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In the News - Friday, September 11, 2009

All stories written by John or

Sarah Elliott unless otherwise noted


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

RV crash injures five

  In the best of conditions, the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park is a challenging drive through a series of twisting, winding switchbacks demanding the complete concentration of every driver. Signs are posted that recreational vehicles larger than 22 feet are not advised as are several warnings to make the steep descent in low gear to avoid overheating brakes.
   But on Labor Day, a Pomona driver, who had traveled to the park from Hanford that day in a 40-foot motor home, was descending the Generals Highway when the brakes became overheated. The large RV, with eight passengers aboard, along with another vehicle with three more of the party following closely behind, pulled off the roadway at a turnout just above the 4,000-foot elevation sign.
   According to a report that was provided later to Sequoia rangers, the vehicles remained parked in a turnout for at least 15 minutes to let the overheated brakes cool. It was almost immediately after re-entering the highway that the driver of the RV realized his worst nightmare as the brake pedal squished to the floor with no effect.
   The brakes were now totally gone and the oversized RV gained speed rapidly.

  “It was really a miracle that the driver had the presence of mind to look for place to crash,” said Adrienne Freeman, Sequoia-Kings Canyon public information officer. “There were granite walls and steep embankments everywhere, but the RV came to rest in a huge hill of dirt.”
   That stroke of good fortune for the RV careening out of control was the difference in life or death for at least some of the passengers. No other vehicles were involved in the serious accident that otherwise could have been a disaster with multiple fatalities.
   One female passenger, who was riding in the back of the RV, was described as being significantly injured. She was airlifted by helicopter to the trauma center at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
   Four other victims were transported via ambulance to Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia. One injury was sustained by a person riding in the vehicle following the motor home. That injury resulted when the victim was struck by an exploding tire after rushing to aid of the crash victims who were still inside the wrecked RV.
   To clear the accident scene, park rangers closed the Generals Highway in both directions for two hours approximately one mile above Hospital Rock.
   The closure came shortly after the 1 p.m. accident and snarled the Labor Day traffic traveling up and down the busy Generals Highway.
Several rescue workers at the scene said that this accident certainly could have been far worse.

  “One safety lesson in this incident is that anyone who comes upon an accident scene should assess the situation with caution before coming to the aid of the victims,” said Freeman. “First and foremost, keep a clear path so rescuers can get access, keep a safe distance if possible, and be careful not to become another casualty.”

A great place to horse around

Lake Kaweah approves ‘Horse Camp’

by Brian Rothhammer

   Mark and Katherine Anselmi are avid equestrians. Their ranch above Horse Creek affords them easy access to the broad expanse of green pastures and miles of open land that beckon when the waters of Lake Kaweah recede.
   As a member of the Sequoia Unit of the Back Country Horsemen of California, Mark wanted to share this idyllic setting with others who appreciate quality time in the saddle. For two years now, Mark has been acting as liaison between the general public and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the common goal of improving trails and establishing a permanent horse-camping facility at the lake for public use.
   This dream is now becoming a reality. The USACE has given approval and on National Public Lands Day (Saturday, Sept. 26), crews from the Corps of Engineers and the Kaweah River Power Authority will begin leveling ground and preparing sites for the corrals and campsites.

  “We’ve known of the demand for horse use,” said Matt Murphy, senior park ranger at Lake Kaweah. “We’ve had people with horses before who paid overflow rates for overnight camping. The horses had to be picketed away from the campsites.”
   A “horse picnic” was hosted by the BCHC on February 15 just north of the present Horse Creek campsites. More than 60 people with 40 horses attended the event. At that time a riders’ survey was taken and input gathered from members of the BCHC, Equestrian Trails Inc., and the American Competitive Trail Horse Association.
   Mark makes it very clear that this has been a group effort from the start. USACE Park Manager Phil Deffenbaugh has long held the goal of increased trail development around the lake. The Army Corps Mounted Volunteers, formed recently by local horsemen and women, has been active with area cleanup efforts. They have been clearing trails and will be on hand to install the corrals and for future trail maintenance.
   Barrett Frobose came to Lake Kaweah when he transferred from the National Park Service last October. Having just worked with volunteers on National Public Lands Day in 2008, Barrett took on the job of implementing the proposed horse camp facility as part of his new assignment.

