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DECEMBER 26, 2008


State greats

by Sarah Elliott

  For the past two Decembers, I have been reminded why I am so proud to be a native of California. Great things happen here!
   In 2007 and2008, THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH has had the privilege of an invitation to attend the unveiling of the California Museum’s new Hall of Fame exhibition and induction ceremony in Sacramento. All of the inductees are familiar names, but as the First Lady of California, Maria Shriver, commented: “None of these people went into their line of work to become famous. By doing their work, and by doing it well, they became famous.”
   That is an inspirational message that tells people, young and old, to follow their passion, work hard, and the rest will fall into place.
On the morning of Monday, Dec. 15, John and I and other members of the media received a tour of the newly-installed 2008 California Hall of Fame exhibits. The exhibition opened to the public the following day.
   At 4:30 p.m. that day, we attended a press conference with Maria Shriver. At 6 p.m., we took our place in the media line that was positioned along the red-carpet entrance to the museum and shook hands and took photos of present and past inductees, state government officials, and museum donors. Immediately following was the by-invitation-only induction ceremony where the nominees’ accomplishments were extolled before they were presented with their “Spirit of California” medal by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
   Let me share with you my impressions and observations as I watched the celebrities on the red carpet.
   Dave Brubeck— Talent just seeps out of this very spry and gracious 86-year-old.
   Jane Fonda— She had a terrible cold but made the walk down the chilly, outdoor red carpet in spite of this. She created a lot of excitement, but took the time to speak with whoever requested it. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that she is 71 years old. She wears it well and obviously has stayed true to her exercise routine.
   Quincy Jones— Very low-key and he seemed surprised at the uproar he caused by appearing in person.
   Jack LaLanne— We met his wife first; her name is Elaine… Elaine LaLanne! She’s 83 and incredibly fit. Jack, who is now 94, probably has less body fat than a 20-year-old ultramarathoner, and retains an excellent sense of humor: “I can’t die; it would ruin my image.”
   Alice Waters— The definition of grace, health, and beauty. She was genuinely surprised when so many members of the public were clamoring for her autograph.
   Rita Moreno— She was inducted into last year’s Hall of Fame. Now over 70, she’s still as beautiful, vibrant, and energetic as when she played Anita in West Side Story 47 years ago, a role that won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
   Clint Eastwood— Clint walked the red carpet that night as a past Hall of Famer and the husband of Dina, who is chairperson of the board of the California Museum. When asked by the television reporters next to us what her favorite movie is of her husband’s she replied, “His current one. You probably think I always say that, but I don’t…” So, there you have it. An insider’s recommendation to go see Gran Torino. Since I had just watched Bridges of Madison County, seeing Clint “made my day.”
   Jack Nicholson— He was the last down the red carpet and created the biggest stir. He’s like a mischievous schoolboy with boundless energy who can’t stay still. John shook his hand and yelled, “We’re from Three Rivers!”, eluding to the fact that Nicholson had almost bought a ranch here 25 years ago. Jack, who could hardly hear above the din, looked confused and said, “Three Rivers? Three Rivers Stadium?” Well, there went our chance because he was immediately swept away by others clamoring for interviews and autographs.
   So there you have it. The update from celebrities and more as they walked the red carpet at the Capitol.
   I urge everyone to make the trek to California’s capital city to visit the California Museum on the corner of O and 10th streets for a view of some rare memorabilia and artifacts that reflect the diversity of this great state and reveal why California is such an inspirational place to live, work, and visit. In fact, make it an annual ritual because the exhibit will be all new next December when the next deserving dozen are announced and inducted.
   Just remember, if you live in California, it could just as well be you who is one day inducted into the Hall of Fame. Be legendary: Follow your passion!

DECEMBER 12, 2008


3R views

by Sarah Elliott

  I was saddened and sobered by the comments from those in opposition to the “Scenic Highway Corridor Protection Plan” at Monday night’s Town Hall meeting. This is because no one looked beyond their own property line or self-interests toward what was best for the greater good or, for that matter, Three Rivers.
   Those opposed to the scenic highway plan didn’t offer a plausible argument as to why this project would not be in the best interest of Three Rivers, just that it would not be in their best interest. In fact, the mere beauty of Three Rivers was belittled, as if this town is not worthy of such a designation as “scenic.”
   Three Rivers is a spectacular place. Its scenic values are unparalleled on the west side of the Sierra as there is no other community at the base of this 400-mile-long mountain range that has the privilege of an up-canyon view from the 1,000-foot elevation level to 12,000-foot Sierra Nevada peaks. These foothills — whether golden and parched or green and carpeted with wildflowers — also are deserving of viewshed protection with their granite outcrops, oak-studded slopes, wildlife corridors, and a ribbon of river that is the most magnetic attraction of all.
   The more sentimental opponents cite that they don’t want Three Rivers to “change.” Ironically, a scenic highway designation will ensure that Three Rivers stays more the same in the years to come than if there wasn’t any corridor protection at all.
   But what the majority of opponents are saying is that the scenic highway proposal should be shelved because it places restrictions on homes and businesses along Highway 198. The restrictions that would be implemented as part of the scenic highway plan are the same that were adopted in the 1980 Three Rivers Community Plan. But because Three Rivers is governed from afar, these restrictions were rarely enforced, so the community became complacent in its planning and development.
   Rules, regulations, and laws are necessary. For instance, it’s commonsense not to drain sewage into the river, but putting it in writing ensures that everyone understands that this is not an acceptable practice.
   It also makes sense that drivers slow to 25 mph when in the vicinity of Three Rivers School. But if there weren’t a speed limit, how many would ease off of the accelerator?
   The County of Tulare is not blameless in this controversy as regulations that have been in place for nearly three decades — all of which were approved and adopted by the county Board of Supervisors — have not been consistently enforced. This discussion would be nonexistent if the proper oversight of development in Three Rivers had been administered.
   In the recent past, violations to regulations were only noticed by the County if a complaint was filed. In other words, the County pitted neighbor against neighbor in Three Rivers to ensure compliance, and we played along for all these years, either by filing a grievance or staying silent when violations occurred.
   Except for getting an earful at public meetings, the County does not suffer for its lackadaisical monitoring of local regulations. That’s why a compromise must be reached during this transition to a new normal.
   County fees should be waived for an amnesty period so that Highway 198 businesses and homeowners have the opportunity to receive site plan reviews and other county services necessary to bring properties into compliance. And, in the future, existing properties should have a lower fee structure than new development.   This way, the scenic highway plan could proceed relatively unfettered while Three Rivers properties are updated and improved.
   Just as the County needs to own up to their responsibility, residents and business owners have to face theirs as well, which is the conservation of the Three Rivers viewshed. Having a couple dozen regulations in place will ensure that the scenic qualities of Three Rivers are protected now and forever.
   We should never forget the past as that is what guides us toward the future. But we should not halt progress, instead demand that it be sensible, responsible, and progressive.
   In reality, the County has no stake in whether a scenic highway designation is granted or not. So we can let the scenic highway idea fizzle and fade away, and with it any future dollars from which Three Rivers would benefit, and the County will still enforce the regulations, charge site plan review fees, and invest its tax dollars in Three Rivers whenever they see fit, which isn’t too often.
   Don’t insist that the scenic-highway proposal be halted. Instead submit reasonable input so regulations are in place to intelligently guide Three Rivers toward smart growth. Let’s look farther down the road than our own driveways when planning for the future.

