In the News - Friday,
October 2, 2009
stories written by John or
Elliott unless otherwise noted
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
a new season
summer’s heat subsides, there’s a
full of events, park fires planned
Moro Prescribed Fire was lit Wednesday, Sept.
was the view from Three Rivers upon
Community celebrates '1st
Saturday, Oct. 3, is the 1st Saturday in Three Rivers.
Nonsense, you say? There have surely
been Saturdays in Three Rivers before, right? Yes,
indeed, but this is something quite different altogether.
“You are invited out on the town on Saturday
to enjoy a day of fun, food and fabulous art,”
said artist Nadi Spencer. “All along Sierra
Drive, throughout the day, there will be art to purchase,
dancers to enjoy, music, storytelling, free food and
drink, even racquetball!”
Nadi, organizer of the new local happening, has an
art studio at 41838 Sierra Drive across the highway
from the office of the Commonwealth. Since May 2009
she has had an open house of sorts at her studio on
the first Saturday of each month.
“It’s been great,” said Nadi of
the monthly events, which started as a way to share
samples from her own line of artistic recipe greeting
cards. “Each month I’ve been cooking up
one of the recipes and sharing samples with friends,
neighbors, visitors, and all who stop by. I’ve
sold paintings, had fun, and met a great group of
people. It’s been the best thing I’ve
done since opening the shop.”
When fellow local artisans opened The
Art Co-Op at 41707 Sierra Drive (next to Sierra Subs)
they began a series of featured artist receptions
on the first Friday of each month. Nadi saw an opportunity
to combine the events and expand them into an experience
for the Three Rivers community and visitors to enjoy.
From that simple seed of thought, the
idea was firmly planted. Not only are all eight of
the talented artists of the Co-Op participating, but
31 local businesses — storytellers, art studios
restaurants — will share in this inspiration
to bring you the first 1st Saturday event in Three
“A lot of people come into my shop and ask,
‘I’ve heard that Three Rivers is an artist’s
community, but where do I find the artists?’
said Nadi. “We have artists tucked away all
around town. This gives the artists more exposure
to show the world just what they do.”
There is such a variety of exhibitions,
events, free food and services giveaways, and coupons
(25 percent discount on videos, $50 off lodging, free
racquetball and smoothies, yarn discounts up to 100
percent, discounted lodging, etc.) that it’s
smart to start by visiting Nadi’s shop (she’s
offering a free lunch) or The Art Co-Op for a schedule
of events and a map.
There’s a website at www.1stsaturdaytr.com
for additional details.
When the weather cools,
season heats up
A huge column of smoke that suddenly
appeared in the nearby mountains Wednesday morning
(Sept. 30) and was visible for more than 30 miles
caused some anxious moments for Three Rivers residents.
Several locals contacted the Commonwealth just to
make certain that the fire in nearby Sequoia National
Park was a scheduled event.
Fire education specialist Deb Schweizer
called the local newspaper almost simultaneously when
the fire was started shortly after 9:30 a.m. to report
that the Moro Prescribed Fire was
going according to plan. Ignitions on the 24-acre
blaze inside Moro Rock’s loop road were completed
by 1:30 p.m.
Park officials were well aware that the
Moro fire would be an excellent opportunity to explain
the benefits of prescribed fire to park visitors so
Deb and Michelle Puckett were stationed at the Giant
Forest Museum with the park’s traveling fire
exhibit known as the “Fire Place.” There
were lots of safe vantage points for visitors to view
the fire and see close-up how firefighters go about
burning in a grove of giant sequoias.
The massive Roosevelt Tree is just 200
yards from the Moro Rock parking lot, so precautions
were taken so the fire would not damage the named
giant. The tree was reportedly named by John Muir
in 1902 in honor of then-president and conservationist
Theodore Roosevelt. It has been written that it is
a “beautiful tree without a blemish, it is probably
the most symmetrical sequoia in the area” (And
The Giants Were Named, Sequoia Natural History
“I wish there was some way we could notify everyone
just before we ignite a fire like this but there are
so many variables that we have to wait until the very
last minute to see if we are within prescription,”
Being in prescription means that weather
conditions, like wind, humidity, and the immediate
forecast, all line up in the desired range. Even if
weather conditions are ideal, the San Joaquin Valley
Air Pollution Control District in Fresno might still
nix the burn at the last minute because of the potential
impact on air quality.