  “He’s the ranger in charge of recreation programs,” said Matt.
   Horse Camp will be located at the site of the February horse picnic and will include a group campsite and four individual sites.
   The group site will be comprised of eight corrals in a back-to-back layout with a separate group picnic and parking area. Four individual sites will be nearby but separate, each with its own parking and picnic area.
   The Horse Camp area will include water, portable toilets, and a trash bin. Each campsite will also have a picnic table and a fire ring/barbecue.
   A five-day volunteer work party has been set for the five-day period beginning today (Friday, Sept. 11) through Tuesday, Sept. 15, to add new trails and maintain existing ones. The public is invited to lend a hand.
   For more information on Horse Camp and/or the Army Corps Mounted Volunteers, contact Mark Anselmi, 561-3469.

‘America’s Best Idea’

sparks interest in national parks

   Even before filmmaker Ken Burns’s six-part documentary airs Sunday, Sept. 27, on PBS, there is a spate of public events being planned across the country to commemorate the highly anticipated television series. At Ellis Island, N.Y., visitors will be able to tour the Statue of Liberty at night for the first time ever.
   On Friday, Sept. 18, in Martinez, where the John Muir National Historic Site is located, national parks boosters will attend a free preview of The National Parks: America’s Best Idea and hear the remarks of Ross Hanna, John Muir’s grandson.
   A little closer to home, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, in cooperation with the Sequoia National History Association and the City of Visalia, is sponsoring a free screening of The National Parks: This is America. The local program is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 18, at the Fox Theatre in downtown Visalia.
   Doors open at 7 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show. Seats are available first come, first served.

  “The 45-minute film is a companion piece to the Ken Burns series and tells the stories of the lesser-known people who are also a critical part of the national parks legacy,” said Adrienne Freeman, public information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
   Earlier this week, a PBS crew from KVIE in Sacramento was in Sequoia and Kings Canyon filming for a companion piece on five California parks that they are airing in anticipation of the Burns series. In addition to the Sequoia-Kings Canyon segment, the Sacramento crew is documenting Lassen Volcanic and Yosemite national parks, John Muir National Historic Site, and a special exhibit on the life of John Muir that is running concurrently.

  “These programs are not on the making of the Burns documentary but feature more of the incredible story of the creation of our national parks,” Freeman said.
   Burns’s six-part series will conclude on PBS on October 2 but copies of the DVDs, a companion book, and other merchandise commemorating the landmark series will be available to benefit PBS.

  “There were many times when each of us working on the film had the experience of being utterly alone, not necessarily being lonely in the kind of sentimental, contemporary sense, but experiencing a profound solitude that wakes us up and made us more present,” Burns said in a recent interview.
   Burns is best known for documenting the American experience by creating award-winning films about the Civil War, World War II, jazz, and baseball.
   Be sure to watch the 12-hour series, then go out and experience some of that profound solitude that belongs to everybody for all time. National Public Lands Day on Saturday, Sept. 26, might be a good day to personally experience the nearby national parks because it’s another fee-free day.

