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In the News - Friday, December 17, 2010


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

Major rain, snow event forecast


  Forecasts released December 16 by the National Weather Service in Hanford are calling for periods of significant rainfall throughout the region and heavy snows in the nearby mountains. Starting today, the foothills in and around Three Rivers can expect what forecasters are calling a deluge over the next five days.

  Forecasters are predicting from five to 10 inches of rainfall throughout the period that will translate to a similar amount in feet of snow for elevations above 7,000 feet. Wind gusts of 100 mph are expected on the crest of the High Sierra.

  The Valley floor is bracing for one to three inches of rainfall. In addition to the winter storm watch that will remain in effect until mid-week, there is a small stream advisory in effect for all areas as flooding is imminent.

  To help residents prepare for the incoming series of storms, the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services is identifying flood-prone areas for crew assignments and making sandbags available at fire stations in Three Rivers and Lemon Cove.

  County officials are urging all residents to stay inside during the heaviest downpours and carefully consider the surroundings when approaching any flooded area. In addition, unless one lives or works in the nearby mountains, it would be best not to attempt high-country travel until the storms dissipate.

  Lake Kaweah has recently drained its storage pool to the lowest levels of the current season in preparation for what's predicted to be a huge increase in all stream flows.


AJ Rice, MD: 30 years in 3R


Part 1: The formative years

  This is the first of a two-part series on the career of AJ Rice, M.D., that commemorates an unprecedented 30 years of practicing medicine in Three Rivers.

  In the past century , the doctors who have had a practice in Three Rivers have been few and far between — Demaree, Ison, King, Rice, Molina. One of these country doctors — A. Joel “AJ” Rice, M.D. — stands out because December 2010 marks his 30th year of practicing medicine in Three Rivers.

  AJ's brand of medicine, which since 1982 has included homeopathy, has employed both conventional and unconventional treatments. Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine that treats a patient's symptoms with highly diluted preparations. Homeopaths employ aspects of the patient's physical and psychological states when recommending these remedies.

  And thanks to Family Healthcare Network, which came along in 2001 and partnered with Dr. Rice, the good doctor, now 67, is able to continue what he has been doing for the past 30 years — treating a growing legion of patients who have always trusted AJ to do his very best with their interests at heart.

  AJ would be the first to admit that his medical career and path to this place in his life has been a long, strange but wonderful trip. Growing up in Pittsburgh , Penn. , it wasn't a dream of his to even be a doctor.

  “Then one day, I saw a movie about a doctor in Europe who was going from house to house treating his patients,” recalled AJ. “I thought that was really cool and I would like to do that.”

  The seed for doctoring was planted but not nurtured immediately.

  “I was a jock and only a C student in high school when I graduated in 1960,” AJ admitted. “But when I got to college I was really turned on by the sciences and my professors.”

  That early inspiration came at the University of Pittsburgh , where the aspiring medical student earned a pharmacy degree. The years 1964 to 1971 were spent enrolled at the University of Iowa earning a medical degree and a Ph.D. in medical education.

  “My goal was to do academic research and be a college professor who taught doctors,” AJ said. “I was interested in how drugs react to different diseases and how the body handles certain disease states.”

  After graduation from the Iowa programs, AJ headed west where in the next few years he interned at Stanford University Medical Center and then landed a fellowship at UC San Francisco. AJ recalls the UC program as heavy with highly competitive types who turned him off from wanting a career in academia.

  Ironically, one of AJ's advisors at UC San Francisco was an expert in neuroendocrine tumors. In recent years, AJ was diagnosed with one of these same carcinoid cancers and continues today to battle his way back to good health from this extremely rare disease that his professor had devoted his research career to diagnosing and finding treatments.

  “While I was at UC, that's when I became a weekend warrior and began taking 24-hour shifts as an emergency room doctor at Kaweah Delta in Visalia ,” AJ said. “I could earn in one month of four shifts [about $1,500] what the fellowship paid for an entire semester.”

  But what AJ really wanted was a break from the rigors of academia and to go explore the world.

  “The ‘70s were in full swing and it seemed for all my life I had been in school,” said AJ. “I wanted to go out and explore life and find myself.”