NOVEMBER 21, 2008


A mountain of change

by Sarah Elliott

  Most who spend time in the Sierra will recognize the name of David Brower, the first executive director of the Sierra Club who died in 2000 at the age of 88.
   Most who spend time in the Sierra will also recognize North Palisade, a prominent 14,242-foot peak at the east boundary of Kings Canyon National Park.
   Brower is an enduring symbol of environmentalism with many of the West’s most beautiful places preserved due to his tireless efforts.
   North Palisade is an enduring symbol for mountaineers as it is the third highest peak in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, one of California’s famous fourteeners. And one of Brower’s favorite peaks of which he is credited the first winter ascent.
   Currently, there is a bill before Congress, introduced by U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, to change the name of North Palisade to “Brower Palisade.” This is a variation of how place names are traditionally designated because it bypasses the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, the agency in charge of assigning place names after a process that includes local organizations and state agencies in the decision process.
   A consideration in this determination should be that perhaps David Brower, himself, would not want the name of this prominent peak changed. A more reasonable alternative would be to place Brower’s name on a nearby unnamed promontory that offers views of North Palisade.
   There is history attached to names — whether person, place, or thing — and they are rarely changed. Marriage or traumatic events are reasons that come to mind that might warrant a name change.
But to add someone’s name to a well-known peak would be like placing a billboard on top of it. Both are ill-advised precedents.
   North Palisade is part of the Palisades, a range of peaks that was named in 1864 by the Brewer party of the Whitney survey because “there were very grand and fantastic in shape.”
   Brower was a lifetime resident of Berkeley, so it is understandable that the two Bay Area senators would undertake this legislation at the request of a David Brower fan from Seattle. But Congress certainly has more important issues to deal with than this. Lawmakers’ time would be better spent on the challenges of the economy, energy independence, healthcare, national security; let the public take on the challenge of mountain monikers.
   Worthy of mention is that the first ascent of North Palisade was in 1903 by a climbing party that included Joseph N. LeConte. LeConte, a charter member of the Sierra Club who also resided in Berkeley, was a longtime engineering professor at U.C. Berkeley (1895-1937). His name is immortalized in the Sierra and on the UC Berkeley campus. LeConte should carry some weight in this consideration as he once stated in regards to permanently naming North Palisade, “I have called the peak merely the North Palisade… a name to be handed down through all time.” (Place Names of the Sierra Nevada)
   I believe Brower would say leave North Palisade alone. He is certainly deserving of a Sierra place name, so select a previously unnamed peak and ascend through the proper channels (U.S. Board on Geographic Names) that allow for public input and review.

OCTOBER 31, 2008



by Sarah Elliott

  Presidential-campaign seasons are exhilarating, and I have especially enjoyed the 2008 race due to its historical implications. I am thrilled to have this election occur in my lifetime and, as always, consider it a privilege to go to the polls and cast my ballot, a right that has only been available to me and most other women of the U.S. for less than 100 years, since the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920.
   My vote has never been solely for “me, myself, and I,” but in recent years has shifted from national concerns to world views as I decide the issues. As has been experienced this month with the stock market, everything that happens in the U.S. has global effects.
   I have regularly been listening to a song on my iPod since the beginning of the year that has become my voting mantra. Here are some excerpts that describe what my priorities will be as I cast my ballot next Tuesday, Nov. 4:

...When the last child cries
for a crust of bread
When the last man dies
for just words that he said
When there’s shelter
over the poorest head
We shall be free

When the last thing we notice
is the color of skin
And the first thing we look for
is the beauty within
When the skies and the oceans
are clean again
Then we shall be free…

When we’re free to love
anyone we choose
When this world’s big enough
for all different views
When we all can worship
from our own kind of pew
Then we shall be free…

And when money talks
for the very last time
And nobody walks a step behind
When there’s only one race
and that’s mankind
Then we shall be free…

( "We Shall Be Free," performed by Garth Brooks)

Simple, yes, but what a wonderful world this would be.