 WHS book club embarks

on a new chapter 

  Elsewhere, a thoughtful exploration of multiple responses to death.
  The Fountainhead, a struggle of individualism versus tradition, of pursuing artistic vision in obscurity versus compromising one’s values to achieve success.
   The Awakening, the shocking (in 1899) American tale of a woman who rebuffs societal bonds in order to pursue freedom of expression, self-exploration, and independence.
   These are just three of the nine books up for discussion by the Readers Make Leaders Book Club at Woodlake High School. The club, mentored by WHS librarian Teresa Mitchell, is open to all high school students at no fee.
   Meeting over lunch on the last Thursday of each school month, the club members take turns directing literary discussion and analysis of the selected work. In May, the club decides on the books and discussion hosts for the following year.
   Now in its third year, the Book Club takes pride in being able to give its members personal copies of each book. To achieve this goal, the club holds fundraisers and solicits donations of either books or money to buy them. Contact Teresa Mitchell at 564-3307, extension 126, if this article inspires you.
   The club teaches leadership skills by having the students prepare for discussions and organize fundraisers. The members develop important social skills of gathering multiple opinions and learning to disagree respectfully. Demonstrating responsibility, the students earn the privilege of choosing their own reading list.


Peach pies and the power of food

By Tina St. John

   Do you ever think about the power of food? Have you ever used food to bribe someone?
   When my mother used to cook her delicious dinners every night, I knew she would put extra care into it because of my father. I could tell.
She would tell me that a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. I used to wonder what she thought about the way to a child’s heart. Was it through their stomachs, too?
   It must have been, because she made wonderful food that always made us happy. I remember every evening after she was done cooking she would go upstairs and change into her dinner wear: a nice dress, a little lipstick, and her pretty Ferragamo shoes.
   She would come downstairs, pour herself a small glass of wine, and sit at the piano and sing French songs until my father came home. When he’d walk through the door she’d get up to greet him and they would give each other a kiss. It was like clockwork and something I expected to happen.
   My father was a content and very cheerful man. Of course he was, and rightfully so. He ate like a king every night. I soon understood what my mother said to be true. This was her way to my father’s heart.
   Once my mother had a crate of beautiful peaches intended for a pie she was planning on making. My father taught her how to make pie. Pie is an American tradition; in Belgium, the closest thing to a pie is a torte.
   She always made two pies because one just wasn’t enough to feed everyone. So she made two peach pies and set them aside like she had always done while making the rest of dinner.
   We kids were especially ornery that day. I can’t recall exactly what mischief we had gotten into but you can only imagine the disorder that my mother felt from time to time with nine children running around. We had an au pair who lived with us, but even that convenience never seemed to be enough to tame our ongoing curiosity to experience as much as we could in a 24-hour day.
   As time went on that afternoon, our excitement began to get out of control. Everything came to a halt when my mother raised her voice shouting out in French.
   We didn’t necessarily know what she was saying but we knew it wasn’t good. She was mad, to say the least. She had had enough.
Needless to say, we hadn’t listened to her or Mary Teresa, our au pair, when asked to settle down. Well, what happened next was like out of a movie gone bad.
   My mother took both pies and tossed them in the garbage disposal. We all watched in disbelief.
   Just then, my father walked in from a long day’s work. He inquired as to what was going on. After all he didn’t receive the typical kids-excited-to-see-Dad greeting. Instead, we were standing there with our jaws dropped, watching our mother at the kitchen sink with a wait-till-your-father-gets-home look.
   After hearing what happened he said to my mother in his quiet voice, “But I wasn’t bad.”
   In her fury she had forgotten to save a slice for him. If memory serves me correctly, I’m pretty sure we never bothered my mother again while she was cooking.
   Case in point, there’s a lot of power in food. Think about it.
   We use food to illustrate our feelings and intent to another person. We also use food to make a point.
   Food, a basic need, a commodity, and a force to be used at any given moment to manipulate in any way we choose.
   I’ve implemented food to bribe or coerce my children in conversation or extra work. It’s amazing what you can get your kids to do with food. Extracting information under the spell of a delicious meal is a mother’s secret (although perhaps not any more).
   The thing I love about food the most, though, is it’s ability to unite. Whenever there is food around it draws us in with anticipation of satisfaction and content. It’s the best tool I know of to get together with friends and family and connect.
   Can you picture a planet where we had a day called “Worldwide Potluck Day”? All walks of life in countries and nations across the globe communing for a day of good eats. It’s pretty hard to be in discord with one another when getting ready to chow down on scrumptious food…. unless you have nine kids running around causing a bit of disarray.
   Bon Appetit!