  It wasn't long before AJ discovered the laid-back lifestyle of Three Rivers. While he contemplated what to do with his life he got married, fathered a daughter, and lived in a teepee on the South Fork.

  In 1977, the Visalia Times Delta got wind of a story about a doctor who asked the phone company for an installation at his teepee. The company complied by providing the connection in an adjacent oak tree.

  The article stated that Dr. Rice was living in the teepee while working part time as a doctor in Visalia . His days off were spent working with a neighbor to build his Three Rivers home.

  AJ fondly remembers those carefree, hippy days but then his marriage ended and he noticed that his life was not truly centered and lacked purpose.

  “I was saving money and traveling the world,” AJ recalled. “I became a vegetarian, I was riding my bike for 50 miles daily and, for a few years, it was a great lifestyle.”

  But what AJ realized was that his life lacked professional goals. That's when he came up with the idea to start his own medical practice.

  “At that time [late-1970s], Dr. Harry Ison had his practice and he was the family doctor for just about everyone in Three Rivers,” AJ said. “I didn't really want to compete with Harry. I wanted patients who wanted to live an alternative lifestyle.”

  To be continued…


Sequoia roadwork to

continue through 2012


  Two phases of Generals Highway construction have now become one so get used to timing your drives up the mountain to arrive at the roadwork right when the traffic is let through. This weekend and from December 24 through January 2, delays will be 20 minutes or less as directed by the traffic signals.

  The work zone is the width of a single lane only, so the traffic controls are necessary. Impatient drivers ignoring these traffic controls and prematurely entering the construction zone will impede traffic flow from the opposite direction and will be cited.


What's open… and what's not


  As most have probably been aware since the decorations went up around Labor Day, Friday, Dec. 24, is Christmas Eve and Saturday, Dec. 25, is Christmas. 

  Here's a rundown on what will be open and closed in Kaweah Country:

  Businesses— Limited and/or varying hours; call first.

  Schools— Closed.

  Government— Most federal, state, and county offices will be closed. Emergency services will be staffed. Park visitor centers normally operating this time of year will be open.

  Post office— Dec. 24: 9:30 am-12:30 pm ; Dec. 25: closed.

  Library— Closed Dec. 23-28.

  Banks— Dec. 24: Bank of the Sierra will close at 2 pm ; Valley Oak Credit Union will close at 3 pm .

  Three Rivers Drug— Dec. 24: 9 am-2 pm .


Photo contest seeks national park shots


  National Park Service and National Park Foundation officials are encouraging all who visit national parks and public lands to take their best shot and submit the photo in its annual Share the Experience photo contest, sponsored by Olympus . Olympus is a digital camera maker and a leader in the manufacturing of precision technology.

  The winning entry will be used on the 2012 America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreation Area Lands Pass.

  The winner will receive a prize package that includes a four-night stay at their favorite national park, $1,800 worth of photo equipment, a complimentary 2012 annual pass, and several more gifts. The contest runs through Friday, Dec. 31.

  Amateur photographers may participate by uploading photos on www.sharetheexperience.org or through Facebook, Flickr, or Shutterfly to the contest website.

  For rules and a complete list of prizes see the contest website.


Winter solstice, full moon, lunar eclipse coincide


  The Three Wisemen once told the tale of an awesome night sky. As the Gospel of Matthew goes, the magi were inspired by a “star in the east” to travel to Jerusalem . This brilliant Star of Bethlehem, they said, signified the birth of Jesus.

  Well, the night skies this December, more than 2,000 years later, have also been spectacular. The Geminids earlier this week shot glowing hot rocks through the sky at a rate of up to two or three at a time, as seen by the naked eye.

  On Tuesday, Dec. 21, the first day of winter, a rare occurrence will take place in the night sky. It's the millennium's first total lunar eclipse completely visible from all of North America .

  Although the winter solstice is something not seen, it refers to the moment when Earth is tilted farthest from the sun and when the Sun is at its southernmost point in its year-long journey along the horizon.    While the solstice technically occurs only for an instant, the day when it takes place is the shortest of the year and the night the longest.

  Occurring concomitantly during this longest night of the year will be a total lunar eclipse visible across North America . If this weren't enough, the December 21 full moon — known as the Long Night Moon — will be the highest in the sky until 2020.