OCTOBER 24, 2008


Express yourself

by Sarah Elliott

  Newspapers were founded on the premise of taking a political stance. Many still contain “Democrat” or “Republican” in their name.
   While John and I have unequivocal political views, educate ourselves on all campaign issues, love to discuss politics, and vote in every election, we haven’t turned this small-town newspaper into a propaganda publication for our idiosyncratic opinions, preferring instead for the paper to be a vehicle for everybody to feel welcome voicing their views.
   This week, on page 3, two subjective and divergent op-eds discuss the recent presidential race, however, they are both boxed and preceded with “paid advertisement.” Both letter-writers are so passionate about their political views that they requested that their commentaries not be edited.
   When a request such as this is received, it means that the writer must purchase the space, otherwise these two lengthy letters would face the risk of being shortened at our discretion due to space constraints.
   After all, we have limited space each week with many vying for it.  First, there’s the advertisements, which take priority in dictating the space available in the paper every week. Then there is a stack of breaking news, press releases, upcoming events, and other submissions, so obviously it is rare that anyone gets the opportunity to be encyclopedic.
   These space considerations are a frustration for me every week. Not everything originally intended to go in the newspaper makes it into print.
   No article is guaranteed publication. Some submissions get delayed a week or so; others never see the light of day.
   All the news and views that are fit to print? We give it our best shot.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2008


Ode to 50

by Sarah Elliott

  Today, I am celebrating the turning of a page. Today, I am 50.
   I have been reflecting on this milestone more than any other decade. Maybe it’s because I finally have the time.
   As I reminisce, I think of what has changed in the world during my lifetime, which has now been a half-century. I also have thought about where I’ve been at the various 10-year increments.
   For instance, life was going fantastically well in my first decade. When I was turning 10, I was lucky enough to have lived the entire summer in Yellowstone National Park, as our family had for several years previously. Later that year, we moved to Three Rivers.
   By the time I was 20, I was no longer so grounded. During the next few years, I was living on my own and making my own decisions (because I had all the answers) and lots of mistakes (but learning from them). There was turmoil, but huge personal growth. By 25, I had my priorities straight, my sights set on the future, and was settling into a productive routine.
   When I turned 30, I was deliriously happy. Earlier in the year, I had gotten married and on my birthday I was eight months pregnant with my first child who was born in our home with a midwife but without drugs (although it wasn’t for a lack of begging for them during the last hours of labor). Twenty months later, our second child was born, also a home-birth. My 30s were basically sleepless, yet full of peace and joy. After years of searching, I had discovered my true calling: mother.
   During the spring of my 40th year, I had my first and only serious illness. I was diagnosed with viral meningitis and hospitalized. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my son was concurrently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and admitted to the Children’s Hospital. I fully recovered, but there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes, so that disease continues to be a challenge to our family and especially our son. On the bright side, our kids were now old enough and strong enough to participate in my favorite pastimes — hiking, backpacking, and mountain-biking. As a family, we logged thousands of miles on foot or with pedal power in Sequoia National Park, throughout the Sierra, and across a dozen western states and Canada and Mexico.
   For the past several years, I’ve had two teenagers, which is more exhausting — physically, mentally, emotionally — than reaching any elusive mountain summit. As of last month, both are now in college, and that had been my goal since they were in the womb.
   I wasn’t sure how I would adapt to an empty nest. Except for mere months, all of my married life has included children. The parenting, however, continues, just in a more hands-off capacity. John and I are taking advantage of the free time we now have to play outside, which is something we love and thrive on; the very reason why we chose to live and work in Three Rivers.
   I am embracing 50. Maybe it’s because I now realize my mortality; in all likelihood, my life is more than half over. This definitely provides perspective.
   I have a feeling of freedom and an urge to quit taking trivial matters so seriously. I am healthy, happy, and have a loving family, tremendous friends, a comfortable home, my own business where my commute consists of walking down a flight of stairs... and a great hike planned!

AUGUST 1, 2008


Smoking guns

  A National Rifle Association-led effort to lift the decades-old ban on concealed weapons in national parks is attempting to fix something that isn’t broken.
   National parks are a safe haven where everything from the smallest blade of grass to wildlife and humans is protected. Guns are not allowed.
   My dad was a seasonal park ranger in the 1950s and 1960s. During that era, the rangers didn’t even carry guns, and he says there was never a time when he felt he needed a weapon.
   Easing the ban on loaded weapons within the national parks so that some may carry guns for “self-defense” will create problems where there previously were none.
   Self-defense against whom? Other people who carry guns, of which now there will be even more?
   I would no longer feel safe on a trail knowing that anyone I meet might have a loaded weapon and could easily overpower me. That means even though I have never considered carrying a gun while hiking, I would have to make the choice to purchase one and learn how to use it because I now require self-defense from some who would now be allowed to carry guns. This makes no sense.
   Just when it seems visitors are finally getting the message to keep their food away from bears and other wildlife, the gun ban might be lifted. Someone with a gun would have a false sense of security and, for instance, might crawl into their tent at night without cleaning up their campsite.
   When the inevitable bear comes roaming in the wee hours, it would be an act of self-defense to shoot the bruin as it ransacks the messy camper’s site.
   What if you thought you had selected your campsite, went to pay, and returned to find someone else’s tent pitched? How about that boombox blasting late at night in the adjacent site?
   These are a couple of issues we’ve actually had to deal with in some Park Service campgrounds where the campers are packed in like sardines in a can. How will humans with guns handle these conflicts any better?
   In wild areas such as national parks, there are many dangers that require self-defense tactics. But a gun won’t be of assistance if lightning threatens to strike. A loaded weapon won’t divert the tree that’s falling. If a rockslide sends a bus-sized boulder your way, don’t shoot at it, run! If a marmot chews through the brake line on your car, it’s roadside assistance you’ll require; blowing the rodent’s brains out won’t help.
   Seriously, if heading into the wild mountain yonder takes you that far out of your comfort zone, you’re missing the point and probably shouldn’t be there anyway, gun or not.
   Statistics show that national parks are extremely safe places (less than one crime per 100,000 visits). Of course, there is always the possibility that a crime could occur, but there really is a greater likelihood of succumbing to something that Mother Nature pitches at you, and no loaded weapon can change that.
   I support the Second Amendment and the fundamental right to bear arms. In turn, the powerful NRA should respect my right not to want to have to bear arms because they created a need for my self-defense. There is a time and a place for everything, and this is not the time and national parks just aren’t the place.

