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Flags flew on Memorial Day at the Veterans Memorial Building in Three Rivers

EnlargeBanner day: Flags flew on Memorial Day at the Veterans Memorial Building in Three Rivers, raised by the local VFW post with the assistance of Three Rivers Lions Club members, in honor of those who lost their lives while serving our country. Also on Monday, in cooperation with the VFW, Three Rivers Girl Scouts placed flags at the graves of veterans at Three Rivers Cemetery.


  In the News - Friday, May 30, 2003

Nightmare on North Fork

Petit retreats summitless but healthy

Changes in management occur in Mineral King

If it’s June, it’s softball season in Three Rivers


Opinion by John Elliott

Free lunch

Woodlake Pride Garden

Summer Reading Program

June gardening tips 


Nightmare on North Fork
Kidnap victim reveals details of her ordeal

Bill Montgomery, a Three Rivers resident and a roads supervisor for the County of Tulare, looks after literally hundreds of miles of local roadway. In the past 20 years of working for Tulare County, he has found some unusual things, including a dead body in an Ivanhoe orchard.

But, on the morning of Thursday, May 22, the 29-year-old woman he met and assisted on North Fork Drive near Cherry Falls was the most bizarre set of circumstances he has ever yet experienced.

“When I first saw her by the road wearing only an Eagles [Philadelphia] football jersey, my first thought was that it was some kind of setup,” Montgomery recalled. “But, as I got closer, I could see she was all bloody and knew something terrible had happened.”

What Montgomery stumbled upon was a nightmare that began for the victim more than 36 hours before when she became involved with a group of Visalia residents on Tuesday night, attending what she called a “sex and drugs” party at a Lemon Cove residence.

The victim explained that there was methamphetamine, alcohol, and at least two other couples at the house. She told Montgomery that during the evening, a plan evidently developed to attack the victim and leave her for dead at the remote BLM-managed Cherry Falls Recreation Area, located nine miles up North Fork Drive.

Montgomery said the victim told him that while she was bound, blindfolded, and locked in a closet at the Lemon Cove residence, she could hear her kidnappers plotting what they might do to her.

“At some point in the early morning hours, they forced her into her own car and drove her to Cherry Falls,” Montgomery related. “I guess these guys got an even bigger thrill by seeing how many times they could stab the victim with what appeared to be a small pocketknife.”

After sexually assaulting the victim and stabbing her more than 28 times, she was left at the remote location some distance below the road at Cherry Falls.

“At daylight, the victim climbed up to the road,” Montgomery said. “Evidently, she was so disoriented she headed in the wrong direction and didn’t realize it until she got to the end of the road at Yucca Flat.”

Montgomery said the woman saw at least two other vehicles on Wednesday, but she was so terrified that she wouldn’t trust the occupants to help her. By Thursday morning, she had managed to make her way back to Cherry Falls when Montgomery stopped in his county vehicle to offer his assistance.

“Once I realized what had happened to her, I called ahead for the Three Rivers Ambulance,” Montgomery said. “It took about 20 minutes for the ambulance crew and deputy to meet us at the Three Rivers station.”

Based on the victim’s testimony, four suspects — twin brothers and two females — were taken into custody within the next 24 hours. Arrested and charged with attempted murder are Visalia residents Shawn James Grimes, 33; Shane Jeremy Grimes, 33; Lisa Marie Bowers, 34; and Stephanie Williams, 29, who was in custody in Kings County facing other charges.

“I checked on the victim at the hospital the next day and she was much improved,” Montgomery said. “I was just happy to find her alive, and the fact that she could trust me to help her may have been what helped to save her life.”




Petit retreats summitless but healthy

Petit Pinson prepares for Everest summit bid.
EnlargePetit Pinson

In what had to be the most difficult decision since beginning her Global Extremes adventure, and perhaps of her entire life. Petit Pinson of Three Rivers announced Sunday (Monday on Everest) that she would not be continuing in her quest to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

That amazing journey began in December for her as part of a reality-TV competition that ultimately led her to the north slope of the tallest mountain in the world. This high-altitude landscape has been her home for the past two months.