A night on the town

By Eddie McArthur

   Last week, there was a great opportunity to enjoy some of the varied artistic talent of Three Rivers. So, with a good friend along for the fun, I set out to see what I could see.
   The Art Co-Op, which opened last month between Sierra Subs and Chump’s Videos, held its September reception featuring the photography of Michael Hansen of Porterville. Hansen’s work reflects the natural world and often spotlights the beauty of Three Rivers.
   Many of us have enjoyed his wonderful photographs of animals, rivers, lake, and all local scenery. Lately, it seems, Michael has begun focusing very intensely upon a single subject, such as a wildflower, leaving the surrounding vegetation as a soft, unfocused background. The result is ethereal and lovely.
   Hansen’s photographs will be at the Co-Op the remainder of September. The Art Co-Op also has seven founding artists whose work is always on view and available for purchase along with a featured artist each month. Ranging from jewelry to paintings to windchimes, with many items quite reasonably priced, local residents and tourists alike can purchase or simply enjoy quality local art.
   After a bite to eat at the Co-Op, we made the drive to Visalia to check out the opening reception at Arts Visalia. That Extra Dimension 2009 is an invitational, month-long sculpture exhibit, and several Three Rivers artists were among those invited to exhibit.
   Carole Clum elected to show three pieces from her endangered species series. She manages to capture the essence of each animal in bas-relief. It is easy to feel her love of nature as well as appreciate her talent in each piece.
   In a totally different vein (and carried in the gift shop at Arts Visalia) are Carole’s metal creations. These may be ladies fashioned from highly polished metal and destined to guard over a kitchen or oddly endearing animals. Carole has her studio and kiln at her home on South Fork Drive.
   Husband-and-wife team Jerry and Nancy Jonnum were also represented at That Extra Dimension. Jerry presents a fabulously inventive table covered entirely in pieces of artistic ceramic from fish to snakes to who-knows-what.
   Jerry made each tile; each and every piece of the table, in fact. It is whimsical, colorful, and changeable depending on the viewpoint.
   Nancy’s contribution to this show is one of her clay sculptures featuring children. Called “Lastima,” or Pity, this little child calls out for a hug. From her slightly messy pigtails to her dirty toenails, she captures your heart. The Jonnums are located at their home and studio on Cherokee Oaks Drive.
   Armin Pfadish brought two of his turned wood bowls to this show. No one, truly no one, does wood turning like Armin.
   The larger of the two bowls is lemon wood with edges of natural bark. The smaller bowl is deep, rich black walnut. Both display the smooth, elegant finishing that characterizes Armin’s work and causes him to spend weeks on a single piece. Armin has a large shop and lathe at his home on South Fork Drive.
   I was wearing out, but we moved on to our final stop of the evening, Arenas Gallery on Main Street where a reception was being held as part of Visalia’s “First Friday” event. Nancy Jonnum is showing another of the tender and touching children for which she is known.
   This little boy is called “Dancing Over Crystal” and stands perched on a large pot. Nancy has captured the stance of a child balancing on something round and unstable, and I was tempted to reach out to steady the little guy lest he fall.
   Finally, it was time to make the drive back up the hill and around Lake Kaweah to Three Rivers. We had laughed and talked and eaten a bit, and mostly we had enjoyed the wonderful Three Rivers art at each of these venues.
   Eddie McArthur is a Three Rivers artist.

