checking
the store’s surveillance tapes to
help identify of the person who passed
the bad check.
Anyone with information in
the case is asked to call the Sheriff’s
Department dispatcher at 733-6211.
Lunker landed at
If you ask Scott Schnetzinger,
who when he’s not fishing is an
assistant manager at Three Rivers Market,
where his favorite fishing hole is he
will probably tell you Lake Kaweah. For
all you local wannabes, that’s about
as close as you’ll get to the correct
answer because like any accomplished angler,
the where and how depends on the when
and the whims of the weather.
According to Scott, this
time of year can produce some excellent
fishing at Lake Kaweah but all the conditions
must line up just right. Take last Monday
morning, for example, when Scott, standing
among a group of anglers at Boat Ramp
No. 2, was tossing a “crank bait”
in five feet of water.
The other anglers onshore
that morning were enjoying a sudden blast
of spring-like weather and hoping to catch
a trout or two that had recently been
planted near the launch ramp. There’s
even been some brood stock planted lately
so a rainbow weighing more than four pounds
is within the realm of catchability.
But Scott is a purest and
he’s particularly after one fish:
Lake Kaweah’s lunker largemouth
bass, which, in reality, are a Florida
species that ever since it was planted
after the lake was purged in 1986 has
yielded trophies upwards of 16 pounds.
Scott admits he’s never
got one quite that big, but he will someday.
On this day, he was content with a 5½-pound
specimen that put up a nice tussle on
“I hooked that fish pretty bad or
I would normally release it after I reeled
it in,” said Scott. “It was
a female and, fortunately, she had already
completed spawning. That’s probably
why she was so hungry.”
According to Scott, when
the water levels are lower, the odds of
catching a really big fish — if
you know what’s working and where
to drop a line — are even better.
“There’s nothing I enjoy doing
more than fishing for a big old bass,”
said Scott. “I don’t just
fish... I catch!”
47th annual Woodlake Awards Banquet
make a difference
On the last Saturday of February, community
members in Woodlake set aside the evening
to honor its annual community-service
leaders. Hosted by the Kiwanis Club of
Woodlake, the event consists of dinner
and the awards program.
The banquet was founded in
1961 to honor a Man of the Year and a
Woman of the Year. These awards have been
presented to community members every year
In 1971, a Youth of the Year
award was created. It was presented sporadically
until 1997. Beginning that year and continuing
every year thereafter, both a male and
female senior at Woodlake High School
have been honored.
Business of the Year awards
began in 1999. Woodlake businesses are
selected and presented with the award
at the banquet by the Woodlake Valley
Chamber of Commerce.
There are also the Man and
Woman of the Decade awards, given to those
residents who have made service to Woodlake
their life’s work. This award has
been presented just 16 times over the
last 40 years.
There are other awards that
are also presented as deserving citizens
come to the fore. Veteran of the Year,
Lifetime Achievements, a special Century
2000 Award, and the Spirit of Woodlake.
It’s a tough club to
break into, but a few select Three Rivers
residents have been recognized for their
commitment to Woodlake. WHS athletic boosters
Kent and Sandy Owen (2006) and Jackie
Harris-Groeber and Robert Groeber (2007)
have received Spirit of Woodlake recognition.
Stephen Sommers (1979) and Soukarana Stephens
(2005) have been presented with Youth
of the Year awards.
On Saturday, Feb. 28, Woodlake
broke ranks to allow another Three Rivers
resident into this elite club. Jordan
Vieira, a WHS senior from Three Rivers,
took home the 2009 male Youth of the Year
His female counterpart in
this year’s award is Liliana Garcia,
also a WHS senior.
Michael Pace, a longtime
resident, retired high school teacher,
and founder/organizer of Woodlake High
School’s annual Veterans Day, received
the Man of the Year award for his longstanding
Leslie Rivas, whose name
can be found on nearly every nonprofit
organization’s roster in town, was
honored with the Woman of the Year award.
Leslie’s mom Carol Nickel resides
in Three Rivers.
The Spirit of Woodlake award
deservedly went to Lupe Pinon, who is
a one-woman cheer squad. Just look for
the woman in the tiger-print skirt that,
when lifted for the grand finale, reveals
shorts with tiger pawprints on the backside.