  What could ruin this experience for night-sky gazers will be clouds, which are unfortunately in the forecast.

  If there's a break in the clouds, Kaweah Country viewers should begin to look to the skies around 10:15 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 20, to see the eclipse.

  At 10:33 p.m., the moon will begin to go into the darker central shadow from the Earth, and for over an hour — from 11:41 p.m. to 12:53 a.m. on December 21 — it will be completely eclipsed.

  Two ingredients are necessary for a total lunar eclipse: a full moon and a path passing through the Earth's shadow. If these two occurrences happen at the same time, the moon can glow any color from red to turquoise for one to three hours as it passes through.

  The Earth casts a shadow just as buildings or people do, but Earth's shadow is more brilliant — it's red. Human shadows are mundane as they lack an atmosphere. The Earth, however, has a spectacular atmosphere that changes day to day. This makes every lunar eclipse different in terms of color.

  The reason the moon is orange during an eclipse is the same as the reason the sky is blue. When sunlight goes through Earth's atmosphere, blue light bounces around more and doesn't escape, making the sky blue. Oranges , yellows, and reds, however, continue on and reflect off the moon.

  A partial lunar eclipse occurred this year on June 26, but was not visible from North America . The next total lunar eclipse visible from this continent will occur December 10, 2011 .

  Lunar eclipses are one of the easiest sky-watching activities to view without aids. Viewers need only to step outside and look up.


Aloha meets Three Rivers


By Brian Rothhammer


  Where can some of the world's finest Kona coffee be found? In Three Rivers, of course.

  Gregory Thompson is owner of Orville Studley's brand products. He has recently returned home from Hawaii 's Big Island bearing second-place laurels from the 11th annual Keauhou Resort Kona Coffee Label Competition.

  No small feat for a haole, or non-islander, but with a label designed by Bill Crenshaw of Sutter Creek Advertising, Orville Studley's won handily. The competition took place during Hawaii 's Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, a 12-day celebration of the history and heritage of Kona coffee held annually since 1970.

  Locals and visitors alike have become familiar with Orville Studley's fine jerky products, offered at the Jerky This! stand, located at 42362 Sierra Drive (across from Reimer's Candies).

  “I started Jerky This! in 1999, then by 2003 had developed my own brand of jerky,” said Greg. “People have responded well to Studley's jerky, so now it's time to branch out into other areas.”

  Greg's plan for the future is to seek out other high quality Hawaiian coffee beans, perhaps to offer a “Five Island Blend,” a variety pack of five different beans that the consumer may blend to suit individual taste.

  Presently, Orville Studley's Coffee is available at Jerky This! and Antoinette's Coffee and Goodies in Three Rivers. Antoinette's will be offering free samples of Greg's Kona coffee this Saturday.

  Another way to acquire the award-winning coffee is through an innovative partnership Greg has forged with the Future Farmers of America. Just as the Girl Scouts sell cookies, FFA students now sell Orville Studley's Coffee to raise funds for their cause.

  “American coffee consumers can support American farmers and American education while stimulating the U.S. economy one cup of paradise at a time,” he said.

  Just to make it easier, the Orville Studley's website allows purchasers to give credit to an FFA chapter of their choice via the “Credit a Chapter” page.

  So if you're in the mood for some first-rate Kona coffee, pop on over to Antoinette's or visit www.orvillestudleys.com to purchase. What a great gift idea!

  For additional information, call Greg at 679-0719.


WHS musicians play in Macy's Parade


By Analisa Skeen


  On Saturday, Nov. 20, three Woodlake High School students boarded a plane to New York City . They were among 250 Macy's Great American Marching Band members currently flocking to New York from across the nation.

  Representing Woodlake on this prestigious occasion to march in the 84th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade were Luke Savage, Daniel Cabrera, and me. We were nominated to apply to the Macy's Band by Woodlake High School band director Bethanie Hansen.

  That night in New York , we met our roommates and were fitted for uniforms. The blazing red and white uniforms sparked pride and excitement throughout the company.

  The next day, we spent touring the city, remembering the past at the Ground Zero Tribute Center and exploring lower Manhattan .

