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In the News - Friday, April 25, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


This weekend:

TEAM ROPING 1950 ~ 2008

Three Rivers Lions and ACTRA:

Partners in progress

   In 1985, when a bunch of team ropers held an impromptu meeting after the Reno finals, there were some big challenges to meet if the sport of team roping was to survive. The dilemma was that there was apparently no way to keep a handful of hotshots from winning all the pots.
   Entry level ropers, weekend warriors, and cowboy wannabes need not apply because there was just no way to compete with times even close to the sport’s pro teams. After weighing in on several pressing issues, the cadre of cowboys that met that day decided some changes were needed and the sooner the better.
   One thing that happened that day is a Woodlake roper by the name of Mike Sweeney was asked to take a place on the group’s board of directors. Mike recalls that day as the beginning of his association with an organization that a few years later became the American Cowboys Team Roping Association (ACTRA). Today, some two decades later, that fledgling ACTRA organization has grown to become the largest nonprofit team roping association on the planet.

  “Back in those days, there was no way for the weekend roper to rope,” recalled Sweeney. “The sport of team roping was on a downhill slide and we all agreed there was a need to have a handicap system based on skill.”
   The idea made sense to hundreds of ropers who just wanted to belong to something that could level the playing field. But to keep track of all those times somebody had to manage the results and come up with a rating system.
Ironic as it might seem, the computer and its ability to track a burgeoning database proved to be the roper’s saving grace.

  “In those early days, ACTRA was called American Computer Team Roping Association,” Sweeney said. “We developed the first ballot system that rated each roper by skill level, and right out of the gate it was a win-win.”
   It was a win-win, Sweeney said, because it gave ropers of every skill level from novice to pro the chance to rope in front of enthusiastic crowds and win big prizes like buckles, saddles, and jackpots.
   Here’s how the system works. As ACTRA’s business manager, Sweeney oversees the mailing of ballots to a couple dozen ACTRA board members, arena operators, and some distinguished ropers who score the skill level and experience of every competitor.
   It’s the honesty and integrity of that group, similar to the governing body of any successful sport, that makes the system work. The balloting is constantly updated, because within a few weeks of any given season, a roper’s class rating from 1 to 7, calculated in one-half increments, might change dramatically.

  “The youngest ropers are really the hardest to track,” Sweeney said. “That’s because a 12 or 13-year-old roper might start out as a one but become a two or a three in just a few weeks.”
   Sweeney said a good example of that sort of development occurred last year when a 14-year-old, rated as a 2.5 roper, posted some of the best overall times and won a Lions saddle at Three Rivers.
   To get a better idea of the handicapping, Sweeney describes the 3 or 3.5 competitor as a “medium roper,” or one who ropes and rides pretty well but is not consistent. A 7 is the best in the show and designates professional status like Matt Funk, Bucky Campbell, and Caleb Twisselman, all of whom will be riding this weekend at Lions Arena.
   Sweeney credits the handicap system with being the salvation of the sport. The phenomenal growth of ACTRA membership has paralleled the evolution of events like the Three Rivers Team Roping, which along with ACTRA, has exploded in popularity.
   Sweeney, 57, grew up in Woodlake and played football for the legendary Coach Leo Robinson before graduating from Woodlake High School in 1968. He drove a truck for 30 years before taking the ACTRA reins as fulltime business manager in January 2007.
   He literally grew up in the sport and has come to the Three Rivers roping for as long as he can remember.

  “In those early days it was a two-day event,” Sweeney said. “Now it runs for four days with more than 2,000 teams. The way the events are run, especially since Jim Waggoner got involved in 1992, is really outstanding. The Lions Club and the people of Three Rivers really treat us well, and every roper has a chance to be a winner.”
   ACTRA, owned and operated by its 7,000 members, has 11 chapters in 10 states and soon will be officially expanding to two more states and Canada. In addition to maintaining the half-number system to handicap ropers, ACTRA has a chapter-promoted finals each season, a “Catastrophe Fund” to assist ropers in need, and a scholarship fund for college-bound youth.

  “Our motto is ‘Where Families Come to Rope,’ and there’s no place better than Three Rivers to see old friends and spend time with our families doing what we like doing best,” Sweeney said.
   The Three Rivers Team Roping continues through Sunday.

