this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
ROPING 1950 ~ 2008
Three Rivers Lions
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
“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,
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
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
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,”
The Three Rivers Team Roping
continues through Sunday.
Lemon Cove Granite
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
MENTAL ILLNESS… What
do we think of when we hear or read these
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
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
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
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
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
Birds and Bullets:
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
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
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
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
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.
Horse saddles up
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
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.