In the evening, we unwrapped brand new, sparkling instruments. When we were lined up by section in preparation of our first rehearsal — Luke and Daniel among the 26 trumpets and me among the 12 mellophones — we were introduced to our director, Dr. Richard Good.

  I cannot describe the exhilaration of being a part of a band that massive and talented. Our first notes resounded clear and full. A moment of astonished silence followed.

  The next three days were a blur of nine-hour practices intermingled with experiencing the city life of New York . By parade day we were ready to put on the performance of a lifetime.

  Thanksgiving Day started at 2 a.m. when five busloads of band members arrived at the dress rehearsal in Herald's Square in below freezing temperatures. After rehearsal and a sleepy breakfast at the Hard Rock Café, all 250 of us were lined up and waiting for the parade to begin.

  The three-mile march seemed to take 10 minutes and soon we were leading Santa Claus into Herald's Square for the televised part of the performance. Our energetic performance was unlike any that I will ever again experience, and I will always cherish the memory of those ecstatic moments.

  Analisa Skeen is a Woodlake High senior who resides in Three Rivers.

  Editor's note: Macy's Great American Marching Band is in its fifth year, being founded in 2006. Honoring America 's finest high school musicians, this band is comprised of select students from each of the 50 states.


Wood and her horse win in new arena


  Christy Wood of Three Rivers usually can be found competing in or judging events with the Appaloosa Horse Association as she is partial to this breed of horse. She currently owns four registered Appaloosas.

But on the weekend of November 20 and 21, she and her Appaloosa mare Zippin Dollie Te, also known as “Dollar,” traveled to the east side of the Sierra to compete in their first Ultimate Cowboy Trail Challenge, held in Bishop.

  “This was going to be my stepping stone to start entering extreme cowboy racing, so I went to scope it out,” said Christy, who owns Wood ‘N' Horse Training Stables.

  There were 60 riders who participated in the qualifying round on Saturday, and 16 advanced to the finals Sunday, she explained. The age divisions were youth, non-pro, and pro.

  “We had to memorize 29 obstacles in two arenas and out as well,” said Christy. “They gave us nine minutes to complete the course.”

  Christy completed the course in five minutes, 45 seconds, and was the overall winner in the Pro division. Dollar won Top Horse, making all Appaloosas and their owners proud.

  “I won the entire Ultimate Cowboy Trail Challenge and was handed a check for $1,000,” Christy said.

  Not surprisingly, Christy mentioned that she plans to enter more of these races throughout 2011. But she also will be back on the Appaloosa show circuit with a goal to once again compete at the World competition next October.

  Dollar is also the horse that Christy rides during the all-Appaloosa Chief Joseph Trail Ride, an annual event that follows the flight of the Nez Perce in 1877.


Just married


  Joseph Carey and Elizabeth Smith were married Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010 , at the Visalia Nazarene Church . After a honeymoon spent traveling the Pacific Coast Highway from Morro Bay to Monterey , the couple has made their home in Visalia . Joseph is a postal clerk at Three Rivers Post Office.




On the road again:

Shows, fairs, festivals and more


By Jana Botkin


  One of the most visible ways of selling art in a place like Tulare County is the ubiquitous arts-and-crafts fair. There was a time when these were rare events, and one of the best was and still is Three Rivers's own Redbud Festival.

  As a little girl living among the oranges of Ivanhoe, this event seemed like a great big deal. The Redbud had an aura of specialness around it as my great Aunt Mary Barnett would tell us about her weaving or the Tibetan “boys” who sold the exquisite rugs of their native country to support themselves through COS .

  A show takes a tremendous amount of work for the producers as well as the vendors. One needs a sense of the show:

Is it organized, publicized, and well-attended? Does one's work fit? Is there too much similar work already at the show? Will it be worth the work, travel time, and expenses?

  As with much of the business of art, a crystal ball would be a great asset. The vendors must decide what to take, then gather, package, price, and load it.

  In addition to the merchandise, there are all the display items. Once it is all transported to the site, it must be unloaded and carried to a 10-by-10-foot square where it gets arranged into a beautiful albeit temporary show space. There are little details to be worked out with neighboring vendors, making sure that displays don't cause tripping hazards or sometimes sharing the backs of screens for others to use.