But this week, with the cooling temperatures
and good air quality throughout the region, there
was a window of opportunity for local fire officials.
In addition to the Moro Fire, plans are being made
to ignite two more fires next week.
The Moro Fire will continue to smolder
but the cooler temperatures tend to make the fire
lie down and creep through accumulated fuels just
like it is intended to do. As fire burns dead wood
and live plants, it releases nutrients into the soil.
In addition, giant sequoia seeds are coated in a waxy
resin that must be melted off by heat to free the
The Moro unit last burned in 1979 so
fire officials viewed this unit as a priority. According
to NPS studies, a natural fire cycle for a mixed conifer
forest like the Giant Forest is approximately 10 to
The Horse Fire, burning
near the southern boundary of Sequoia National Park,
one-half mile above the Hockett Meadow Ranger Station,
is proving to be a best-case scenario when it comes
to natural fire.
That is the description used by Brandon
Dethlefs, a backcountry firefighter, who with his
crew of seven has been closely monitoring the progress
of the Horse Fire that was started by a lightning
strike in the Horse Creek drainage on or about July
Last week, during the final heat wave
of September, Dethlefs, Three Rivers resident and
Park Service prescribed fire module leader, and two
other crew members, Larissa Perez and Nicole DeWeese,
were carefully watching the progress of the Horse
Fire as it flared here and there, then crept and smoldered
mostly behaving like a fire that an ecology student
might read about in a college textbook.
During the night of Saturday, Sept. 26,
at least 11 trees crashed to the ground at varying
intervals in the burn zone. It’s an eerie sound
that reverberates through the mountains and shakes
the ground for miles around.
“The shallow roots of these big firs and pines
decay and then fire can easily access the trunk,”
Dethlefs explained. “Once that process occurs,
even the biggest of the trees can come crashing down.”
In the daytime, the crew splits up as
two members enter the fire zone to observe hotspots.
This can be extremely dangerous, Dethlefs said, if
one of these trees or a massive limb should fall to
the ground when a firefighter is in the vicinity.
The other crew member hikes to a vantage
point high above the fire to report the fire’s
progress via radio and to map the precise locations
or where the fire has spread. At last report (Sept.
30), the fire had burned nearly 500 acres over the
In contrast, the Station Fire in Los
Angeles County last month burned 165,000 acres in
mere days, destroyed hundreds of structures (89 homes),
and killed two firefighters. So far in 2009, wildfires
in California have burned more than 336,000 acres
(525 square miles) of land since the beginning of
August, and the season is far from over.
In the case of a wilderness fire like
the Horse Fire getting too hot or out of control,
more resources can be called in to keep the blaze
from becoming a disaster. Precautions are being taken
to protect the historic Hockett Ranger Station that
is within 4/10s of a mile of the blaze. Several fire
hoses are snaking through the meadow and a water pump
is standing ready in nearby Whitman Creek.
Dethlefs said on August 31, a Cal Fire
air tanker accidentally dropped a load of retardant
on the wilderness fire that the backcountry crew was
monitoring. The pilot was new to area and thought
he was getting the jump on a new fire that had been
reported outside of the park boundaries, Dethlefs
“We’re managing this fire for its resource
benefits,” Dethlefs said. “In terms of
a backcountry fire, it just doesn’t get any
better than this.”
But there are also human-caused fires that can present
a problem and if they are not immediately snuffed
out can lead to a disaster. A fire of suspicious origin
with that potential was reported on Sunday, Sept.
27, near the giant sequoias of Lost Grove.
NPS and national forest fire crews jumped
on the blaze and contained it at seven acres. The
cause of the Lost Grove fire is being
investigated while the area is being patrolled in
case of any flare-ups.