During this time, Petit and her fellow Global Extremes teammates faced unrelenting winds and foul weather as the Everest region braces for the onset of its infamous monsoon season. Beginning with five athletes who were rewarded with an all-expense-paid trip to Everest and $50,000 upon their arrival at Base Camp, now just two — Jesse Rickert and Ted Mahon, both Coloradans — will attempt to summit, with a tentative climbing date set for today (Friday) or tomorrow.

The north route is reportedly clogged with climbers due to the golden anniversary this month of the first summit of the 29,035-foot mountain by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Although this is, in part, why the Global Extremes team was here in the first place, it is what ultimately led to the disintegration of the expedition.

It has been reported that the influx of climbers on the mountain has been causing bottlenecking at the Second Step at 28,000 feet, which is the crux of the northeast ridge route, accessed one at a time on a 15-foot, vertical ladder over a sheer headwall. On a climb where time is of the essence, delays here can cause crucial, even life-threatening, problems to even the best-planned expeditions.

Petit Pinson
in the shadow of Mt. Everest

—photo courtesy Petit Pinson

Last Thursday, May 22, was scheduled to be the team’s summit date as the weather and other factors all fell into place. The climb was to be broadcast live to viewers — a television first.

But hours before the team was to begin their upward trek from Camp IV at 27,230 feet, word spread through camp that climbers from other expeditions were in trouble in the Yellow Band, immediately above Camp IV. Chris Warner, the Global Extremes climbing guide and others from the group’s expedition, opted to abort the team’s scheduled climb in order to dedicate the team’s resources toward a rescue operation.

The live summit bid was scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. Instead, viewers were greeted by a reporter from OLN’s Connecticut studio and Conrad Anker, a professional climber and one of the show’s commentators, speaking from the 17,000-foot Base Camp.

In addition to a report on the rescue and delayed summit bid, it was also reported that the team had dwindled to three as Colleen Ihnken of Alma, Colo., departed from Camp IV for home.

Sporadic updates this week on the Outdoor Life Network and dispatches on’s Global Extremes website have provided bits and pieces of information, but it was a Three Rivers resident who emailed the first alert that Petit may have withdrawn, then confirmed the news by forwarding this report posted on the Internet on Tuesday, May 28, at 10 a.m.:

“Climbing leader Chris Warner suffered a possible concussion during the rescue efforts on Mt. Everest last week when he was hit with an oxygen bottle. He is otherwise in good health and is returning home. Seasoned high altitude guide Mark Whetu will now lead the climb. Due to high winds, the next good weather window is Friday (5/30) or Saturday (5/31) and would present the next opportunity for a summit bid.

“Petit Pinson has decided not to proceed as part of the team. Petit has shown exceptional effort in her long journey and OLN wishes her well.”

During the Global Extremes: Mt. Everest — 4Runners of Adventure television series, viewers have followed Petit as she has traveled five continents to Utah, Colorado, the Kalahari Desert in Africa, Costa Rica, Iceland, Nepal, and Tibet.

And Mt. Everest? The mountain is destined to be there for a few billion more years, so climbers will always get a second chance. But this goddess of the sky has let the world know once again that no matter how well-prepared a climber may be, she is the one in charge and will be climbed on her terms only… and she’s definitely TV-camera shy.




Changes in management occur in Mineral King

The East Fork of the Kaweah River swiftly flows past “The Honeymoon Cabin,” a remnant from the past located in the upper valley of Mineral King in Sequoia National Park.
EnlargeThe East Fork of the Kaweah River swiftly flows past “The Honeymoon Cabin,” a remnant from the past located in the upper valley of Mineral King in Sequoia National Park.

From the moment visitors enter Sequoia National Park on the Mineral King Road, there’s obvious changes taking place. Last year, a cattleguard was installed at the park boundary to keep the domestic from consorting with the wild within the park.

