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In the News - Friday, September 14, 2012





Pot season in parks is ‘quiet’

  For the first time in more than a decade, park rangers are reporting that marijuana growing season is waning and maybe the war against the growers in local national parks might be over. According to Kevin Hendricks, chief ranger at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the concerted efforts of a multi-agency eradication task force are really paying off.
  “This season, we cleaned up an old site but as to locating any new grow sites, it’s been unusually quiet,” reported Hendricks. “I’m hesitant to say the growing is over, but the pressure we’ve been able to apply is certainly helping.”
   The parks’ chief ranger said he’s noticed a trend that growers are finding it much easier to grow crops on private lands in the foothills and flatlands. Numerous smaller plots can be difficult to detect and still add up to a bumper crop.
  “We thought maybe with the dry spring we would see the signs of the activity earlier this year but in the national parks that never happened,” Hendricks said. “We’re still looking but time is running out.”
   In the mountain areas, the first frost can be devastating to resinous buds. At lower elevations, frost is less likely and usually occurs later in the season.
   That trend for an earlier grow season was the reality at lower elevations. By early August, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department STEP unit conducted raids on numerous grow sites in the foothills on private and public lands. The strategy is to eradicate these sites early and not let the plants fully mature that might lead to more armed confrontations with growers and hikers who just happen to stumble onto a grow site.
   On July 20, one site near the SCE flume above Three Rivers was raided that contained more than 20,000 plants. This site was within view of four homes, and it was just a matter of time until there was a confrontation between growers and neighbors.
   A handgun and several types of ammunition were also found at the flume site. The suspects, who fled the scene when they heard the helicopter, were taking water out of the flume.
   This grow complex contained plants at various stages so it was sustainable nearly all year-round had it been able to rely on the flume water. It’s location was reported by a resident who routinely hikes in the area.
   In an 11-day period in late July and early August, Tulare County Sheriff’s Detectives raided several large grow sites in Badger, Eshom, another site on the South Fork near Three Rivers, a Balch Park locale, and a Lindsay site ,netting thousands of plants and thwarting more growers, some of whom are suspected of being major California suppliers.
   Two recent busts reported this past week in Alpaugh and Kingsburg, respectively, involved plants allegedly for medicinal use. Tulare County has an ordinance directing medical marijuana be cultivated indoors, and that’s forcing a multitude of growers to change tactics.

Caltrans wraps up shoulder work

  That recent shoulder work on Highway 198 in the vicinity of Lake Kaweah will be completed today, Sept. 14. That’s the word according to Tami Conrado, the Caltrans public information officer for District 6, based in Fresno.
   The temporary one-lane closures that were intermittent for the last two weeks were necessary while workers reinforced culverts in preparation to a return of the rainy season.   One of the bigger jobs of the two-week project was west of Horse Creek on the lake side of the highway where a culvert above the old highway was reinforced with several loads of concrete.
   The limits of the current project were Mehrten Avenue on the west with the eastern boundary being near where the South Fork of the Kaweah River crosses Highway 198.