Lemon Cove Granite

downsizes proposal

   When it comes to mining, operator and neighbors often find they are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to softening impacts of an operation that by its nature is noisy and dusty. Trucks that haul the indispensable building materials can also contribute to air quality and traffic problems.
   But in the spirit of compromise and an apparent effort to be a good neighbor, Tom Cairns, owner/operator of Lemon Cove Granite, has requested that Tulare County planners downsize his request for expansion. The Lemon Cove mining operation is currently being evaluated as part of an Environmental Impact Report being prepared Quad Knopf of Visalia.
   The maximum allowable number of trucks will not exceed what is currently permitted, Cairns testified. An earthen berm was also proposed to lessen noise for nearby residents.
   The latest developments in the project were made public at Wednesday’s (April 23) meeting of the Tulare County Planning Commission. The commission voted 4-0 for a continuance so that staff can prepare a final EIR that addresses a smaller, more community-friendly operation.

Debris burned in Sequoia

   After an unseasonably dry March and April, conditions proved just right Wednesday, April 23, for Sequoia National Park fire managers to give the green light on burning some debris piles in the Giant Forest area. The burns target about three acres of piles that were created during a mechanical thinning project that occurred last year.
   It’s the Park Service’s version of “defensible space” as the intent of the project is to provide fire protection for the Beetle Rock Family Nature Center, the Giant Forest Museum, and other structures in the vicinity.

Food pantry cooks up fundraiser

   The Three Rivers Bread Basket — formerly known as the Community Food Pantry — will be selling deep-pit barbecue meals during the Redbud Festival, coming up Saturday and Sunday, May 10 and 11, at the Lions Arena. The nonprofit group will be selling food to buy food for the local food pantry.
Volunteers are currently needed to assist with this fundraiser. To help out, call Trish Stivers, 280-3604, or Elizabeth LaMar, 288-2603.
   Also, the annual Letter Carriers’ Food Drive will be held in Three Rivers from Saturday, May 10, through Thursday, May 15. The Three Rivers Bread Basket will accept nonperishable food items in the donation bins at the Redbud food concession.
   Continuing beyond the Redbud Festival, bins will be located throughout the week at the Three Rivers Post Office, Village Market, and Three Rivers Mercantile.
   There is always a donation container for food at the Three Rivers Arts Center, the food pantry’s new headquarters.
   The food pantry is committed to its ministry of providing food to those households that need assistance in feeding children, and the organizers realize that this all-volunteer project would not be possible without the assistance of community members.
   Checks may always be sent to P.O. Box 449. The food pantry is open the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., at the side entrance of the Arts Center.

Combating mental illness

   MENTAL ILLNESS… What do we think of when we hear or read these two words?
   What if they are spoken in regards to a friend or even more alarmingly a family member? How do we act or react?
   What will people do or say about us? What do we do? Where do we get help?
These and many, many other questions are asked daily by people who find themselves in the world of mental illness.
   Every day, a single word spoken by a doctor to a person and/or their families starts all of these questions.
   Any of the following words are scary to hear: anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, eating disorder, addiction disorder, and they are spoken regardless of age, ethnic group, or financial status.
   Imagine how lives are changed and placed in a whole new reality. Now imagine how your life will/would change if these words are/were spoken to you or a family member or a friend.
   There is help and it goes by the name of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It is the nation’s largest grassroots organization for people with mental illness and their families.
   NAMI was founded in 1979 and has affiliates in every state and in more that 1,100 communities across the country including Tulare County. NAMI’s mission is to eradicate mental illnesses and improve the quality of life for persons of all ages who are affected by mental illness through support, education, and advocacy.
   The many activities of NAMI include: public education and information activities, peer education and support, raising awareness and fighting stigma, and advocacy at all government levels.
   NAMIWalks is a signature NAMI event that draws thousands of concerned citizens every year to walk together in over 60 communities across the nation to raise money and awareness about mental illness.
   This year, the walk for the Central Valley will be held Saturday, May 10, at Woodward Park in Fresno.
   There are teams from Tulare County involved in this walk, and they are eager for your support.
   There are several ways you can participate in this walk: join an existing team, form your own team, or walk as an individual.
   For information on how you can participate or just get information about NAMI, visit the NAMI website at www.namiwalks.org.

Birds and Bullets: Local students

advance to state science fair

   It’s Science Fair season and the final science competition of the academic year is looming. Locally, three students have advanced through the school and county levels and will display their projects at the 57th annual California State Science Fair in Los Angeles where they may expect to compete against 1,000 students from throughout the state.
   Daniel Keeley, an eighth-grader at Three Rivers School, teamed with his sister, Kathryn Keeley, a freshman at Woodlake High School, to expand on their science project from last year that researched the feeding preferences of birds. This year’s project delves further by studying if competition for food determines when and where a woodland bird will feed. Katie won a cash award at the CSSF in 2006.
   Foster Hengst, a sixth-grader at Woodlake Valley Middle School, brought out the big guns for his 2008 science fair project. He will also advance to compete at the CSSF on May 19 and 20, meaning Woodlake Valley will be one of 400 schools represented statewide. Foster’s objective was to determine if it is possible to measure the velocity of a bullet by calculating how much it descends within a specific distance.