JUNE 27, 2008


Hot dogs

  They are the lowest seeded team to ever play in (and win) an NCAA championship tournament in any sport, but for the last couple of weeks, the Fresno State Bulldogs baseball team has been knocking off their nationally-ranked opponents as if they do this every year, which they don’t.
   The College World Series was thrilling to watch for Central Valley viewers as Fresno State worked their way to a national title with sportsmanship, friendship, teamwork, talent, grace, and determination, while earning the respect of the other teams, coaches, fans, commentators, and the millions-strong television-viewing audience that watched on ESPN.
   Sports are a metaphor for life, teaching many valuable lessons that can be used on and off the field or court. And the Bulldogs’ accomplishments will be talked about every year for as long as there is a College World Series because they are now in the history books for accomplishing what no team has before.
   Every local coach from the peewee level through high school who watched the Bulldogs battle and emerge victorious can now relate a firsthand story to explain to their players why they should never, ever give up, no matter how overmatched, and why they should always play as a team.
   Fresno State taught us to defy the odds as they toppled fierce competitors ranked from 19th to second in the nation. Who will be the next longshot? The Three Rivers Eagles… Woodlake Tigers?
Never quit. Never fold. Never hang your head. During the College World Series matchups, the commentators several times mentioned a rival coach who scoffed and said Fresno State will be on the first plane home, clearly not believing that the Bulldogs had earned the right to compete. Ironically, that coach watched the championship games from the comfort of his own living room.
   If the Fresno State team had listened to such talk, it could have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. It took a caring, competent coach to keep his team focused on the challenging tasks at hand.
   As with sports, nothing is certain in life. Sports are unpredictable; life is unpredictable.
   In sports as in life, there are expectations. And there are consequences for poor choices.
   Clarity of purpose, solid foundations, smart preparation, and adjustments are also lessons learned in sports that are useful in the game of life.
   And, finally, show up. In sports and in life, be there, physically and mentally, because if you’re not, there’s always somebody ready to take your place.
   These are all lessons that coaches of young players can teach. Not all young players will advance to high school sports and very few will play collegiate athletics, but the lessons learned will last a lifetime.
   Congratulations to Coach Mike Batesole and his student-athletes of the Fresno State Bulldogs baseball team. They were worthy ambassadors of the Central Valley, and we are proud.

MARCH 21 , 2008


See the light

  After more than 100 years of inventing and creating a society based upon convenience, it is now the age of awareness. We are realizing that certain inventions — cars, electricity, lights — provide ease and comfort but they come at a price, and we need to be mindful of the causes and effects.
   The National Park Service knows that it needs to be an environmental leader in showing American citizens how to reverse some negative trends. One issue that the NPS is taking seriously — and has developed a program to combat it — is light pollution.
   Awareness of this threat to our dark skies, both locally and nationwide, is currently lacking, according to a presentation last Saturday evening by Dan Duriscoe, a physical scientist based in Death Valley National Park and a member of the NPS Night Sky Team. Dan gave two informative programs while in Three Rivers, his former home: one at the Home and Country Living Expo and another as part of the Sequoia Speaks series.
   I, for one, obsessively enjoy dark night skies and despise outdoor lights that burn wantonly all night long. I celebrate when the electricity goes out at night, and no matter what time it is, will go outside and enjoy a panoramic view of the Kaweah canyon with no artificial lights; the silhouette of the Great Western Divide and the stars and planets being the natural attractions.
   Sometimes I go a little overboard to view the sky. While backpacking in the Sierra last summer, John and I coaxed — okay, forced — our kids out of the tent at 3 a.m. to view the Milky Way, shining brilliantly overhead. We bundled up and reclined on a granite boulder to stare in awe at this beautiful, natural sight spanning from horizon to horizon, a scene that has become extinct in major cities worldwide.
   Basically, light pollution is any artificial light that is shining in an inappropriate way. It’s important that we all take a light assessment at our homes and businesses. Make sure the outdoor lights — especially the ones that are on for hours at a time — are casting light only where needed and nowhere else.
   There are several negative effects of light pollution:
   Sky glow— Light that is shining up and into the night sky.
   Glare— This is light that shines into the eyes of drivers, walkers, or bike riders.
   Light trespass— Light that shines onto the property of others or into their homes.
   Too much light at night is not natural, and it is unproven that it promotes safety and security. Humans are meant to have daytime and nighttime. And nocturnal wildlife must have darkness to survive.
   Too much light at night is wasteful, both in dollars and natural resources, such as oil and coal.
   Make sure that all outdoor lighting is directed downward. If a light is meant to illuminate a sign, it should be mounted at the top of the sign and casting light downward; never at the bottom pointing upward. For a local example of how signs should be lighted, see the Sierra Subs/Creekside Yarns/Sequoia Gifts building.
   If a light is intended to illuminate a walkway, it should be under an overhang and recessed, so there is no upward or outward glare. If a light is needed in a yard, parking lot, or building, it should be directed downward with shields on the top and sides of the beam.
   The “Three Rivers Community Plan,” adopted in 1980, was visionary in its scope of many issues we are today facing. One of the policies approved was to “require all new advertising signs to be indirectly lighted.” Take a look around town and one will see that this recommendation has not been adhered to in the last 25 years, nor enforced.
   To purchase an outdoor light that has been classified as “dark sky friendly” by the International Dark Sky Association (on a mission to dim the lights since 1988), go to www.TheGlareBuster.com.
   Also, make sure your lights are only on when needed by using timers or motion sensors; dusk-to-dawn lighting is unnecessary and should be avoided. And reduce the wattage of the bulbs; too much light actually reduces visibility and night vision.
   Communities are becoming more and more aware that having a dark sky is an asset. Three Rivers, as a tourist haven, could benefit economically from being able to boast about its commitment to combating light pollution and enhancing the night sky, especially along its scenic corridor.
   But it’s up to us to decide. Do we want to be a part of the problem or the solution?