It’s a winning season at WHS

By Holly Gallo

  While the fall sports season is still young, Woodlake High School’s teams are off to promising beginnings.
   Volleyball— The varsity volleyball team has already been making waves, having won first place in their division in the August 30 Clovis Invitational Tournament. Coach Tori Johnson said that the tournament was “a great opportunity to play Division I and Division II schools,” as the team typically only competes in Visalia invitational tournaments. Woodlake beat the Sierra, Liberty-Madera, and Bullard varsity teams in the championship round.
   The team is currently 4-0 in the preseason, having beaten Hanford, Farmersville, Kingsburg, and Mission Oaks on Monday, Sept. 10, in a four-game run. Coach Johnson said that the team had lacked ball control in the first game, but recovered in the following matches. Melissa Samaniego had 14 kills and 8 blocks, and KiAnna Cunningham had 14 kills and 3 blocks.
   Tennis— The WHS girls’ tennis team will be competing in the Visalia Invitational Varsity Tennis Tournament today and tomorrow (September 14 and 15) against Central Valley high schools. The tennis team usually competes in the Clovis tournament, but hasn’t participated in the last two years.
   Coach Mike Judson said that the team is looking good for the start of the season. As of September 5, the girls were 3-2 (1-1 in league), having beaten the Orange Cove team and losing to Granite Hills (Porterville).
   Judson said his squad is stocked with seniors, who are the team leaders, setting a good example for the younger players with their work ethic.
   On Tuesday, Sept. 11, Woodlake played Sierra Pacific in the first round of the East Sequoia League and won 6 matches to Sequoia Pacific’s 3 matches. Of the varsity tennis singles, Selena Harrison, Dalila Vasquez, Joee Denis, and Xochitl Quezada brought the winning scores for Woodlake. The team is now 5-2.
   Football— Woodlake’s varsity football team is 2-1 as of September 12. Farmersville beat Woodlake for the first time last year, and head coach Scott Hernandez was hoping that Woodlake would be able to turn it around this year.
  “We need this win,” Hernandez said. “We need the reassurance. [Farmersville] has improved, but I think we’re better.”
   Woodlake lived up to the challenge, beating Farmersville 18-12. The game was too close for comfort for the coach as the team had four turnovers.
  “We had 247 yards rushing,” Hernandez said, “and Phil Woods was 7-17 passing for 58. Defensively, we held the Aztecs to 53 total yards.”
   The Farmersville game came after a dramatic win against Immanuel of 48-14 and an equally dramatic loss to Exeter last week (48-6). Their fourth game is tonight (September 14) against Parlier.
   The lack of a home field on which to play this season is creating minor difficulties for the team. Hernandez said that although the senior players may be “bummed” to miss their final year of home football games, the team doesn’t focus on it.
  “We have a good group of kids,” he said. “We don’t care where we play, we just want to win.”
   Pep squad— The WHS pep squad has returned to the campus after a brief hiatus. Coach Irene Barba, who coaches and organizes the squad on volunteer hours alone, has been working with the revived team to cheer on the Tiger football team at their away games.
  “A lot of traditions and cheers that we take for granted, routines that normally carry over, just got lost over the years,” Barbara said. “It’s been difficult, but the girls are game to bring old-school back. I’m very pleased with them.”
   With squad members participating in tennis, volleyball, and FFA in addition to cheer, Barba and the team are coordinating as much as they can to ensure everyone involved can maintain all of their responsibilities.
   Irene was raised in Woodlake and is currently a teacher on campus. She graduated with the Class of 1978, where she was also a cheerleader for the school.


Favorite summer pastime

  For more than four decades, the Poison Oak Men’s Softball League has held summer play at Three Rivers School. This year’s champions are the team sponsored by Country Properties.

‘Dreams of the San Joaquin’

artists have local ties

  Singers and songwriters Randy Sharp and Jack Wesley Routh’s long-awaited CD will be released by Blix Street Records on September 25, and Three Rivers plays a starring role.   That’s because when the duo last played here in 2008 — basking in a glorious full moon evening at the Three Rivers Arts Center — they hinted at the fact that many of their most successful country hit songs might one day become a worthwhile CD project.
   Labeling “Dreams of the San Joaquin” worthwhile is an understatement. Rather, it is a landmark work of two incredible musicians who have produced a string of country-and-western standards spanning three decades. Their music, not unlike Steinbeck’s 1940 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Grapes of Wrath, has a timeless quality and more relevance to the Central Valley with each passing decade.
   The current CD is 11 tracks all written by Randy and Jack, a collection of songs that pay homage to the various musical styles and epic tales of the San Joaquin Valley. Being frequent guests of the Melkonian brothers, Milton and Dennis, who have owned Lake Elowin Resort since 1977, helped Randy and Jack hone their musical style right here in Three Rivers while the duo was playing numerous gigs down the hill from Bakersfield to Fresno.
  “I first met Randy [Sharp] in 1970 after hearing him perform at the Wesak festival staged in Three Rivers by John Holden and Adrian Green,” Dennis recalled. “I couldn’t believe the amazing talent and how this guy sounded.”
   Dennis recounted how he and Milton formed a production company that helped Randy become one of the most successful songwriters in country music. They met Jack in the studio. In 1988, Jack Wesley Routh’s album “I Will Return” was released by Wesak, a record label owned by Milton Melkonian.
   The latest release is a compilation of the best of Routh’s 1988 album and songs from Sharp’s 2002 release on Tower Records’ “The Connection.” The song “The Connection” won Emmylou Harris a 2005 Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
   The playlist on the new Dreams CD ranges from dark musings of a solitary stranger, a trademark Routh-like quality, to the light, tight harmonies so signature to the works of Sharp.   Joined in the studio by daughter Maia Sharp and Sharon Bays, Randy’s wife and Maia’s mother who is a California scholar and lecturer at UCLA in anthropology and women’s studies, this family of musicians has produced a tight, ethereal sound more compelling with each play.
   The new CD opens with “Burn Day,” conjuring different images depending on where one might live in the Valley.
   Jack Routh’s hauntingly beautiful “Shores of White Sand” is played at slightly slower tempo than on the Emmylou Harris CD “All I Intended to Be,” released in 2008 and describes a place where every baby boomer has been.
   The duo is joined on this cut by Burleigh Drummond on drums and of Ambrosia and Tin Drum renown. He is the husband of Mary Harris, who was raised here and is the daughter of Bobbie Harris of Three Rivers. The steady cadence is the perfect backdrop to the vocal harmonizing and lends a somber marching quality to the tune.
   The title cut features the chorus in a step-out vocal in Spanish by Louie Ortega, formerly with the Sir Douglas Quintet. The Sharps and Jack pay tribute to the braceros, whose back-breaking labor made it possible for a time for the Central Valley to produce 11 percent of the world’s food from one percent of its land.