Frances Ortiz, who just happens
to be Lupe’s mother, received the
Lifetime Achievements award. Frances is
a former mayor of Woodlake, current vice
mayor, and longtime city councilmember.
Valley Business Bank, the
only bank serving the community, received
the 2009 Business of the Year award.
after the Dust Bowl
the Dust Bowl
Full of Peanuts
State Books, 2009
pages, softcover, $15.95
Ron Hughart has some incredible
accomplishments in his careers as pilot,
teacher, police lieutenant, author, and
movie actor, but he’s never lost
sight of his roots or family history.
The widely-read Exeter author recounted
his coming of age as a son of migrant
farmworkers in the 1950s and 1960s in
his landmark first book The Place
Beyond the Dust Bowl.
Published in 2002, Hughart’s
autobiographical story is the epic struggle
of a bucktoothed, gangly kid who moved
from place to place in search of the next
crop or the family’s next meal.
His parents are typical of hundreds of
displaced “Okies” who landed
in the San Joaquin Valley in the late
1930s and for the next two decades were
forced into the migrant lifestyle to feed
their starving families.
“My mom, who came out west with
her parents in 1938, always referred to
California as ‘this country,’”
Hughart recalled. “It was as if
they were relocating to a foreign country.”
Because of the harsh reality
the migrants encountered, it was extremely
difficult for these Okies to become a
part of California society. That, according
to Hughart, is the essence of the story
he tells about his Dust Bowl experiences.
“I’ll tell you, quite frankly,
I was surprised by all the folks who have
told me how much my book has meant in
their own lives as they try to make sense
of their family history,” Hughart
Buoyed by the success of
the first book, Hughart has written a
sequel entitled Beyond the Dust Bowl
with a Pocket Full of Peanuts. The
new book is scheduled for release by April
1 and contains new stories, more facts
about mentions in the first book, as well
as answering some questions raised by
Hughart’s growing legion of fans.
Hughart said not much has been written
or documented since John Steinbeck wrote
the saga of the Joad family in Grapes
“If you recall, Steinbeck’s
classic ends with the Joads heading out
after having greatly suffered but with
hope for the future,” Hughart said.
“My story is what happened to the
‘Joads’ next as they made
their way from Salinas to Bakersfield
and dozens of places in between.”
It’s a story of how
these so-called Okies were eventually
assimilated into a culture. Hughart paints
an autobiographical, painful portrait
of the migrant lifestyle — its brutal
passions, humbling failures, and life’s
little pleasures that are rooted in an
unconditional love that these plain folk
have for each other.
Family ties helped many of
these folks cope with hard times, and
today many Okies and their descendents
have rekindled an interest to reconnect
with that cultural heritage. In Tulare
County, a growing number of Okies have
been inspired by Hughart’s book
to search out their own roots.
Grady Nunnelee (1924-2007),
a 60-year resident of Three Rivers, lost
both parents when he was a young child
and was raised during his teen years by
Ron Hughart’s grandmother in Farmersville.
Grady’s son, Jerry Nunnelee of Three
Rivers, and his wife Paula became reacquainted
with Hughart after reading the first Dust
“There are a lot of us with a link
to the Okie heritage right here in Kaweah
Country,” said Paula. “The
books that Ron is writing are inspiring
all of us to become better acquainted
with our own Tulare County history.”
In December 2008, Ron had
a successful booksigning for the first
book at the Visalia Costco. He sold and
signed more than 100 books in a single
Now Hughart is taking his
booksigning event on the road, and in
April and May he will peddle his books
at 15 California Costco stores from Salinas
“It’s exponential at this
point,” said Hughart. “There
are so many of these folks who migrated
from the Dust Bowl who are dying off that
their extended families want to know more
about stories just like their own.”
A visit to Ron’s daughter,
who lives in Arlington, Va., and is married
to a Naval intelligence officer, is also
on Ron’s Costco agenda. On April
11, he will be doing another booksigning
there while he’s visiting his relatives.
Also in the works is a summer
tour of historic Route 66 where Ron will
visit more Costcos along the way as he
retraces the actual footsteps of his family
when they first left Oklahoma in a converted
cattle truck in 1938.