MARCH 21 , 2008


A piece on the Rock

   In 1993 and 1994, when we were kicking around the idea of publishing a local newspaper, I dabbled some with the Sequoia Sentinel by writing a weekly column that highlighted Kaweah Country history. Some of the greatest hits from that series play even better now than they did then. So in the interest of sharing these gems with a new generation of local readers and visitors to the website, we begin this week with a slightly annotated piece on Moro Rock that first appeared in 1994, entitled “The inviting history of Moro Rock.”
                                                          * * *
   With the passing of recent storms, the call of that great monolith Moro Rock has been especially inviting. One day cloaked in snow; the next picture perfect for magnificent views of the Valley and the Great Western Divide. Moro Rock is easily visible and among the most striking landmarks of Kaweah Country.
   The earliest inhabitants, the indigenous people of the Kaweah canyon, were well acquainted with the power of this high place. The elevation of the peak is 6,725 feet. Milling features may be found at several locales along the trail that preceded the first wooden steps by many centuries.
   The origin of the name is shrouded much like the shadows and clouds that, from one moment to the next, obscure the regal rock. The place name “moro” was actually derived from several sources.
   The Spanish word morro translates to knoll, a snout, a rounded hill, a bluff, or point of land. Some other prominent places that use that derivation are Morro Rock on the central coast, El Morro National Monument in New Mexico, and Morro Castle in Cuba.
   A local version of the naming comes from the blue mare “Moro” that grazed near the base of the rock in the 1860s. That famous mount belonged to George Swanson, a pioneer of Three Rivers. In those years, the rock was commonly called “Moro’s Rock.”
   The spelling of Moro with a single “r” lends credibility to the local legend. Maps drawn prior to the establishment of Sequoia National Park in 1890 contained the place name Moro Rock.
   Who was the first in local history to climb to the top of Moro Rock? That distinction belongs to three pioneers — Hale Tharp and his stepsons, John Swanson and George Swanson. The courageous climbers accomplished the feat in 1861 without steps or carabiners.
   For the next 50 years, folks recounting their climb began their tale something like this: “You removed your shoes, and then dug in with toenails and fingernails, as you crept along on all fours.” The element of danger was a sizable part of the exhilarating experience.
   During the early years of ascending Moro Rock, a sign-in book would have read like a who’s who of Kaweah Country history. Hale Tharp’s daughter, Fanny, who later married Barney Mehrten, reportedly made the first recorded ascent by a woman while still a teenager in 1872 or 1873.
   One account conflicts with the above claim. Mrs. William Swanson wrote in 1949: “Miss Emily Purdy, a young lady of the Colonist group, was the first white woman to make the climb [ca. 1890]. Miss Ida Wright (now our Mrs. Ida Purdy) climbed the rock alone and unknown to anyone. Afterwards, she guided people in the climb.”
   John and Armin Grunigen, in the company of Bob DeMasters, made the climb in 1901. Upon reaching the top, a stick was fitted with a white handkerchief; a makeshift flagpole of symbolic surrender to the sublime nature of the experience.
   A few years later, Mrs. Walter Fry and her daughter, Bessie, were members of a climbing party that had a memorable mishap. In the group was Albert E. Carter, a local boy who later served as a U.S. Congressman from California. He slipped down the first 15 feet of the 2,000-foot drop to the bottom of the canyon on the north-facing side of the rock.
   For what must have seemed like an eternity, the cool and collected Carter precariously clung to a clump of bushes. In time, a rope was lowered and he was soon rescued. Miraculously, no serious injuries were ever reported during the pre-1917 era. The year 1917 marked the installation of the first steps.
   George Swanson and Armin Grunigen, in the employ of the National Park Service (NPS), installed the first wooden steps. Arduous drilling was required to anchor the structure to the north face of the rock.
   In the ensuing decade, a parade of tourists marched up those steps and down again. By the late-1920s, it was apparent that a more permanent access would be necessary to accommodate the renowned attraction.
   In 1930 to 1931, the NPS constructed a new set of concrete steps to the top. The project was no easy task; a temporary cable was installed to relay materials.
   In 1978, the site of the Moro Rock steps, which now traverse the east and north sides, was officially recognized as “historic” by being listed in The National Register of Historic Places.
   Incidentally, now is an excellent time to make the two-mile trek from the Giant Forest Museum parking area to Moro Rock. With the road closed to vehicles until late spring, one will see few if any other hikers.
   A few final words of caution: Don’t attempt the stairs if they are snow- or ice-covered. Also, the exposed rock is subject to lightning strikes. If you see thunderheads or notice static electricity (tingling in the hands or feet, hair standing on end), exit the rock immediately.


JANUARY 25, 2008


Give 'em a brake

  Re: “Roadkill,” Oct. 12, 2007— Although we expected some negative feedback on this photo spread of animals that met their end by being on a road at the wrong time, we never heard anything. That is, until last week when a woman called the newspaper office to conduct some other business and gave John an earful.
   In case others are wondering or didn’t read the accompanying column, we published these photos to highlight a problem of speeding cars vs. wildlife in this town that is transected by a state highway. We had discussed this graphically-disturbing photo gallery for more than a year before going to work on it and after over a decade of writing too-gentle reminders about slowing down and watching for wildlife.
   Although a warning was placed on the front page about the graphic content (which was mainly so parents were forewarned and could keep the paper away from their kids), it’s not like these photos were something that no one has seen before; that is, unless you drive with your eyes closed.
   Well, we don’t drive with our eyes closed and are saddened by the death of these animals. That’s why we published these photos; consider it a roadkill-reduction campaign and a way to encourage more vigilant driving — motto: Give Wildlife a Brake.
   We are committed to promoting responsible ways to co-exist with wildlife. Consider these facts:

  —If traveling on dry pavement at 55 mph, it will take 300 feet to stop. The range of an average car headlight is 200 to 250 feet. In order to avoid hitting animals at night, drivers should slow down to 40 to 45 mph. Coincidentally, that’s actually the speed limit through Three Rivers.

  —The eyes of animals actually reflect a vehicle’s headlights, allowing drivers to see them in the darkness if alert.

  —Always watch the sides of the road while driving and be on the alert for animals trying to cross.

  —Wildlife is more likely to be encountered prior to a storm and are most active on the road at dawn and dusk as they search for food and water. These poor lighting conditions affect a driver’s ability to see animals attempting to cross the road, so slow down at these times of day.

  —Remember: Many people have been killed and more are seriously injured due to vehicle collisions with deer and other wildlife. So protect yourself and your property by driving cautiously and watching out for wildlife.
   As for the photo spread, if one driver lightened their foot on the accelerator, then our feeble, albeit controversial attempt at a campaign was successful. If a reader has an alternative way to proactively reduce the amount of roadkill, let’s hear it.