They say the Sierras
Melt with the rain
And race through the valley
Like blood through the veins
Turning the lowland
From golden to green
To harvest forever

Our dreams of the San Joaquin

  The 11 cuts on the new CD showcase the respective talents of each singer-songwriter, ably supported by a host of notable musicians. Blix Street Records, based in Gig Harbor, Wash., is an eclectic independent label. For more information about this CD or to view the complete catalog, visit: www.blixstreet.com.

Visit the South Pacific without leaving Three Rivers

TRUS Foundation Dinner will have an island theme

  Tickets are now on sale for the Three Rivers Union School Foundation’s annual Fundraiser Dinner, which will be held Sunday, Sept. 23, from 4 to 8 p.m., at Lions Arena.
   Break out the beachwear— There will be a South Pacific feel to the event as the Komo Mai ‘Ekolu Kahawai Kula ‘Aina Ahiaha (Three Rivers School Dinner) kicks off for the 21st year, so, men, don your Hawaiian shirts and, women, knot those sarongs. The only thing missing will be the sand in your swimsuit as this “Enchanted Evening in the Islands” will feature music, decor, and a gourmet menu, all reflecting a tropical feel.
   Silent auction at happy hour— The evening begins with attendees perusing the silent auction items in the open-airpavilion, placing bids and battling it out with their neighbors and friends over favorite items that include local art and crafts, books, jewelry, gift certificates for restaurants and lodging and local services, gift baskets, photographs, furniture, and more.   Complimentary wine and Brewbaker’s craft beer will be available and hors d’oeuvres will be served.
   Delectable dining— Dinner will be enjoyed outdoors on the lawn. Dane and Allison Millner (owners of Sierra Subs and Salads) will cater the event.
   On the menu is teriyaki pulled pork and banana leaf-wrapped steamed fish with mango sauce (patrons will be able to have one or both entrees), Hawaiian dinner rolls, coconut rice, pineapple barbecued beans, green garden salad with papaya poppyseed vinaigrette dressing (ranch dressing also available), tropical coleslaw (ginger, pineapple, sesame seeds, cranberries, and almonds tossed with coconut dressing), and tropical fruit-of-the-season platter.
   Dessert will be baked by Antoinette Cloutier (owner of Antoinette’s Coffee and Goodies).
   Your vacation photos transformed— Attendees are invited to submit their island vacation photos in advance of the event. They will be transformed into a travel poster that will be used to decorate the event and then may be taken home as a keepsake. To send a photo, call Barbara at 280-4951 for submittal information.
   School support— Ways to support this event... Donate auction items. Drop off donations at TRUS office during regular hours.
   Attend the fun-filled event. Tickets are currently on sale for a donation of $75 per couple ($40 per person). Purchase online at http://trusfoundation.org ($40 each), at the TRUS office, or by calling 471-6624 or 349-7980.


