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Three Rivers,
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Kaweah Kam



A supplement to The Kaweah Commonwealth weekly newspaper because all the news that's fit to print, or all the news that causes fits, doesn't always fit within the confines of 12 pages.



In the News - Friday, APRIL 28, 2006


Familiar faces return

to Three Rivers Roping


  It takes a village to plan a Roping, as the story about Linnie Lu Hardin (below) will verify.
   It also takes commitment to preserve the area’s ranching roots. The story, “Trailin’ the Herd” (also below), will attest to that.
   But there are some unsung heroes who return year after year to the local event — now in its 57th year — that have ensured the Roping’s success and, more importantly, its continuity.
   At this “roping only” venue, there are some of the finest steers on the circuit. Meet stock contractor Jim Waggoner, who oversees the entire event (Neighbor Profile; only in the April 28 print edition).
   The announcers relentlessly keep the action going, to the tune of 115 teams per hour. This year, announcer Lori Rippi of Arena Productions returns and will be joined by Linda Davis of Springville, who is experienced on the circuit but is making her Three Rivers debut. Flagger Gilbert Williams, another familiar face at the local Roping, will return to officiate.
   And all this because there could be as many as 2,000 teams who will be competing for the $50,000 in cash, buckles, and trophy saddles.


Fiery car crash

was impetus for

first organized

Three Rivers Roping

by Judy Hardin Jordan

Each spring we recall the Roping event with good memories of what a wonderful community Three Rivers was — and is…
I’ll try my best to bring forth my memories of that awful night in October 1949…