JANUARY 18 , 2008


The rest of the stories

  Here are a few thoughts and conclusions to some previous articles:
   Re: “Recovery effort,” Nov. 30, 2007—
It was an emergency call about an injured animal in the river that dispatched Tulare County firefighters to the upper Kaweah River Drive area. The animal was a deer, and a state Department of Fish and Game warden ordered it to be put down because it was too injured to save.
   There was some speculation as to what caused the deer’s injuries and how it got into the river. Was it hit by a car? Chased by coyotes?
   A Kaweah River Drive resident stopped in the office later and confirmed that it was dogs running loose that killed the deer.
   Re: “The flood of December 1937,” Dec. 14, 2007— Robert Blaszak of Three Rivers assisted in putting this time period of 70 years ago into perspective by dropping off a receipt dated April 9, 1937. The consumer purchased bread for 13 cents, butter for 33 cents, sugar for 25 cents, Karo for 13 cents, and some other item of which I can’t make out the handwriting (yes, a handwritten receipt; no computer), but it cost 10 cents, for a grand total of 94 cents for groceries. Aaah, the good ol’ days.
   Re: “Running start,” Jan. 11, 2008— Bill Pooley of Three Rivers emailed to say, “That was us in the picture of the kayakers on the front page of the Jan. 11 edition…”
   In addition to himself, he identified the kayakers as Jeff Gymer, Sean Sangree, and Evan Lloyd. I regretted that in the caption of the photo, taken by Darlene Mackay of Three Rivers, I had not pinpointed their location.
   The kayakers were on the Middle Fork at the Pumpkin Hollow condos.

  “We were in the pool just below the big rapid called Osterizer,” said Bill.
   Also in the caption, we alluded to “rising river levels,” as we landlubbers tend to view the river in terms of seasons; it’s winter and will soon be transitioning to spring, so the river’s rising, right?
   Not according to Bill Pooley, who looks at river levels on a daily — okay, hourly — basis from the perspective of a kayak seat.

  “The river had receded significantly by Sunday when we made the run, but it was still muddy and cold,” he reported. “Not my idea of the clear water and warm days during the normal spring boating season. The snowpack this year is off to a good start for a boating season better than last year’s low-water year.”
   Now that’s a river assessment you can take to the bank. To watch river levels, see reports and photos, view a weather station and a river gauge, watch a webcam and browse the image archive, and receive dozens of links to other river sites, visit Bill’s informative and educational “The Kaweah River Page” at http://c2.com/kaweah.
   And one more thing. For those longtime residents who recognized the name of Jeff Gymer, Bill said that, yes, he is the Jeff Gymer who grew up in Three Rivers, currently residing in Visalia.

NOVEMBER 30 , 2007


Taking a test

  STAR, SAT, midterms, finals, AP, spelling and math… kids grow up studying for and learning how to take tests. I passed a test recently that takes no studying, but instead requires, although not foolproof, adherence to a healthy lifestyle and the commitment to actually take the test when it is so much easier to avoid.
   I received my test results in the form of a letter, which also means a passing grade. A phone call to relay the test results is something no one would want to receive.

  “Dear Ms. Elliott,” the letter stated. “We are pleased to inform you that the results of your recent mammogram are normal.”
   As most women know, early detection of breast cancer is important. Self-testing is also necessary, but a mammogram can find an irregularity before it grows large enough to even be felt physically, and that is key.
   And this column isn’t for women only. Men also may get breast cancer, so a doctor should be consulted about risk factors and advice as to whether a mammogram might be prudent.
   For women, the American Cancer Society recommends mammograms and physical breast exams by a medical professional annually beginning at the age of 40. Mammograms are very quick with only the feeling of minor pressure on the breast as it is squeezed by the compressor that holds it in place for a clear x-ray, of which about four are taken.
   Most insurance policies cover a mammogram. In Visalia, there is the newly opened Visalia Women’s Imaging Specialists, located at 1700 S. Court Street.
   My doctor told me to tell them I was from Three Rivers, which I did, and they saw me without an appointment and with a minimal wait.

NOVEMBER 30, 2007


Growing old... gracefully

  It finally happened. I turned 57 earlier this month and came to the realization that I might be a senior citizen… or am at least at the threshold of one of life’s milestones.
   I started contemplating being a senior by doing something that I’d been putting off for the past few years, pretending like all those solicitations with my name on them were in error. I joined AARP.
   That’s right, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Like most baby boomers, especially ones like me who have been self-employed their entire career, I actually can’t imagine not working.
   The AARP discounts are substantial and really help in booking travel, eating out, and with nearly every kind of insurance that, unfortunately, as one grows older but remains working, becomes a substantial part of the expense ledger.
   For our family, we also must factor in the extra expenses of getting two kids through college simultaneously. It comes down to choosing to save for retirement or pay for college. We chose the latter, at least for now.
   But that’s why it’s even more important for folks like me to be proactive and make a lifestyle change or two. I can’t continue to burn the candle at both ends for much longer.
   I don’t believe I’m in dire straits healthwise, but I must face the facts — the relentless deadlines of the newspaper business are bound to exact a toll.
   So what’s a stressed out Boomer to do? Art Molina, M.D., Three Rivers’s former resident physician, once told me after an exhaustive physical: “No matter how good you’re feeling now, we’re all dying of something.”
   But how much can we influence the when of the good doctor’s inevitable prognosis? The answer to that important question is plenty. At a recent lecture for Cal parents and alumni, we were a given a very sound five-point plan of action.
   The plan is in actuality a proven methodology for maintaining a healthy brain, according to Dr. Marian Diamond, a Cal professor of anatomy and one of the world’s foremost neuroanatomists. She is the author of more than 100 scientific articles and three books including her best known work, Enriching Heredity, published in 1988.
   Dr. Diamond practices the cortical fitness she preaches. After all, brain function and mental acuity is at the essence of life itself, and the still vivacious and vibrant Dr. Diamond, at age 81, is living proof in the product of her more than five decades of research.
Here are Dr. Diamond’s fab five principles for a healthy brain:
   (1) DIET— The brain needs protein and the array of B vitamins for healthy growth and development. A malnourished brain is smaller and cannot function at its full potential. And feeding the brain begins prenatally.
   (2) EXERCISE— This is a no-brainer, pardon the pun. The brain needs exercise, like any other muscle or organ. Dr. Diamond says at least one hour daily of the physical exercise daily is essential to optimal brain health. She gets that part of the equation at 6 a.m. swimming laps in the pool at the Hearst Gymnasium on the UC Berkeley campus. Exercise should be as regular a routine in our lives as brushing teeth and getting dressed.
   (3) NEWNESS— The brain continually needs new things to do, such as varying activities and different stimuli from learning that taps seldom used parts and opens new doors of perception — new pursuits, new activities, new ideas.
   (4) CHALLENGE— What have you done lately to challenge you and your brain? When we get older we tend do less, but we need to do even more — learn a language, up the crossword puzzle level, play math Scrabble, or just read voraciously.
   (5) LOVE— And the greatest gift of all these five is love, and not necessarily the physical kind, but loving relationships with each other, families, grandkids, neighbors, friends, or God… it’s your call. But in a healthier brain, heart, body, the whole is equal to the sum of its parts. The optimal person is one who realizes the fulfillment of a loving relationship.