Class of ’73: A journey through the grade-school years

By Jay O’Connell

  It’s back-to-school season, which inspires reflection by many of the school days of yesteryear. Inspired by the upcoming all-school Three Rivers Union School Reunion on Saturday, Oct. 6, Jay O’Connell has written a four-part weekly series on his memories of TRUS as part of the Class of 1973.

   I survived kindergarten at my new school in Three Rivers. I even started to make friends.
David Langton and I forged a friendship with our shared plans to build a wooden raft and sail the mighty Kaweah. Tom and Huck we never quite were, but we would have plenty of other adventures.
   And the mighty Kaweah made everyone take notice during my first-grade year. I can remember hearing the rumble of rocks being rolled by the flood waters of ‘66 from the school grounds. Yes, you could say it was a watershed memory of my early days at Three Rivers Union School.
   Second grade came and went and I don’t remember much. Cut me some slack... it was a long time ago.
   But I do recall that recess sometimes lasted longer than scheduled. Mrs. Moore, our teacher, was an older woman. And she walked very slowly.
   So at recess, when she had yard duty and blew the whistle for us to come in, we knew we had at least five more minutes by the time she’d make back to the classroom. And, of course, we’d stretch five minutes to 10. I also seem to remember that second grade was the year we gained our version of Alex P. Keaton in the person of Mike Rohan. Our class dynamic was never the same.
   After three years of what seemed to us elderly teachers — I’m sure Mrs. Ripley (kindergarten) and Mrs. Moore weren’t as old as they seemed at the time; heck, I’m probably as old now as they were then — we were taught our third grade lessons by the relatively youthful Barbara Crain.
   None of us will forget her ploy to get unruly eight-year-olds in their seats. She would count backward from 10 and if you weren’t sitting at attention by the time the countdown ended, you would receive a black “X” on a wall chart.
   Fortunately, she would count down in her Southern-slow drawl, and you seriously had to be spastic not to make it back in your seat by three, two, or one. Of course, any third grade is chock full of spastic kids, and that chart became a sea of black Xs.
   In fourth grade our teacher was Mr. Huddleston. Honestly, I can’t be 100 percent sure if it was Stan or Bruce. If I had to guess, I’d say Stan.
   On occasion we were treated to the music of both Huddleston brothers, but I can’t be sure if our teacher played banjo or piano. Either way, it was a very entertaining year.
   And speaking of music at TRUS, one has to pay tribute to Mrs. Harris. Our class never had Bobbie Harris as a teacher (although we did on occasion have both her and her legendary mother, Mrs. Mary McDowall, as substitutes), but she was our choir teacher throughout the years.
   Our class didn’t field the best choir. I remember Warren Campbell once claimed that Mrs. Harris told him to not actually sing, just mouth the words.
   Warren took it as a criticism of his singing voice. I saw it as really smart advice. Heck, I always did that anyway. Let’s face it, most of the boys in my class sounded like tone-deaf castrati. It wasn’t until seventh grade that we got the Robert Goulet of 12-year-olds: Steve LaMar. And he was an amateur magician as well! Took Steve a while to fit in. Go figure.
Mrs. Gladys Hall taught us fifth grade. She was another teacher in the mold of Mrs. Ripley and Mrs. Moore. Mrs. Hall was the kind of teacher you figured might rap your knuckles with a ruler.
   I recall when I broke my left arm (and I’m a lefty in every sense of the word), Mrs. Hall still made me do all my schoolwork with my right hand. What a tyrant!
   And speaking of lefties and tyrants, I remember once that year when LeAnn Castro got upset because we were teasing her about her last name, calling her Fidel. I mention this only to point out that we were a class that teased mercilessly. And usually it was far more cruel than just calling someone a hated communist dictator.
   I’m sure LeAnn now realizes we didn’t really think she was anything like the hated communist dictator.
   In seventh grade, we were under the command of Mr. George Hicks. He ran the class with military precision, but much to his chagrin, we were a class filled with Yossarians and Hawkeye Pierces (i.e., smart asses).
   I believe Mr. Hicks retired right after his year with us. He would, thereafter, tell war stories of a completely different nature than the ones he regaled us with.
   And speaking of storytelling, it was in seventh grade that we began writing our own plays for the Christmas program. Our seventh-grade effort, “A Jersey for Johnny,” was influenced by the new bright gold sports jerseys the school had acquired that year.
   They were stretchy and shiny and very 1970s. We looked like miniature Oakland A’s, except without the elaborate moustaches. And the play we wrote — well, let’s just say that Mr. Hicks’s strength was not as a dramaturge — it sucked. But the costumes were pretty cool.
  “Hit a Homer!” That was our eighth-grade baseball team’s frequent refrain. Yes, we certainly did like making fun of names, and our teacher, Mr. Gentry, was not immune. He took it in stride. Homer Gentry took a lot in stride that year.
   I think we all have fond memories of Mr. Gentry, as eighth grade was a pretty special time for us. After all, we were the kings and queens of the school.
   And that year, Jeff Monson and Becky Bowdler were voted Carnival King and Queen. I must say, it was so political (it really was just a popularity contest). I mean, come on, what qualifications or experience did either of them have in running a monarchy?
   But I’m not bitter. I had my moment of glory that year.
   Our tradition of writing our own plays continued. And Mr. Gentry was an excellent dramaturge.
   Even Mr. Don Hise, the principal, helped by personally recording a key sound effect. The play: “Flight 510 from Yuma.” The premise: a group of orphans on their way to Disneyland are high-jacked to Yuma, Arizona. (Why Yuma? It sounded funny!)
   When the hijacker takes charge, the first act ends. And as the curtain for the second act rises, we hear: [Sound FX] A toilet flushes.
   Enter the Toilet Orphan. I got a hell of a laugh.
   It catapulted me into a show business career. Some of the comedies I work on to this day are only slightly more sophisticated than that memorable eighth-grade effort.
   I haven’t mentioned sixth grade. That was something completely different, as you will see in the next installment.
   Jay O’Connell was raised in Three Rivers and currently resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and two sons. He is the author of three books on Tulare County history: Co-Operative Dreams: A History of the Kaweah Colony (1999); A Strength Born of Giants: The Life and Times of Dr. Forest Grunigen (2002); and Train Robber’s Daughter: The Melodramatic Life of Eva Evans, 1876-1970 (2008).