     Linnie Lu Hardin was one of my big sisters. She was also my best friend throughout her lifetime.
    Linnie Lu was born January 1927 in Lindcove to Homer and Phoebe Hardin. She was the first of their four kids.
   She attended Three Rivers School, Woodlake High, and the College of the Sequoias [then Visalia College], for whom she drove the bus, parking it nightly at Ash Mountain.
   Linnie was pretty, outgoing, and very popular through school. We all thought she would marry her high school sweetheart, Ben Ogilvie, but that didn’t happen.
   After her two years at COS, she went to Southern California, got a job with the telephone company, lived with our eldest sister, Phoebe Wells McGowan, and her family, and married Andy Ryder. After Andy got out of the U.S. Navy, they moved to Three Rivers where Andy found work for awhile.
   By the fall of 1949, Linnie was living in Fresno, working for Pacific Bell and in the process of getting a divorce. She often drove home to Ash Mountain on weekends.
    We were all planning to go to the Halloween Carnival at the school that Saturday night. During the carnival, Linnie met up with Edena Bradshaw, Bob Leake, and Mark Grenfell.
    She knew Edena well as they both grew up in Ash Mountain. Bob’s and Mark’s dads worked for the NPS as well.
    The four friends got together and decided it would be fun to go to a midnight “Spook Show” in Visalia. Bob got his dad’s car and they took off for Visalia.
    On the way home from the show, the lights on Bob’s car grew very dim. They pulled off of Highway 198 east of the Exeter turnoff by an orange grove.
    The engine was running to charge the battery and the headlights were off. As it was cold, Linnie and Mark, in the backseat, had their knees tucked up to keep warm.
    A westbound car came across the road and stopped close to their car. The driver asked directions to Ivanhoe.
    Linnie put her knees down and leaned forward to help with directions. As she was talking, an eastbound car, seeing the headlights of the other car in their lane of travel, swerved right and rammed into the back of the Three Rivers foursome’s car, causing it to burst into flames.
    The westbound car fled the scene. Bob, Edena, and Linnie later all reported that they smelled alcohol. To my knowledge, the driver of that car was never found.
    The couple in the eastbound car that hit them was seriously injured and hospitalized.
    Bob and Edena got out, but Linnie had been thrown forward over the back of the front seat.
    Edena came back to the car and pulled her out. She was ablaze.
    Edena and Bob pulled her away from the fire and rolled her in the mud of the orange grove.
    There had been no response to their shouts to Mark, and by then the car was fully engulfed with flames.
    Edena Bradshaw later received a Carnegie Bronze Medal for Bravery for her selfless act of returning to the burning car. Later, her career major became nursing as a result of the accident.
    She received some moderate burns to her hands. Bob had a pretty good bump on his head. Mark, 18, died at the scene.
    Forrest Brown of Exeter was on his way home from Visalia when he saw the explosion and fire. When he got to the site of the accident, he immediately loaded Linnie into the backseat of his very new car and took her to the Exeter Memorial Hospital.
    Dr. Raymond Manchester was on-call that night. He had just completed a course of study in the latest techniques in care for burn victims. He very likely saved her life.
    Linnie received third-degree burns to both hands and the back of her left leg. She had put her hands over her face for protection.
    She was in the Exeter hospital for several days. Dr. Manchester then recommended that she be transferred to the Stanford-Lane Hospital in San Francisco.
    There was no insurance for an ambulance ride to San Francisco, so Homer contacted an old family friend and undertaker, Dudley Hadley, to see if he could rent a hearse in which to transport Linnie north. Dud did one better; he had an old hearse that ran well but used a lot of oil, so if Homer could keep the oil pressure up, he could have it for no charge.
    So Linnie, barely alive, hurting, and very determined to live, rode in the hearse with sister-in-law Ruth Wells, R.N., as her attendant.
    The old hearse made the trip to and from San Francisco without a hiccup. Homer and my brother, Blick Wells, shared the driving and kept the oil flowing.
    Linnie was at Stanford for Thanksgiving and Christmas 1949 as well as Easter 1950. She had multiple skin grafts.
    She battled numerous infections. Her fingers were pinned at the joints; the wrists and knuckles at the top of her hands could flex.
    Her one remaining fingernail was the pinkie on her right hand, which she used throughout her life as a tool for whatever it was she needed to open, pry, lift, pick, etc. Her thumbs were blobs on the ends.
    With all that, she never let it keep her from doing whatever she wanted or had to do. She was a wonderful seamstress, had beautiful penmanship, bowled in leagues with her own specially drilled ball, and could type.
    Homer and Phoebe were living in Lodgepole (Sequoia National Park) that summer, so Linnie spent some of her rehab time off there with them. One day, Linnie and I got horses from the Wolverton corral and took a ride to Twin Lakes for a picnic.
    Her grafts were still very tender so she wore gloves. The only sore spot she had at the end of the day was her backside! That’s the type of “up” personality that she possessed.
    After the accident, Pacific Bell told her she would have a job whenever she was released to return. She returned to Fresno and worked until early 1953 when she decided she needed a complete change of scenery. She transferred to the Bell system in Baltimore, Md., in the spring of 1953.
    It was while she was in Baltimore that she met her soon-to-be husband, Mel Laird, through our brother, Dave, who was in the U.S. Navy and stationed at Patuxent River. Mel and Linnie were married in the fall of 1953.
    She and Mel were married for 36 years, having no children, but lots of travels. Linnie continued to work for the telephone company, retiring in 1987. Mel and Linnie then moved to Grants Pass, Ore., where she died May 12, 1990.
    It was in the spring of 1950, while Linnie was still at Stanford, that the Roping was organized. Up until that year, the annual gathering had just been local cowboys getting together.
    Blanche Maloy, Pansy Kirk, Muriel Kenwood, Edna McKee, and Muriel Barton were some of the local ladies who decided to make that year’s Roping a benefit for Linnie to defray some of the medical expenses.
    I remember the stoves and barbecues set up down by the river — away from the dust of the Roping arena — and the ladies serving hamburgers, beans, hot dogs, sodas, coffee, and whatever else they had to offer.
    Linnie’s parents, Homer and Phoebe, were very grateful for the funds that were given to them on Linnie’s behalf and the outpouring of love and kindness from the community they loved.
    And to think, it was from that simple, generous community outpouring of love that the Three Rivers Lions Club’s Team Roping was born.
    Editor’s note: Mark Grenfell is my cousin, although he died before I was born. My mom, Jeanette Barton of Three Rivers, was Mark’s aunt, but they were the same age and inseparable as children. The outdoor cement patio at the Community Presbyterian Church was constructed and named in his honor — the Mark Grenfell Memorial Court (although this fact has faded over time). Today, Judy Jordan resides with her husband, Claud, in French Camp. --sbe


Trailin’ the herd:

Continuing a Western

ranching tradition

by Saty Barry

    Early in the morning on Saturday, March 25, I watched as three generations of Ainleys and their herding friends were grooming and saddling up 15 horses in preparation of their annual spring cattle drive. We would soon be departing on the two-day, 25-mile trip from the Ainleys’ ranch in Elderwood to a final destination, known as “Pasture 19” on the Homer Ranch east of Dry Creek Road.
    This year’s spring drive was different from those in the past, mostly because it had been delayed for two weeks due to the late-winter/early-spring rains. Maybe Frank Ainley Sr., the patriarch of the clan, prayed a little too hard for rain this year.
    Frank Sr. retired in December after 35 years of teaching and coaching at Woodlake High School. But he is still a teacher to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren about the ranching lifestyle.

   “My grandpa Ainley and dad have taught me everything there is to know about cowboying,” said Ted Ainley, his grandson, who participated in the drive.
    In 1989, the family’s annual spring and fall cattle drives — which move the Ainley herd to the high country for spring and summer and bring the cattle back down to the Elderwood ranch for fall and winter — began when Frank Jr. discussed with his dad the idea to “drive” the herd — as opposed to trucking them — to his newly-leased Dry Creek pasture. Besides being a traditional way to move cattle from pasture to pasture, he explained, it’s less stress on the herd to travel by hoof rather than truck, especially for the pregnant cows.
    I felt like I was in an old Western movie as we were trailin’ the 200-plus cows and their young. It was a rainy day as we headed out, crossed flowing creeks, traveled across the Dudley Ranch, and headed north on Highway 245. The wind blew hats off, but the dusters kept everyone dry.

   “The rain made it more interesting,” said Corinne, Frank Sr.’s granddaughter.
    We then left the highway at the Domenigoni Ranch and ascended a wet, slippery creekbed. Coming from every direction, there were hollers at the cows and orders to the dogs to “get ahead,” “get around,” and “get back” to keep the cows and calves with the herd and continuing on up the steep route.
    When we reached the second flat, the herders kept moving without a break to stay ahead of the ominous weather. Frank Sr. did allow the cattle to stop and graze or drink when needed.

   “I loved riding in the rain,” said Ted later. “It was a nice change.”
    In these breathtakingly beautiful but very wet foothills, my senses were fully awakened to the sights, sounds, and smell of nature. Such beauty can calm even the toughest cowboy’s soul.
    We arrived in the late afternoon at Adam’s Flat, just west of Dry Creek Drive. The cows grazed and rested in a pasture; the horses were kept in four separate pens.
    Steve Fuller, a family friend, met us with the “truck wagon,” along with Barbara Ainley, Frank Sr.’s wife. They unloaded provisions, set up a sandwich table, and lunch was served.
    After the meal, there was still work to be done with added chores due to the wet weather. The saddles were covered with tarps, Frank III and Garth Maze “beared” up some trees to tie tarps for a dry shelter, and everybody gathered wood.
    As a downpour began, some took naps while others chatted and laughed the afternoon away. As night approached, the rain subsided just in time for dinner and a bonfire.
    It became obvious that this was not only a time of year for gathering cows but for gathering the family as well.

   “The best thing about this is the family time and working together,” said Lori, Frank Jr.’s wife.
    The stars were bright that night and the air cold. There were seven of us not covered by a tarp, and we awoke to a layer of frost covering our bedding.
    The frost soon turned to steam rising from the ground as the air warmed. The morning’s sounds consisted of howling coyotes and mooing cows.
    The day’s departure was delayed due to the frosty path, but I didn’t think the cows agreed.

   “The cows look ready before us,” I commented to Frank Jr.

   “If we were to open that gate, they’d head out,” he said. “Most of them already know the way.”
    The sun was gleaming as we set out up the green hills on this beautiful day that was all spring.
    Some of the crew were posted on hills and around turns to ensure there would be no strays. I was informed that last year, during the fall drive, 25 cows strayed off the trail.

   “It only takes one for some of the herd to follow,” said Frank Jr.
    We crossed Dry Creek Road and Dry Creek before arriving at the pastures where the herd will graze until fall. The workday ended with a luncheon in the midst of the cattle.
    The two-day cowboy adventure ended at Jody and Steve Fuller’s house, where the horses were trailered for the ride home. I dismounted and spent the rest of the day bowlegged and barefoot.