  But wait, there's more! After all that, the artist gets to talk and smile and listen to many visitors all day. Everyone wants to tell about their aunt's next-door neighbor's kid who loves to draw muscle men and race cars, or a daughter who “needs to do something with her art.”

  There is a fine line between listening enough to be polite and getting trapped while other potential customers are lost. The vendor can't lose sight of the fact that she is paying for a temporary store to sell her work, not running a How-To-Be-An-Artist clinic.

  One of the most awkward parts of these shows is the way they end. Almost every show contract requires a signature agreeing to stay until the advertised ending time. And almost every show's traffic vanishes about an hour before the end.

  Unfailingly, there are vendors who pack before the show ends. Often I have found that by staying until the final moments, there are last-minute buyers who are grateful to find exhibitors still in place.

  When the vendors are about to croak from exhaustion, it is time to box it all up and haul it back to the car. Often it feels as if I am taking more home than I brought, probably because packing onsite is much more rushed than packing in the studio. At times, I've relied on photos of how it was all placed in the trunk of my car so that I can fit it all back in.

  Craft shows are about much more than just selling art. Marketing, exposure, future sales, credibility, visibility, and connecting with the public are less tangible aspects but just as important. In addition, participating in shows right here in Three Rivers is a huge social occasion for the producers, vendors, and visitors.

  Jana Botkin, owner of Cabinart in Three Rivers, packed and unpacked her paintings several times this season as she participated in the Senior League Holiday Bazaar, Perfect Gift Boutique, and Stocking Stuffer Boutique over three consecutive weekends. She will also be at the Redbud Festival in May.




Marcia Sweet

1937 ~ 2010

  Marcia Sweet of Woodlake died Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 , at Kaweah Delta Hospital. She was 73.

  A memorial service will be held tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 18) at 10 a.m. at St. Aloysius Catholic Church, 125 E. Pleasant Ave. , Tulare . Interment will be private.

  Marcia was born July 26, 1937, in Bakersfield to Ellery and Florence (Skip) Mulock. Marcia moved to Tulare at the age of five and was a 1955 graduate of Tulare Union High School.

  With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Washington State University and graduate study at California State University, Fresno, she went on to receive her Master of Arts degree in Education from Fresno Pacific College.

  Her early career of teaching music included local schools Sundale, Oak Valley, and Buena Vista . She was proud to be director of the Tulare Western High School Band from 1981 to 1984.

  She directed at La Sierra Summer Music Camp in 1984, was guest conductor for the Tulare-Kings Music Educators Association Honor Band in 1985, and the Tulare County Elementary-Junior High Honor Band in 1985.

  In addition to teaching music, Marcia counseled students for future employment opportunities and education. She also taught Career Education, was a multi-subject teacher for TAPP (Teenage Parent Program), and was an independent study instructor through the Tulare County Department of Education.

  Her latest career ambitions were fulfilled as she taught independent study at Sierra Vista High School and was a music teacher at Three Rivers Union School, Tipton Elementary School, and St. Aloysius Parochial School ( Tulare ), where she also co-founded the Summer Music School.

  Marcia left this life peacefully, which was so unlike the busy life she lived. She had an insatiable passion to instill the love of music in every child she met.

  Marcia was always racing to teach her kids, driving too fast and with music way too loud. It was never just a class to her, those were “her” kids, and she loved every one of them.

  In her words, “Every one of those students is an individual, every one of them has something different to contribute, and when all of them are put together, they're a symphony.”

  Marcia is survived by her son, Louis J. Sweet, and wife Lori; daughter Stacy Castro and husband Randy; and her four cherished grandchildren, Cain, Chad, Mackenzie, and Regan; brother Ellery Mulock and wife Anna; two nieces; and one nephew.

  At Three Rivers School 's Holiday Band Concert on the evening of Tuesday, Dec. 14, the band dedicated a song to the school's former band instructor. Current band teacher Athena Saenz is a former student of Marcia's from Tulare, and some of the older students in the TRUS band remembered Marcia as being the reason they initially became interested in playing an instrument.

  The family will be honored by any remembrances made to the donor's favorite charity or organization.


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
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