OCTOBER 12, 2007



  In Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks this year, 14 bears have had collisions with vehicles (or visa versa). Fourteen!
   Part of the magic of living in the Sierra foothills is the close proximity to wildlife. In addition to bear, we have deer, mountain lion, fox, bobcat, coyote, rabbit, raccoon, opossum, skunk, various rodents, and more.
   Bird life consists of, but is not limited to, eagles, hawks, ravens, quail, great blue herons, owls, blue jays, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, mourning doves, western bluebirds, and mallard ducks.
   Sadly, there’s not a day that goes by that one can travel the local roadways and not see a dead animal. It could be a wild species or a beloved pet, but there they are, usually with more insides showing than outside.
   Some of these run-ins can’t be avoided. But if you travel the speed limit, use your high-beams at night, use extreme caution at dawn or dusk, scan a wide swath of the roadside, and slow down and honk the horn if there’s an animal alongside the road, many deaths can be avoided.
   High season for car crashes with wildlife in Kaweah Country is October through December. Animals are instinctively on the move due to mating and migration habits.
   They are also busy locating food sources in preparation for winter and often forget to look both ways before crossing the highway. And water sources by this time of year usually consist of only the main rivers as the tributaries have all run dry.
   The shorter days also increase the risk of vehicle v. wildlife collisions. Animals are more active at night and more drivers are on the road at dawn and dusk.
   Use caution after rainstorms as well, another time when animal activity increases.
   Never swerve around an animal because it could move in the same direction or you may inadvertently hit another vehicle, drive onto a dangerous shoulder, or lose control of the car altogether. If traveling at a sensible speed, when seeing an animal in the roadway, the only thing a driver can safely do is brake while staying their lane of traffic.
   Increased traffic and excessive speed are really the culprits. These aren’t quiet country roads anymore, but wildlife still have to cross them.
   Other hazards include the trees and vegetation along the roads that minimize visibility. Food and garbage thrown out of car windows also attracts animals to the roads, so aesthetics isn’t the only reason to pick up trash.
  A prerequisite to living in Three Rivers is to live harmoniously with the wildlife whose environment we are privileged to share. Drivers, slow down!

OCTOBER 5 , 2007


The rest of the stories...

  So often when we publish a story like last week’s “Impaired driver destroys local landmark” more details come to light after the news circulates. Several readers contacted the Commonwealth with new information relative to the accident and the carving of the large redwood slab.
   The slab was carved into an Indian head by Tony Haywood, an accomplished chainsaw carver from Australia. The slab had not been carved prior to the opening of the Indian Restaurant but was left in situ as a roadside ornament by the former owners who operated a real estate office and store there before the premises were remodeled.
   One day, not too long after the place opened as The Indian, Haywood, a bar patron, said he could envision the head of an Indian chieftain in the huge slab and if permitted, he would execute his vision with his trusty chainsaw.
   His request was met with a resounding “Go for it,” though it is unclear what, if any, compensation Haywood received for his efforts. One eyewitness did report that he made the creation of the artistic carving look very easy.
   As to the accident itself, some good may come from near-tragedy as the driver has expressed regret for her actions. Hopefully, one day, she will look back on this incident as the wake-up call that reversed a bad behavioral trend.
   This recent traffic mishap reveals some good and bad news about what’s going on out there on the mean streets of Three Rivers. Firstly, the recently passed teen driving laws — like, for instance, during the first year, new drivers may not give rides to passengers under 25 nor are they permitted to be driving after 11 p.m. — really do work and save lives. That’s the good news.
   The bad news is that parents often are not aware of the laws or simply choose to enable their teen drivers to ignore the law because it’s often a hardship to transport teens in the wee hours of the morning. Reportedly, the subject driver in the accident at The Indian had her license for approximately a month.
   Even more alarming than driving after midnight is that a couple of weeks ago the driver in question was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint on Mooney Boulevard in Visalia. The officer discovered an open container of an alcoholic beverage in the vehicle.
   Evidently, the teen driver was not cited and allowed to leave the scene. As more details are revealed about this incident, it’s apparent that this driver was an accident waiting to happen. She said the last thing she recalled doing was trying to send a text message on her cell phone just before she lost control of her vehicle on rain-slick pavement.
   In an effort to avoid another such potentially deadly accident, Gov. Schwarzenegger recently signed legislation that makes it illegal for teens under 19 to use any electronic device — from cell phones to laptops — while driving.
   In a separate accident that occurred on Sierra Drive on Saturday, Sept. 15 (“Two injured in Highway 198 accidents,” Sept. 21, 2007), a 20-year-old female motorist said she couldn’t avoid rear-ending another vehicle because she wasn’t able to stop in time. That mishap occurred near Three Rivers School and admittedly there are lots of things to distract the unsuspecting motorist.
    Shortly after that accident, the youthful driver told a bystander that she knew she was going 50 m.p.h. because that’s where the cruise control had been set.
   Cruise control is certainly not appropriate while driving through Three Rivers and young drivers need to be informed of this if they can’t figure it out for themselves. Too many twists and left-hand turns, pedestrians, wildlife, and scenic distractions.