Fulfilling the tasks of summer

By Charlene Vartanian

  Summer is the season of fullness. Summertime is the process of enjoying it. As summer comes to an end, it’s even more important to set aside time for summer pleasure.
   When we fulfill the tasks of summer, we maximize our understanding and awareness of this season and it’s affect on us. Engaging with the energy of summer means to experience our fullest self.
   We exercise our capacity for joy, pleasure, and abundance. The activities of summer also help cleanse and detox our bodies, preparing for the pulling in of winter.
   Revisiting the activities of summer, aligning our bodies with the earth, prolongs the beauty of the season. It brings opportunities for sweet celebration. It gives permission to do nothing but enjoy.
   One simple practice is to take advantage of the early mornings and late evenings with extended light, shortening even as we speak. Make a concerted effort to have your morning coffee outside. Drink iced tea in the afternoon. Eat dinner on the porch at twilight. Step out before bed and look at the stars.
   Put yourself in the middle of summer and feel the full range of life as it flows through you. Know yourself as Summer.
   Here are five tips to fultill the tasks of summer (choose one, two, or all of these to engage the energy of summer before it ends):
   1. Sit on a rock. Really sit. Choose a big one. Feel its stillness. Take in its silence. Mirror its quiet, patience, and strength.
   2. Take one last swim. Or, perhaps your first. Give yourself two consecutive hours to do nothing but enjoy a summer activity in whatever way you wish.
   3. Harvest something. Preserve it by freezing, canning or drying. Tuck it away for the middle of winter. You will recognize it as a supreme treat.
   4. Do one thing to prepare your home for winter: repair a window, clean out a closet, sweep the garage, start a woodpile. Clearing space creates room for the details of winter and indoor living.
   5. Eat a piece of watermelon outdoors. Let the juice run down your chin. Remember the freedom of summer and the joy of being a child!
   Charlene Vartanian, R.N., is the owner of CranioSacral Therapy in Three Rivers. Her website is www.peaceofmindbodyandheart.com.

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