“They were so broke they only made
it as far as a little migrant camp in
Arizona where they gleaned once-picked
cotton fields for the spoils left behind,”
Hughart recalled. “It took them
a lot longer than planned to get to California
because the company deceived them by paying
in scrip, effectively holding them captives
in exchange for their labor.”
These are the lives and times
that Hughart writes about in his books.
They are must-reads for students of the
period, anyone who lived through the Great
Depression, and for the Okie in all of
For more information on how
to get the new book or for a copy of the
original Beyond the Dust Bowl, inquire
at the Commonwealth, the exclusive local
outlet for the Dust Bowl books.
Canyon pictorial history
Publishing , 2009
pages, softcover, $21.99
The set is now complete.
Ward Eldredge of Three Rivers, museum
curator at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National
Parks, has published the Kings Canyon
edition to the “Images of America”
series and it is due to be released on
Monday, March 9.
This is a follow-up to Ward’s
Sequoia National Park publication
that was published last year. As with
the Sequoia book, the new Kings Canyon
National Park edition consists of
historical black-and-white images and
in-depth captions that tell the history
of this spectacular place.
The first photo caption in
Chapter One tells how Kings Canyon National
Park came to be: “On March 4, 1940,
Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed
legislation creating Kings Canyon National
Park. Absorbing the 50-year-old, four-square-mile
General Grant National Park, the new park
encompassed the headwaters of the South
and Middle Forks of the Kings River and
preserved 454,000 acres of extraordinary
scenic variety: sequoia groves, grand
glacial canyons, and vast alpine lakes.
Its creation brought to an end 60 years
of struggle and controversy.”
Six chapters, a bibliography,
and 200 photos later, a grand vision of
Kings Canyon National Park is achieved,
from the human history to its natural
features. Readers will view the early
National Park Service visitor facilities
at Grant Grove, the early explorers and
tourists, and the lumber mills and logging
operations that targeted groves and groves
of ancient giant sequoias.
But most captivating is the
classic scenery from Sierra peaks to royal
rivers, deep canyons to lovely lakes,
and giant sequoia groves to mountain meadows.
After all, this is the essence of Kings
Also available is a set of
15 postcards featuring historic black-and-white
photos. Poignant among these is a shot
of the Mark Twain Tree with a group of
two dozen sightseers posed in front of
it, then another postcard that shows the
Mark Twain stump after the tree was felled
and, just to add scale as to how massive
this tree was, more than 50 men are standing
around the circumference of the trunk.
Arcadia Publishing has been
publishing the Images of America series
since 1993, documenting the history of
hundreds of communities, points of interest,
and national parks. The newest addition
to the Images of America series, Kings
Canyon National Park, will be available
at Sequoia-Kings Canyon visitor centers,
independent and online retailers, or through
Arcadia Publishing at: www.arcadiapublishing.com.
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Mix and mingle
As a way to introduce Chamber
members and the community to the diversity
of local businesses in Three Rivers and
surrounding foothills communities, the
Chamber has been hosting regular mixers
at a member’s business location.
The March mixer continues this tradition.
The community is invited
to join the Sequoia Foothills Chamber
of Commerce for their quarterly member
mixer on Wednesday, March 11, from 6:30
to 8:30 p.m. This mixer, hosted by Wood
'N' Horse, Launey Mediation, and Three
Rivers Bed & Breakfast and will be
held at the home of Christy Wood, owner/operator
of Wood ‘N’ Horse Training
Stables, at 42846 North Fork Drive in
The Chamber invites all business
members, as well as community members
interested in the economic health of Three
Rivers and surrounding gateway communities,
to attend the member mixer. The Chamber
will provide updates on recent accomplishments
and share plans for some exciting upcoming
activities. There will also be plenty
of time to network with fellow business
The Chamber intends to continue
this trend of having its member businesses
host quarterly mixers throughout the year.
Member businesses interested in hosting
a mixer provide the location and refreshments.
The Chamber provides advertising
and notifies its members. Several businesses
can partner together to host the mixer,
which also could provide a unique opportunity
to highlight businesses located together
in one of the many “plazas”
in Three Rivers.