Orange Blossom Junction offers
with themed dining
Sonny Landreth highlights
A current run featuring the best guitar
players on the planet just got even better when Sonny
Landreth made an appearance at Orange Blossom Junction
on Monday, Sept. 21. At this veritable feast for the
senses, Chef George Quilty paired Landreth’s
amazing slide guitar show with a Cajun menu to rival
any of the bayou’s best.
“We’ve been thinking themed cuisine to
go with the music for sometime now,” said Luci
Long, who with husband Doug owns and operates the
Junction. “Sonny, being from Lafayette, La.,
was an opportunity to feature Cajun cuisine in the
The dinner on show night works like this.
Chef George offers three entrees like steak, chicken,
or fish. After recommending a special wine or other
libation from the full bar, the server brings a sumptuous
salad on a foundation of organic lettuce and a side
of freshly baked bread.
In Sonny’s honor, the salad was
topped with “Cajun caviar” (black-eyed
peas) smothered with a smoky jalapeno dressing topped
with corn cakes that had the look and texture of pancakes
but tasted like homemade cornbread.
The crayfish-stuffed rainbow trout was
the obvious choice among the entrees. The skin of
the trout was light and crispy, not blackened; the
morsels of crayfish were the texture of crab but flavored
in a swirl of a Cajun remoulade. On the side was a
healthy serving of jambalaya with a rice and vegetable
The dessert was a sinful chocolate ganache
piled with banana praline ice crème dripping
with a melted white chocolate topping. This after-dinner
treat literally assaulted the epicurean senses.
A cup of decaf later, Doug was introducing
Sonny and his band, which included bass player Dave
Ranson, Sonny’s alter ego onstage and a youthful
“Please welcome Sonny Landreth, voted number-one
slide guitar player in the world by the fans of Guitar
Player magazine ,” said Long.
Sonny played his soulful brand of Cajun
rock and bluesy slide guitar for the next 90 minutes.
“This is really great tonight to see all my
friends and be back here,” Sonny told the cozy
but crowded venue. “I guess the third time is
the charm because this room is really rocking!”
For an artist who has played with the
likes of Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Clarence “Gatemouth”
Brown, Dolly Parton, and more, a visit to Tulare County
is a rare treat for fans. This past summer he toured
with Jimmy Buffett, the Gulf Coast troubadour who
can relate to the bayou rock that Sonny performs and
Sonny confessed that as a slide player
he owes a debt to the Delta blues greats, and growing
up in Lafayette he too knows a little bit about the
blues. His heart wrenching “Blue Tarp Blues”
is an eyewitness account of the government’s
inability to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane
“No, it wasn’t the weather that sank me
and you — It was a bad mix of politics, greed
and fools — That levee of lies couldn’t
hold back the truth — We are in deep now but
not out of reach — There’s a crack in
the ceiling and the system too — I got the blues
— I got the blue tarp blues…”
Sonny, 57, loves his bayou country and
his songs celebrate the rich Louisiana coastal culture
and speak of a life down by the levees, or the big
Muddy, lost loves or the “Howlin' Moon.”
His slide-playing style sounds like three of four
instruments played simultaneously as he picks and
patters his way across the six strings.
Sonny’s two latest CDs “Levee
Town” (2009) and “Sonny Landreth from
the Reach” (2008) are an extraordinary compendium
of a musical career that spans four decades. Sample
downloads are available at sonnylandreth.com.
Film based on Three Rivers to premiere
by Kevin Foster
There’s an old adage that states,
“Write what you know.”
Up to now, most of my writings have been
about past bicycle adventures or East Coast ghetto
experiences. I wrote a script that got passed around
Hollywood with several offers made, but the deals
were never the right ones, and thus it sat on the
By the time I reached 40, I was retired
from cycling and mumbling to myself that a third of
my life was over (I’m on the Moses 120-year
plan), and at that point had never married nor did
I have any children (I’m still at that point,
but don’t mumble about it anymore).