This year, as one rounds the bend at Lookout Point, the official park entrance 10.3 miles from Highway 198, Sawtooth Peak, with Finger Rock in the foreground pointing the way, still command the view, but the small entrance station — erected in the middle of the road by the National Park Service after Mineral King became part of Sequoia in 1978 — has been removed.

Vehicles no longer are required to stop here and pay an entrance fee to this portion of the park. The Lookout Point Ranger Station, an adobe residence built in the 1930s, is no longer staffed by seasonal entrance-station rangers, but instead by law-enforcement personnel.

This law-enforcement presence is a reaction on behalf of the NPS to the extensive marijuana-cultivation operations that have been increasing steadily in recent years in this remote section of Sequoia. Tied to Mexican cartels, these extravagant operations — of which the season extends from planting in

Cold Springs Campground in Mineral King remained closed during Memorial Day weekend due to snow.
EnlargeCold Springs Campground in Mineral King remained closed during Memorial Day weekend due to snow.

April to harvest in October — don’t just grow an illegal crop, but destroy the natural resources, and armed pot growers and harvesters kill wildlife, contaminate water sources with pesticides and poisons, and pose a deadly threat to unsuspecting hikers.

In other Mineral King area news, Atwell Mill Campground (at 6,400 feet elevation) was full as of the Thursday before the Memorial Day weekend while Cold Springs Campground (7,500 feet) remained closed during the holiday period due to snow and its melting runoff, which was using the dirt roads as the fastest and easiest route to the Kaweah River. It is scheduled to open by next weekend.




If it’s June, it’s softball season in Three Rivers

The Three Rivers School Recreation Committee is currently seeking signups for both men’s and women’s softball teams for summer league play in Three Rivers. More than 100 players are expected to play on five men’s and at least two women’s teams under the lights on the upper field at Three Rivers School.

The men’s slow-pitch league has a minimum age of completed eighth-grade (there is no upper age limit). Play will begin Sunday, June 8, at 6 p.m.

This first session will consist of at least two 30-minute practice games for each of the five teams.

Team managers will contact returning players to reserve a roster spot for the upcoming season. New players, or players who have played previously but not in the last two seasons, must enter a league draft by registering on an official signup sheet posted at Three Rivers Market, Village Market, and The Kaweah Commonwealth.

Now in his third season as men’s activity director, Ed Lafferty has also added a post-season competition for the men that features hitting and pitching competitions and a Three Rivers version of a homerun derby. Questions about Poison Oak League play, which will take place on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights, should be directed to Ed Lafferty, 561-0611.

Eme Stivers-Price, daughter of men’s league legend Donnie Stivers, is attempting to revive a women’s softball league after a one-year hiatus and several years of sporadic play.

“I’ve had several women tell me they would be interested in playing on a local team,” Eme said. “It would be fun to get together and play, and it’s a great way to work out.”

So far, it appears that Wednesday night and Saturday would be available for the women’s games. There is also a possibility of a home-and-away series versus an Exeter women’s team.

Interested female players should contact Eme Stivers-Price, 561-7105, for signup information.

Fast-pitch softball returns to Three Rivers for a second season on Monday and Friday nights. This league play, which begins the week of June 16, is open to girls ages 13 to 16.

Shandie Fox, standout catcher at Woodlake High and COS, will return as the girls’ coach. Negotiations are currently underway to play in either a Farmersville or Exeter league.

Interested teens who reside in the Woodlake High School district are asked to contact John Elliott, 561-3627, for more information.





Jere Runciman, area rancher from pioneer Pogue family
1933 ~ 2003


Jere Eldon Runciman of Exeter died Thursday, May 22, 2003, after a short illness. He was 69.

A service will be held today (Friday, May 30) at 11:30 a.m. at Visalia First Assembly, 3737 S. Akers (at Caldwell).

In August 1933, Jere was born to Eldon and Marion Runciman. He was raised in Lemon Cove, attending grammar school there.