As a mixer host, business
members will be able to share information
about their products and services to attendees
during the Chamber’s activities
update. Chamber members interested in
hosting one of the 2009 quarterly mixers
should contact Catherine Launey, owner
of Three Rivers Bed & Breakfast, 561-4270.
appreciation to heroes
The second of three events
held in conjunction with the Sequoia Foothills
Chamber of Commerce’s Heroes Appreciation
Months took place Friday, Feb. 27. This
recent gathering honored local law enforcement,
whereas the January gathering was a commemoration
to local emergency services personnel.
Glenn McIntyre of Three Rivers
was the impetus behind the formation of
the local Sheriff’s VIPs (Volunteers
in Patrol) in 2002. At the event, he recognized
the 13 local members that currently serve
the community, several who were in attendance.
It is estimated that this countywide volunteer
program saves the Sheriff’s Department
more than $500,000 annually.
Also addressing the audience
were former Three Rivers resident deputy
Kevin Bohl and current resident deputy
Jim Fansett. Their boss, Tulare County
Sheriff Bill Wittman, was also in attendance
and thanked community members for their
dedicated assistance to law-enforcement
officers. Sheriff Wittman introduced Captain
Dahl Cleek, who also commended Three Rivers
for working well with law enforcement.
At the conclusion of the
program, Sheriff Wittman, Kevin Bohl,
Jim Fansett, and Glenn McIntyre were presented
with certificates and plaques in appreciation
for their selfless community service,
as were Greg Fox (former resident CHP
officer), Mark Berlin, and Jason Baillee,
who were not in attendance. The plaques
were created by Dave King of Three Rivers,
who is also a VIP.
The event’s organizer,
Leah Catherine Launey, presented the men
with vouchers for a complimentary night’s
stay at Three Rivers Bed & Breakfast,
which she owns and operates with her husband,
Refreshments were provided
by the Village Market, Three Rivers Historical
Society, and the SFCC. Classical guitar
music was provided by Jesse Belman of
The final Heroes Appreciation
Months celebration will be held Friday,
March 27, 7 p.m., at the SFCC office in
the Three Rivers Historical Museum. March
honorees will be past and present members
of the military. The events are free and
open to the public.
For men only: Prostate
health. Prostate cancer is the
abnormal growth of cells in a man’s
prostate gland. The prostate sits just
below the bladder and makes part of the
fluid for semen.
In young men, the prostate
is about the size of a walnut. It usually
grows larger as men grow older.
Prostate cancer is common
among men older than 65. Most cases are
treatable because they are found with
screening tests before the cancer has
spread to other parts of the body.
Although most men may die
with prostate cancer, most men do not
die from it.
Medical experts don’t
know what causes prostate cancer, but
they believe that age, genetics, and race
affect a man’s chances of getting
A man should see his doctor
for a checkup if experiencing one or more
of the following:
—You have trouble starting your
—You have a weaker-than-normal urine
—You cannot urinate at all.
—You have to urinate often.
—You feel like your bladder is not
emptying completely when you urinate.
—You have pain or burning when you
—You have blood in your urine.
—You have a deep pain in your lower
back, belly, hip, or pelvis.
The most common way to check
for prostate cancer is to have a digital
rectal exam and a prostate-specific antigen
(PSA) blood test. A higher level of PSA
may mean prostate cancer, but it could
also mean that the patient has an enlargement
or infection of the prostate.
If your PSA is high, or if
your doctor finds anything in the rectal
exam, a biopsy may be necessary. Because
many men have regular checkups, about
nine out of 10 prostate cancers are found
in the early stages.
Prostate cancer may be treated
with surgery, radiation, hormone therapy,
or a combination. If 70 or older and the
cancer has not spread, men may be provided
with the option to postpone treatment
in lieu of regular checkups to see if
the cancer has changed.
Here are some ways to keep
the prostate healthy:
—Eat a low-fat diet. Men who consume
large amounts of saturated fat from meat
and dairy products are especially vulnerable
to prostate cancer.
—Studies have shown that supplements
of vitamin E (typical dose: 400 milligrams
per day) and selenium (200 mcg/day) may
dramatically reduce the risk of prostate
—Regular exercise, a healthy diet,
and stress management seems to provide
protection against prostate cancer, as
well as a wide range of other diseases.
—Soy products and flaxseed both
show promise as prostate cancer fighters.
—Going easy on caffeine and alcohol
and avoiding all beverages two hours before
bedtime may help reduce urinary problems
caused by an enlarged prostate.