Smile Train on track for Saturday

By Kevin Foster

   When I turned 20, someone said, "Time will now go by twice as fast for you."
   When I turned 40, someone else said, "Now time is really going to fly by for you."
   I know in my mind a year has gone by since the last Smile Train bike ride, but in all honesty it was just yesterday, or to stretch it a bit, at least a month ago, and now here we are ready to usher in the fourth annual ride and silent auction that helps pay for the operations of children born with cleft lips and palates.
   To bring many of you up to date, what began as a small event is quickly gaining in popularity as an intimate, fun ride to participate in after the summer season has ended. In the last three years of the ride, we’ve been able to raise enough funds to help 74 children receive permanent smiles and a new chance at life (it’s not just smiling, but eating, drinking and talking are difficult; some things many of us may take for granted).
   This year, our aim is to go over the 100 mark, and we can do it, because I know we have a lot of people in town who love to ride their road or mountain bikes, so now’s the chance to help us reach that triple-digit goal if you haven’t been on one of these rides yet.
   We’ve also added some new sponsors to the lineup with Slime tire sealant and a couple of local businesses, Costco and Odwalla, that will make the rest stops more interesting.
   For a current roll of the numbers, Smile Train is a 10-year-old organization that has helped train over 25,000 doctors that have performed over 500,000 surgeries to correct cleft lips and palates in over 75 countries (including the U.S.). The average cost of a child’s operation is $250 with the average time being 45 minutes. The average waiting time to perform this simple operation is six years, and that’s something we all need to work on to decrease.
   The ride will be held tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 12), beginning at the Lions Arena. Registration will begin at 7:30 a.m., and all rides will leave the arena by 8:30 a.m. The Roadies will head south toward Lake Kaweah and surrounding towns while the Mountain Bikers will head north for Sequoia National Park. The rides will end around noon at the Lions Arena with a well-deserved lunch provided for all riders.
   There are three rides from which to choose: A 25-mile or 50-mile road ride or a 25-mile mountain bike ride. There will be SAG (support and gear) support for the Roadies and support for those who decide to head to the mountains.
   Again this year, we’ll have a silent auction with some great bike-related stuff, including seats and tires from Highway 2, sealant products from Slime, brakes and rims from Hayes and Sun Rims, and, probably, the most popular returning auction item from last year, a caseload of brand new 2008 and 2009 Camelbak hydration packs.
   Also, as we did last year, the town is invited to come on out to the Lions Arena between the hours of 9 and 11 a.m. to view the silent auction items and make their bids (even if you can’t make the ride). At half off the retail prices, these are bargains. Winners not present will be notified by phone.
   For additional information and to sign up for the ride, visit www.kfcc.org.
   Kevin Foster is the organizer of the Smile Train Charity Bike Ride and lives in Kaweah.

Concert on the Grass:

Then and now

   One of the longest running traditions in Three Rivers returns later this month when the first notes of David Reid’s bagpipes open the Concert on the Grass and fill the air with music for the 29th consecutive year.
   Although the event has become an autumn tradition, Dr. Harry Ison began the concert series almost as an afterthought. Dr. Ison grew up in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky where he studied piano from age five through high school. He received his M.D. degree from the University of Louisville and practiced medicine in Long Beach before opening a family practice in Three Rivers in the 1970s.
   In the summer of 1982 Harry moved his piano out onto the lawn and invited some friends over for a musical picnic — a bit of Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, and one of Harry’s original compositions. Next year, his friends implored him to do it again. Same the following year, by which time those friends brought other friends and the audience had grown to over 100 people.
   Then, as now, the Concert is an open-house gathering for anyone who wants to come, no invitation necessary. And come they did — from Visalia, Fresno, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and from places between and farther — to hear Harry and his exceptional protegés perform piano in the settling dusk of a late autumn afternoon. The tradition continued for 20 years.
   Then at the 2002 Concert, Dr. Ison surprised (some would say shocked) the 250 people in the audience when he announced that this would be the last event he would host. Not long after, he moved to Bellingham, Wash., where he lives today.
   The following spring, two Three Rivers couples met for dinner, Ken Elias and Sarah Shena and Anne and Bill Haxton. Ken had performed at several of Harry’s concerts, and the conversation naturally migrated to what a good experience the Concert had been and how much it would be missed.
   None of the four remember who said it, but one of them asked, “Why don’t we give it try? Just one year to see how it goes.”
   In 2003, the Concert moved from South Fork to Shepherd Cove on Dinely Drive. Since then, the program has continued to expand and now includes dance, chorale, guitar, chamber music, voice, poetry, and short drama.
   Some notable talent has taken the stage under the blue oaks. Tracy Harris is one of world’s finest flutists, actor Ronnie Cox (Beverly Hills Cop, Deliverance, Robocop), concert pianist Eric Brelsford, actress Laurie Walters (Joannie in Eight is Enough), and her director husband John Slade.
   Now it’s a pretty big deal with parking shuttles, a permanent stage, a professional sound system, a pre-concert art show, and dozens of volunteers. It’s a free event, but anyone can contribute a little to help defray the costs.
   This year’s Concert will be held on Saturday, Sept. 26, at 44879 Dinely Drive. The open-air art show with live jazz begins at 1:30 p.m. The Concert begins at 2:30 p.m. Bring blankets or lawn chairs and a picnic; there’s plenty of shade on the lawn. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early for parking.
   For more information and a complete program, visit: www.concertonthegrass.org.

Bees will be a main

attraction at October event

By Mona Fox Selph

   At the London Zoo, a festival to show how insects are connected to the very survival of humans and especially to raise awareness of the plight of bees has transformed the Queen Elizabeth Hall into Queen Bee Hall. Science exhibits, discussions, and bee-related art and music are all being presented.
   In recent months, articles have appeared about Bees Without Borders, an organization dedicated to beekeeping on city rooftops and other nontraditional places.
   Where are the bees? Colony Collapse Disorder is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a colony suddenly disappear. The term was first used to denote a drastic rise in the number of disappearing honeybee colonies in North America in late 2006. It has also been happening on a worldwide scale.
   The phenomenon is significant since many agricultural crops the world over depend on pollination by bees.
   Scientists worldwide are trying to understand the cause or causes of colony collapse. Some of the research areas include mites, viruses, and insect diseases, environmental change stresses, pesticides, malnutrition, and other causes. The cause may turn out to be a combination of factors.
   Some bee history: Bees are 10 to 20 million years old. Bees are portrayed in ancient Egyptian art, and the ancient Greeks also kept bees in hives. Honey mead was the first alcoholic beverage. The ancient Maya of Mexico and Guatemala domesticated stingless bees as a source of honey, and the keeping of honey bees in Europe goes back thousands of years as well. European honeybees were brought to America in 1638 by colonists. Native American bumblebees are larger than honey bees, live underground, and produce only enough honey for their own colonies, but are valuable pollinators. It is estimated that bumblebees pollinate 42 percent of families of flowering plants in California. Some 45 species of bumblebees are native to North America, with 27 species in California, although several of these appear to have become extinct in the past decade.
   All bees perform a far more important role than satisfying our sweet tooth, however. Bumblebees, for instance, are especially good pollinators of tomatoes because of their excessive buzzing vibrations while feeding. Between January and mid-March, when almonds and other tree crops need pollination, about half of the commercial bees in the United States are moved to California for the duration. That gives one a hint of the magnitude of the importance of the lowly but magnificent bee in the production of global food crops.
   The California Native Plant Society and the TREW Crew (the Three Rivers Environmental Weekend crew) will join forces Saturday, Oct. 3, at the Three Rivers Arts Center, beginning at 9 a.m. The annual Native Plant Sale is held during the morning and there will be a presentation by beekeeper Max Eggman. Egg-man Family Honey produces the only comb honey in the area, and Max will bring samples and honey to sell, but no live bees.
   Mona Fox Selph of Three Rivers is an organizer of TREW.

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
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