Jere’s great-grandfather was J.W.C. Pogue, the founder of Lemon Cove, who is credited with introducing the citrus industry to that community. In his boyhood summers, Jere worked at the Mineral King Store.

It was during those summers, at the family cabin in that high country valley, that Jere developed his respect and love for the Sierra. Throughout his life, he enjoyed exploring the mountains and fly-fishing in the lakes and streams of the region.

Jere graduated from Exeter High School, where he excelled in academics and played football and ran track. He continued his education at Stanford University, graduating with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering.

While at Stanford, Jere enlisted in the U.S. Navy ROTC program. Upon his graduation, he was commissioned as an ensign in the Navy.

On March 25, 1956, one week after his college graduation, Jere married his high school sweetheart, Vivian Coultas. While he served in the Navy, the couple lived in Seattle, Wash.

Upon his discharge, they returned to Exeter. Jere continued the family tradition of farming started by his great-grandfather Pogue.

Jere, along with his father and granadfather, also operated Runciman & Runciman, a packing and cold storage plant, where they packed table grapes for many years. Jere was also a partner in ElDon Farming, a farm management company based in Exeter, and tended his own olive groves and orange orchards.

Jere was a member of the Exeter Kiwanis Club; served on the board of directors of Sierra Citrus Association, Exeter District Ambulance, and Lindsay Olive Company; was chairman of the California Table Grape Commission; and served 10 years as a trustee of the Exeter Union Elementary School District.

Jere is survived by his wife of 47 years, Vivian Runciman of Exeter; his mother and stepfather, Marion and Norman Polly of Lemon Cove; his sons, Jon Runciman of Exeter and Jere Runciman Jr. of Fresno; three grandchildren, Alexandra, Kyle, and Sydnie Runciman of Fresno; his sister, Martha Mosley of Visalia; his stepbrothers James Polly of Arcadia and Richard Polly of Tucson, Ariz., and many nieces and nephews.

Remembrances in Jere’s name may be made to the Exeter Kiwanis Club Scholarship Program, P.O. Box 151, Exeter, CA 93221.







Water world

That was one awesome three-day weekend, the annual kick-off to the busy summer season. Incredibly, it was a safe one too!

In fact, veteran volunteer CDF rescuers cannot recall another Memorial Day weekend when there wasn’t a single call at Station 14 to aid a park visitor or lake swimmer. Credit local water awareness and Sheriff’s Department VIPs (Volunteers in Patrol) who were on scene at Slick Rock during peak periods.

Lake Kaweah did not fill this year and currently (May 28) is at 121,638 acre-feet of storage. That represents approximately 85 percent of capacity.

There is plenty of snow still left above 9,000 feet. The meltdown has been steady over the past 10 days with peak flow occurring so far on Tuesday, May 27. The mean inflow at Lake Kaweah recorded at 6 a.m. on Wednesday morning (May 28) was 3,247 cfs, the highest number for the season to date.

That May 28 number may represent the peak, or triple-digit temperatures could conceivably push those flows higher. Stay tuned for an update once we have the June 1 water survey/snowpack totals.

Water safety, like fireworks, is an issue on which every Three Rivers resident must be proactive. When you see two moms unloading a carload of kids and inflating $2.99 air mattresses this time of year by the North Fork Bridge (or anywhere in the river) be sure to ask them what they are doing.

That’s what I did on one recent Sunday and they replied that they were going to float from the bridge on down to Lake Kaweah.

“Do you folks realize that if you try that, somebody, maybe one of these kids, is likely to drown?” I asked.

“Oh, we didn’t know it was dangerous,” one of the moms replied.

Just knowing I may have saved a life and wouldn’t have to write about another senseless tragedy really made my day.

Farewell, Jere

But with this territory of doing a weekly newspaper, there is always sadness. This week, the Mineral King and Exeter communities lost another old friend, Jere Runiciman.

With Jere, the patriarchal owner of ElDon Farming, I shared a love for Mineral King history and especially its artifacts of the past. Jere loved to collect old mining items, citrus labels (see above), books, and especially saloon tokens from mining camps. I think he would have really enjoyed seeing what a serious historical archaeological undertaking at Mineral King might uncover.