Tulare County’s native oaks
by Laurie Schwaller
You can help RIGHT NOW to protect Tulare
County’s native oaks and oak woodlands.
WHAT’S THE ISSUE? Currently,
Tulare County has no ordinance and no
management plan to protect its highly
beneficial native oak trees and oak woodlands.
Because our oaks and oak woodlands are
critically important to the health, safety,
economy, and welfare of the County, both
now and for our future, Tulare County
should adopt an oak woodlands management
plan and an oak ordinance. (The City of
Visalia has had an oak ordinance for many
The county Planning Commission
has directed the Planning Department to
report to the Commission at its Wednesday,
March 11, meeting regarding this issue.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP? Contact
the Planning Commission and your county
supervisor to urge them to support these
actions. You can also attend the Planning
Commission meeting next Wednesday and
speak on behalf of these actions.
TULARE COUNTY CONTACT INFORMATION:
County Planning Commission
5961 S. Mooney Blvd.
Visalia, CA 93277-9394
Phone (559) 733-6291
Board of Supervisors
2800 W. Burrel Ave.
Visalia, CA 93291
Phone (559) 636-5000
WHY ARE OUR NATIVE OAKS AND OAK WOODLANDS
SO IMPORTANT? Oaks and oak woodlands provide
many important FREE services that benefit
all of us, economically, environmentally,
and aesthetically. They enhance property
values, help to moderate temperatures,
clean our air, sustain water quality,
buffer sound, provide natural screening,
beautify landscapes and neighborhoods,
provide critical habit for thousands of
species of animals and plants, improve
the soil, serve as windbreaks, provide
many types of recreational opportunities,
attract tourists, are historically and
culturally significant, play an important
role in helping deal with the effects
of global climate change, provide wood
(when sustainably managed), help to control
flooding, and are good for our health
and sense of well-being.
However, our oaks and oak
woodlands are threatened by land conversion
to insensitive and intensive urban and
rural uses, the building of new roads
and other infrastructure, lack of regeneration
(few young oak saplings surviving to replace
existing old oaks), unsustainable firewood
harvesting, intensive agricultural development
(such as orchards and vineyards), increasingly
limited access to groundwater in some
areas; and clearing for fire protection
around developed areas.
Oaks take a long time to
grow; once they’re removed, it takes
a long time to replace them. During that
time, the numerous free benefits afforded
by mature trees and woodlands are lost.
Recognizing the importance
of native oaks and oak woodlands, the
State of California and many counties
and municipalities have worked to protect
them. Many counties have adopted an “Oak
Woodlands Management Plan,” under
the California Oak Woodlands Conservation
Program, which offers opportunities to
obtain funding for projects designed to
conserve and restore oak woodlands on
a regional priority basis.
It supports and encourages
voluntary, long-term private stewardship
and conservation of California oak woodlands
by offering landowners financial incentives
to protect and promote biologically functional
woodlands. To qualify, the county where
applicants are applying for funding must
have an oak woodlands management plan.
It’s time for Tulare
County to adopt a Plan and make these
benefits available to its residents and
WHY SHOULD TULARE COUNTY
HAVE AN OAK WOODLANDS MANAGEMENT PLAN
AND AN OAK ORDINANCE? Remember that the
Oak Woodlands Management Plan supports
voluntary, long-term private stewardship
and conservation of California oak woodlands
by offering landowners financial incentives
to protect and promote biologically functional
An Oak (or Native Tree) Ordinance
can cover any number of trees, from individual
trees to urban forests. Typically, oak
ordinances prohibit needless destruction
of trees, provide guidelines for care
of trees and their proper removal when
necessary, and impose penalties or mitigation
measures for failure to comply with these
requirements. The City of Visalia’s
oak ordinance could serve as a starting
point for drafting an ordinance for the
County. View it online via the City of
Visalia’s web page (Municipal Code,
Chapter 24, Title 12).
WHERE CAN I GET MORE INFORMATION?
Here are a few good sites to get you started:
State of California Wildlife
Conservation Board, Oak Woodlands Conservation
University of California,
Integrated Hardwood Range Management Program,
Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
California Oak Foundation
Schwaller resides in Three Rivers.