   “It went so smooth and we were prepared for the rain,” said Frank Jr., summarizing his 18th annual spring drive. “I’m more for gettin’ the job done, but I enjoy having the family along to keep the tradition alive.”

   “We are always so appreciative of the help,” he continued. “Without the cooperation of our neighboring ranchers, the Ainleys couldn’t continue this, one of the last cattle drives in these parts.”
    Saty Barry of Three Rivers contributed this story. She participated in the drive for the first time this year and expresses her gratitude to all who participated for the unforgettable experience.


Art heist nets

handmade fountain

    An art theft occurred sometime during the night of Tuesday, April 18, or in the early morning of April 19.
    The object that was stolen was a large, heavy wall fountain that adorned the façade of the Three Rivers Garden Arts gallery, located adjacent to Sierra Subs and Sequoia Gifts shops.

   “The fact that it was untouched for the past nine months tells me that it was probably somebody from out of the area,” said Bonnie Waldron, the shop’s owner. “I feel in part responsible because I didn’t secure the piece. I learned a valuable lesson.”
    Waldron estimated the value of the art object at $750.
    An investigation by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department is ongoing.


Dog rescued

from Middle Fork

A Three Rivers firefighter had yet another close call with a dog that narrowly escaped drowning in the gradually rising Kaweah River. This time, the rescuer said, the story had a good ending and used the incident near the Gateway Restaurant for some practice prior to the inevitable of what could be a dangerous whitewater season.
The incident began last Tuesday evening when a caller informed emergency personnel that a dog was stuck in the river. Within minutes, a fire engine from the Three Rivers station was on scene.
After securing a rope to the dog’s collar, the rescuer tried to lift the dog but its leg was wedged between some rocks. The frightened canine tried to bite the rescuer but couldn’t penetrate the gloves.
Webbing was then placed underneath in the rocks that released the dog’s stuck leg. As the dog struggled to get free, the rescuer lifted him to safety.
In the past year, there have been three incidents reported of dogs struggling in the river’s current. In June 2005, a 15-year-old Australian shepherd drowned. In the past 30 days, two dogs have required the technical skills of experienced rescuers.
Restrain dogs when at the river’s edge. A dog can easily slip on the water-polished boulders and, once in the water, slippery rocks can impede the dog’s efforts to climb out of the water.


Sierra Nevada Conservancy

reaches out to Kaweah Country

   In what was the first in a series of local meetings, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy met Wednesday evening in Exeter seeking public input to fine-tune the group’s policies. In attendance were representatives from local federal agencies and District 1 county Supervisor Allen Ishida, who is serving as a board member.
   Ishida is one of 16 members appointed to the board of the new conservancy that was established in September 2004 by legislation signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger. The local supervisor represents a four-county southern region that in addition to Tulare, includes Kern, Madera, and Fresno counties.
   During the April 26 meeting at the Exeter Memorial Building, members of the group outlined their mission statement and several objectives. In addition to serving as a conduit for grant money allocated to Sierra communities, the conservancy is also looking to develop conservation easements with local land trusts.

  “Because of the job we’ve already done protecting the foothill and mountain areas in the Southern Sierra region, we are a prime target for the conservation easements,” Ishida said.
   Prior to the next meeting, scheduled for July in Visalia, officials of the conservancy will tour several properties that are candidates for conservation.

  “The conservancy is not set up to acquire or maintain the easements,” Ishida said, “but we visualize working with groups that are.”
    Grant monies could also be available and might be used for projects like a shuttle stop in Three Rivers. That type of grant funding now appears to be dependent on whether voters approve a $40 million state bond issue on the November ballot.

   “With the current state of the budget in Sacramento, we’ll just have to wait in see,” Ishida said.
    During the past weekend, Ishida also met with Congressman Stephen Pearce (R-N.M.), who is a member on the House Committee on Financial Services and the subcommittee of National Parks Recreation and Public Lands. Pearce was on a fact-finding trip to Yosemite and Sequoia national parks, seeking ways to help the parks become more self-sufficient.

  “I was encouraged by the congressman’s visit and our conversations,” Ishida said. “The bottom line is that the parks, especially Sequoia, need to encourage more visitors to come and that could mean more tourist dollars for Three Rivers and Tulare County.”

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