I always had a great proposal worked
out that no woman could turn down, but the problem
was, I never got a chance to use it. For me, it made
sense not to let the proposal go to waste, so I decided
to write a script around it.
Turning fantasies into realities can
be a lot of fun, and I was having a great time in
my own little world creating these characters that
for the most part were based on some of my Three Rivers
and Kaweah neighbors.
Not long after my second script, Yesterday’s
Dreams, was completed, filming began in a small
town in Oregon on the Rogue River called Shady Cove.
It had what I needed... the bar that stood in for
the River View; the restaurant that became our own
Gateway, and more.
There are major and minor characters
throughout the film taken from those who are among
us. If you’ve lived in this town long enough,
you’ll recognize two of the major characters
in the film as being Rita Pena, our retired librarian
(played by Dee Wallace Stone of ET fame), and the
late Pastor Warren Lee Campbell (played by Barry Corbin
of Lonesome Dove, Northern Exposure and a host of
Yesterday’s Dreams is
the story of a lonely 40-year-old man who lives with
his abusive father (played by William Windom, one
of the great character actors of our time), yet yearns
to meet a woman he can settle down with and raise
The film got great notices during its
festival run and was a hit with its target audience
of women and seniors. For the premiere, it was decided
to hold it close to home, and to do it in style. Thus,
the Fox Theatre in Visalia was chosen for its 1930s
grandeur and nearly 1,300 seats.
It was also suggested to do the premiere
as a benefit performance and allow you, the audience,
to decide what the price of admission would be, in
which contributions would go to The Smile Train, which
helps pay for the operations of children born with
cleft lips and palates. Donations will be graciously
and gratefully accepted at the door before and after
The film will be shown Saturday,
Oct. 10, with two performances; the matinee
at 4 p.m. and the evening at 6:30 p.m. To view the
trailer and for more info about the film, please visit
and click on the “Events” tab.
Tickets are available at the office of
THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH and the Three Rivers Historical
Museum. Although both showings are free and open to
the general public, it’s strongly suggested
that you pick up tickets to avoid any lines that may
form outside the theatre.
Other cast members include Christie Lynn
Smith (Gods and Generals); Richard Tyson (Black Hawk
Down); Robert Pine (ChiPs); Orson Bean (Dr Quinn,
Medicine Woman); Millie Perkins (The Diary of Anne
Frank); and Rebecca Balding (Soap).
I’ll be making a special appearance
at the end of each show to talk about some behind-the-scenes,
making-of stories that at times made me want to change
the title of the film to Yesterday’s Nightmare.
We live in a great town in a great area
with some great neighbors to showcase. The cast and
crew had a wonderful time making movie magic. I hope
with your support and attendance, you’ll feel
a part of that as well.
Kevin Foster lives in Kaweah and
is the actor, writer and producer of Yesterday’s
It’s back to school for
by Brian Rothhammer
Woodlake High School started classes
on Wednesday, Aug. 19. For 16 of the more fortunate
students, however, Tuesday, Sept. 30, marked the beginning
of a new relationship.
That’s because eight of those students
are dogs and eight are their student trainers.
More precisely, the dogs are golden retrievers.
The students are six sophomores and two juniors who
were paired up with these special dogs for an intensive
yet rewarding two-year commitment.
The dogs will receive specialized instruction from
these dedicated trainers. In two years, these dogs
— known as the “G Team” —
will be fully qualified service dogs for people with
physical or mental disabilities.
In 2003, the Assistance Service Dog Educational
Center was founded by Gerald and Donna Whittaker at
the old St. Johns schoolhouse in Woodlake. In an innovative
and unique collaboration with Woodlake Union High
School, eight students per year have had the opportunity
to earn scholastic credits while positively impacting
the lives of others.
Since the first graduation of the “A
Team” in 2005, the program has been a resounding
success. This year there is an expansion to include
five additional dogs to be “fostered out”
to volunteers who will train them to be social therapy
dogs for wounded veterans.
“This was an idea I had been thinking about,”
said Gerald. “We have placed dogs with veterans
before and there is a huge demand for more of them.”