He once showed me a rare citrus label “Bell Cove Orchard” from the J.E. Pogue Packinghouse in Lemon Cove. Jere’s original label is one of only a handful known to still exist.

That label is undoubtedly priceless to collectors, but pales in comparison to those times spent with Jere telling Mineral King tales and stories about the good old days in Tulare County. Jere was as rare a person as the artifacts he collected — a true gentleman and a scholar.




There is such a thing as free lunch


Every youth in Woodlake is invited to eat breakfast and lunch absolutely free.

Monday through Friday, from June 9 through July 11 (closed July 4), Woodlake Public Schools will be offering free breakfast and lunch to everyone 18 years old and under. Adults can purchase breakfast for $1and lunch for $2.

“This is an off-shoot of the national school lunch program, but for summer school,” explained Laura Bullene Jacobo, director of food service for the Woodlake schools district and daughter of Bullene Vineyards owners Dan and Sharon Bullene. “We filled out a ton of paperwork to be able to offer it to everyone in Woodlake.”

Funded by the California Department of Education, Woodlake’s summer food program is entering its seventh year and serves about 1,000 meals each day.

Breakfast will be served at F.J. White Learning Center (in the new cafeteria), Castle Rock Elementary School, and Woodlake Valley Middle School from 7:30-8:30 a.m.

Lunch will be served at F.J. White from 10:40 a.m. to 12:40 p.m., Castle Rock from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m., and the Middle School from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Students enrolled in summer school will eat breakfast in the classroom with their peers. Assigned “wagoneers” from each classroom will be dispatched to the cafeteria to pick up a shiny red Radio Flyer wagon filled with breakfast for the class.

Menus for the summer food program are available at Woodlake Family Resource Center (168 N. Valencia), City Hall, and all public school offices and cafeterias. The menu will also be posted on-line at (click on Monthly Menu).

For more information, call Laura, 564-8788.




Woodlake Pride Garden nurtures growth and more

Woodlake Pride has a surprise in store.

The community association, run almost entirely by Woodlake youth, regularly plans beautification projects and an annual spring demonstration garden.

Some seedlings have already been transplanted to this year’s garden site at Manzanillo and Naranjo, on the north shore of Bravo Lake. Not coincidentally, this site is part of the future mile-long Pride Botanical Gardens.

The borders of the garden have been marked with young sunflowers. As they grow, the sunflowers will protect the plants from wind, dust, and vehicle emissions.

The three-quarter of an acre garden will feature flowers and ornamental vegetables. These vegetables are as flavorful and nutritious as their more common cousins, but are often grown for their beauty alone.

Graffiti cauliflower blossoms in a stunning purple, feather-leafed kale reveals a lavender center, and chili peppers provide a rainbow of purple, red, orange, and yellow fruit ranging from sweet to blistering.

At the heart of the garden lies the tang of the tropics: egg-shaped tamarillos, hands of yellow bananas, succulent and juicy pineapples, sunset-colored papayas, and purple-streaked taro roots with their distinctive heart-shaped leaves.

But garden enthusiasts will have to wait patiently to view these wonders. The garden opens to the public in late October.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Olga Jimenez, 564-3607.




Local libraries kick off Summer Reading Program

To entice children to look to books for summer entertainment, Tulare Country libraries offer annual themes and weekly storytimes to enhance the reading experience. The program’s goals are to encourage children to visit their local library during the summer while providing a fun way for them to maintain or better develop their reading skills.

This year’s program is geared to children ages six to 12. The theme is “Readers of the Round Table.”

Three Rivers Library— The Summer Reading Program will be Thursdays, beginning at 2:15 p.m., from June 12 to July 17. On June 26, Oklin Bloodworth of Fresno, a popular children’s musician, will present his original brand of interactive “kiddie” music, which places emphasis on teaching children to “develop, respect, and listen to their own creative selves.”