Horse health management

by Dr. Helen Christian
Pacific Crest Equine

   Spring is here and along with the beautiful weather and playful foals now is also the time to ensure the health of your horse for the coming year. The well-known phrase “Prevention is better than cure” is all too true when it comes to your horse’s wellbeing.
   Vaccination makes up an important part of our approach to wellness and deserves further discussion. Areas of importance also encompassed in veterinary wellness evaluation are overall health and soundness, and parasite control including fecal analysis and dentistry. The majority of horses also require a dental float on an annual basis to maintain comfort and performance.
   Spring is an important time of year for vaccination because of the increasing temperature. Mosquitoes have made an appearance and with them comes the threat of insect-borne diseases such as West Nile Virus and Eastern and Western Encephalitis, commonly known as “sleeping sickness.”
   These diseases affect the neurological system, and clinical signs include stumbling, wandering aimlessly, impaired vision, partial paralysis, and fever, and in some cases prove fatal. These signs are shared with several other neurological diseases and can only be differentiated by your veterinarian.
   Insect-borne diseases are not the only threat to your horse. Tetanus is a disease caused by Clostridial bacteria (Clostridium tetani) found in the soil, which is contracted via wounds and abrasions. Since this disease is often fatal and all horses are susceptible, vaccination is essential.
   Equine herpes virus, commonly known as “Rhino” or EHV, is predominantly a respiratory disease passed between horses. This disease can cause abortion, and recently a genetic variant of EHV-1 has been implicated in the neurological form of the disease.
   Equine influenza is another respiratory disease, which can spread rapidly  through horse populations as seen in a recent Australian outbreak. Vaccination to protect against EHV and the flu are important for horses that are moving on and off a facility regularly, especially those going to breeding studs or competitions or that live at a facility with a high-population density such as show barns or racetracks.
   And, finally, there’s Rabies, a constant threat. The incidence of the disease in horses is low, although invariably fatal. If you are ever suspicious of neurological symptoms in your horse, contact a veterinarian immediately.    Exposure occurs via the bite of a rabid animal, such as a raccoon, skunk, or bat.   Horses that live in pastures should be protected against rabies with an annual vaccination.
   Achieving the balance between vaccine performance and your horse’s individual needs is important. Not all vaccines are created equal, and each disease has several vaccines available for the protection of your horse.

Wood ‘N’ Horse saddles up

for 2008 show season

   The Wood ‘N’ Horse Show Team, based in Three Rivers, is off to a winning start for the 2008 show season. The first two in a series of sanctioned appaloosa shows leading up to this summer’s national finals were held in Southern California and yielded many state points and “Top Ten in the Nation” results.
    Mary Ann Boylan, formerly of Three Rivers and now residing in Salinas, rode her horse “I’m So Hot I’m Cool” to leading the nation in Masters Non-Pro Western Horsemanship.
   Sue Rojcewicz, also formerly of Three Rivers but now in Salinas, rode her horse “Sir Diamond Jim” to high point and top five in the nation in Novice Non-Pro Hunt Seat and Western Horsemanship and Trail.
   Cara Peterson of Visalia showed her horse “Hotter Than Blazes” to top five in the state for Western Horsemanship in Novice Non-Pro.
Bridgett Brest of Porterville rode her horse “My Country Prayer” to a top five placing in the state in Non-Pro Trail and Senior Trail.
   Meg Johnson of Three Rivers rode her horse “Justa Diamond Dream” to second place in the state in Youth Working Hunter for riders 18 years and younger.
   Audrey Greenamyer of Three Rivers rode her horse “Wil-E-Smoke-M” to first place in the state in Barrel Racing and Figure Eight Stake Race for riders 18 years and younger.
   And, finally, Christy Wood, trainer and coach of the Wood ‘N’ Horse Show Team, is this year showing her horse “Blue Suede Dude.” He is currently leading the nation in four classes: Pre-Green Working Hunters, Heritage, Junior Hunter Hack, and Junior Saddle Seat Pleasure. He won High-Point Junior Horse at both the shows he has attended this 2008 season.



THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
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