Presently, there are more than 30 veterans
on the waiting list for service and social-therapy
“The dogs make such a difference in their daily
lives,” Gerald pointed out.
The website for the ASDEC (www.servicedogcenter.org)
contains a letter from veteran U.S. Marine Jeremy
Weissmiller. Jeremy received Ditto, an ASDEC service
dog from last year’s graduating class.
“I wanted to say that Ditto has changed my life,”
the letter begins.
Jeremy sustained major spinal and head injuries while
on active duty in Iraq. The July 5th letter tells
of how Jeremy was nervous about Fourth of July fireworks
and how Ditto might react.
“The first one went off and Ditto… didn’t
jump or bark,” Jeremy said, continuing that
he was able to “stay in the moment and enjoy
seeing my wife and daughters…watching the fireworks.”
Perhaps common moments to people without
special needs, but not to veterans like Jeremy with
severe Delayed Stress Syndrome.
New program: Volunteer
trainers— Among the volunteer trainers in this
new phase of the ASDEC program is Danielle Knapp of
Three Rivers. Danielle trained Elliot, a graduate
of the class of 2008 who was placed with Stephanie
Snow of Orcutt, Calif. Stephanie is affected with
Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP), which
limits her physical capabilities.
Danielle is a senior at WHS and is training
a social therapy dog at her home on her own time.
“She is such a great trainer. It just blew me
away what she can do,” Gerald said.
The volunteers bring their charges to
the ASDEC facility once per week to evaluate progress
and to learn a new command.
The volunteer-trained dogs started the
program two months ago. Gerald is delighted at the
results of this program and looks forward to more
success stories and its expansion. He expressed the
hope to see that students like Danielle will carry
on the program.
With the list of waiting veterans and
others in need ever growing that is a hope that can
change lives of the students and the recipients of
these specially trained dogs.
For further information or to find out
how to volunteer, contact ASDEC at 564 PAWS (7297)
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clubs awaken from summer slumber
Keep the BlackBerry, Palm Pilot, or the
old-fashioned calendar close at hand because it’s
about to fill up as Three Rivers residents emerge
from summer hibernation and plan their fall activities.
Redbud Garden Club— This
club is back from its summer hiatus and will hold
the first meeting of the 2009/2010 season. All those
interested in gardening projects and programs are
invited to meet at Anne Lang’s Emporium for
lunch on Monday, Oct. 5, beginning at 10:30 a.m. An
RSVP is required: 561-3204.
Three Rivers Town Hall—
Also returning from summer vacation are the
town meetings. Hear updates from the Park Service
— fires, road construction, and more —
and county Supervisor Allen Ishida on Monday, Oct.
5, 7 p.m., at the Three Rivers Memorial Building.
Three Rivers Woman’s Club—
Join President Kathy Bohl and her 2009/2010 board
at the club’s annual fall luncheon as they celebrate
their 93rd year. All women are invited to attend the
tea and lunch Wednesday, Oct. 7, noon, at the Three
Rivers Memorial Building.
This annual Eagle Booster Club fundraiser for Three
Rivers School will be Saturday, Oct. 24. More details
on the fun later, but right now community members
need to be assist via donations of prizes. Gently
used toys are being requested for game prizes. Items
are also needed for the raffle and popular Pick-A-Prize.
Call 561-4466 or drop items off at the school office.
National Public Lands Day 2009:
There was a significant spike in volunteers
compared to 2008 at Lake Kaweah’s annual National
Public Lands Day on Saturday, Sept. 26. More than
250 folks of all ages signed on to pick up trash,
paint, build, and landscape in the lake’s highest
use recreation areas.
Among the projects that were completed were the framing
and pouring of foundations for porta-potties (somebody
keeps tipping them over), painting of signs to show
the location of the new fee collection stations, and
the removal of lots of noxious weeds and other invasive
The throng of volunteers was then treated to a catered
lunch of tri-tip, chicken, and veggie lasagna while
grooving to the classic rock sounds of Iceberg Without
Warning from Porterville.