In following the “Readers of the Round Table” theme, children will travel back in time to the Middle Ages by making crafts and learning about the era.

Woodlake Library— The Summer Reading Program will be held on Wednesdays, beginning at 3 p.m., from June 11 to July 16. On June 18, Giggles the Clown will be the guest performer.

Young Woodlake readers will also learn about the Middle Ages. The final session will feature festivities such as a tournament and carnival.

The Summer Reading Program sessions are offered at no charge to families. For more information, call 561-4654 (Three Rivers) or 564-8424 (Woodlake).




June gardening tips: What happened to spring?


What to plant

Annuals: Choose ageratum, begonias, coleus, cosmos, gerbera daisy, impatiens, marigolds, petunias, salvias, sunflowers, verbena, vinca, or zinnia. Don’t plant vinca where you grew pansies this year, they succumb to a fungal disease.

Vegetables: Seed beans, corn, cucumber, melons, and pumpkins. Peppers, summer squash, and tomatoes should be planted using seedlings. Make a teepee or trellis for your climbing vegetables and don’t be afraid to be creative when adding height to your garden.


Garden chores

Lawns: Plant, patch, or seed Bermuda grass, St. Augustine, or zoysia lawns. This is the month they take off and grow. For fescue and other cool-season lawns, raise mower a notch or two and mow grass a little higher to help conserve water and shade out weeds during the summer.

Annuals and perennials: Shear established woody herbs such as oregano, rosemary and thyme regularly to keep producing fresh green growth for those summer recipes. Pinch chrysanthemums back about four inches every few weeks until the middle of July to encourage branching and plenty of flowers in the fall. Feed roses after each bloom cycle, remove spent flowers, and water regularly.

Fruit trees: In June, some fruit trees may drop small fruit. This is normal, so don't be alarmed. The tree is just getting rid of excess fruit. You can help nature along by thinning fruit to a six-inch spacing. Protect ripening fruit from birds; just before fruit is ripe hang reflective tape or use nets over your fruit trees. Citrus and avocado trees benefit from an application of a special-blend fertilizer.

Vegetables: Have brown spot on the bottom of your tomatoes? Blossom-end rot of tomato is usually caused by irregular watering which leads to the fruit not being able to accumulate enough calcium. Calcium is a water soluble element naturally available in our soils. Many tomato plants are setting fruit now. Don’t let vines stress for water when green fruit is small or a temporary calcium deficiency could develop which leads to blossom-end rot. Conserve moisture in the vegetable garden with a thick layer of mulch.



Water deeply and infrequently in the early morning to ensure minimum disease problems. Give water time to soak in between watering cycles. Use a timer if you have a habit of forgetting that the hose is on. If you develop dry patches in your lawn, check the sprinklers. Try pushing a screwdriver into the spot. If the ground is too hard for the screwdriver to go in, then you need to aerate the area to provide better water penetration.


Critter control

With the last two winters being relatively mild, bugs are already a problem this spring. Watch for signs of spider mites; look for mottled leaves and fine webs. Plants along dusty roads are particularly susceptible. Hose off plants with plain water or use insecticidal soap, if necessary, to prevent mite infestation.

Worms: Green caterpillars or "tomato worms" on tomatoes and corn are active now. Spray with Bacillus thuringiensis, commonly called BT. If your petunia buds fail to bloom and have little black specks on the buds, try BT on them also.

Mosquitoes: Prevent mosquitoes, clean birdbaths regularly, dump water left in pots and saucers, add fish to your pond or buy doughnuts of BT to float on the water.

Ants: Controlling ants helps control aphids and scale insects in trees. Use Tanglefoot around tree trunks and set out many ant baits. In general, protein-based baits (like Combat) work better at controlling red ants, whereas sugar based baits (Grant’s ant stakes) work better at controlling black ants. Baits work better than sprays in the long term and are less toxic to beneficial insects.

Going on vacation? Inside, water houseplants thoroughly then place out of direct light so they retain moisture. Also, check the batteries in your automatic sprinklers and replace them if necessary.




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