SEPTEMBER 28 , 2007


Feeding bears -

A tale of death and destruction

  A bear not yet two years old died by the hand of man last week. The youngster approached a hiker and got a bit too aggressive when he tried to shoo her away.
   This behavior is unusual. Normally, a bear would be fearful of humans and rather avoid a person than approach one.
In fact, a black bear has never killed anyone in California. Not so true the other way around, is it?
   Most likely, this underweight yearling was looking for a food handout, which means she had one before. After all, she more closely resembled a teddy bear than a wild animal, and oblivious park visitors would think they were helping her by providing food.
   Also, by giving her food meant she would stay put long enough for some really cute photo opportunities, something that wildlife is usually reluctant to do. Good thing there are pictures because now she’s dead.
   A bear that loses its fear of humans inevitably receives a death sentence by park managers. That’s the last thing they would choose to do, but once a bear gets a taste of human food, there is little else that can be done; relocating her into other bears’ territory also means certain death.
   Whether a resident of a community in the wildland interface or a visitor to the bears’ mountain habitat, it is important that everyone understands that they should never, ever feed any wild animal. By following a few obvious rules and exerting a little extra effort, bears and humans can coexist peacefully.
   In the October issue of Backpacker magazine (California edition), an article entitled “The World’s Smartest Bears,” describes to what lengths rangers in Yosemite National Park will go to keep bears from obtaining human food. On a smaller, less-congested scale, Sequoia-Kings Canyon institutes the same practices.
   The story isn’t about a bear problem, actually. It comes down to a people problem.
   Bears are in their natural habitat, but they couldn’t avoid the temptation of our food if they tried. In addition to clueless campers who don’t store their food properly, there is trash, litter, restaurant refuse, and backcountry travelers with really big packs.
David Graber, senior science advisor at Sequoia-Kings Canyon, was interviewed for the article:

  “I’ve only invented one thing in my life: the bearproof food lockers,” says David Graber, an NPS biologist who’s worked with bears since 1974. Back then, White Wolf Campground [Yosemite] was plagued by bears. “So we had steel boxes welded up, and the local ranger was almost fascist in forcing people to keep food stored except when it was in their mouths,” he says. Overnight, White Wolf went from food chaos to zero. “For a week those bears went through the campground, pounding on lockers, literally roaring,” says Graber. “Then they disappeared. There was nothing to eat; they had to bail.”
   The article is a virtual encyclopedia on bear habits and activity. It also reveals how exceptionally intelligent bears are; after all, despite all the warnings to, and constant education of, park visitors, they are still ending up with our food.

  “The most foolish stuff we see is when people in the wilderness sleep with their food,” says Harold Werner, a wildlife ecologist for Sequoia-Kings Canyon since 1969. “We average about two injuries a year, and the top cause is people sleeping next to their food…”
   In response to the recent capture and euthanization of the young bear in Kings Canyon, Harold revealed that it felt like a personal failure. It always crosses his mind that maybe he wasn’t there enough, or maybe he didn’t give up enough days off, in order to ensure this situation was avoided.
   As it is now, bear managers make sure every Sequoia-Kings Canyon campground is patrolled well into the night. They check that campers have properly stored their food while harassing any bear that enters the perimeter.
   And food that’s stored in a vehicle is as good as gone.
   Unfortunately, bears can open them like a pop-top. In Yosemite Valley, there’s a standard break-in pattern. Bears pound out a side window, grab the top of the window frame, and fold out the door’s top half like origami. If food’s in the trunk, no problem; they just power-mulch their way through the back seat.
   One sophisticated bruin took larceny to the next level, learning to open car-door handles with his mouth. “People kept saying they found their car wide open, but nothing was stolen,” says Rachel Mazur, a [wildlife] biologist in [Sequoia and] Kings Canyon (and Yosemite alumnus). “He was going after cars that didn’t have any food because it was so easy, he just checked them all.”

   How many times, how many ways does it need to be said? DON’T FEED THE BEARS!

JUNE 15, 2007


Beat the heat


  Growing up in Three Rivers, I have, over the years, developed several strategies to surviving the hottest days. With this week seeing the first triple-digit days of the year, here are some survival tips; I invite others to share theirs as well.
   I learned long ago to start the day early… well before sunup. Easing into the heat makes it more bearable and summer mornings in Three Rivers are spectacular.
   The morning is a good time to do anything that is heat-generating: from exercising to firing up the oven.
   We are lucky, of course, to live in an area surrounded by water. During the hottest part of the day the body temperature is instantly cooled by dipping into the river, lake, or a pool. Stay wet!
   It’s also enjoyable to end the day outdoors. After dark, when the house is still hot or filled with canned air-conditioning, it is cool outside.
   Another trick is head for the high country. My ancestors did it for an entire summer. These days, we can hop in our cars (or on a shuttle), be at 7,000 feet in an hour or so, spend an afternoon in the cool of the mountains, and be back home by dinner if necessary.
   Breakfast during the summer consists of a smoothie: blend together nonfat yogurt, juice, banana and other fruits (strawberries, blueberries, peaches, apricots, pineapple, etc.), and crushed ice; no other sweetener is necessary. I also add flaxseed oil (Omega-3), psyllium husks (fiber), and protein powder for a balanced meal that is so icy cold that I often have to wear a sweater to drink it.
   For dinner, avoid the oven. Try a salad as a meal by getting an oversized bowl and adding mixed greens and other favorite veggies (carrot, cucumber, edamame, tomato, mushroom, peas, onion, etc.). Top with protein such as whole wheat pasta and beans or brown rice and beans or tabouli or eggs or shrimp or sliced deli meat or cheese or any leftover in the fridge. One of my morning chores is to bake tofu that I’ve marinated. It’s a great salad topper and another good source of protein, which helps you feel full. Add a tablespoon or two or your favorite dressing and you’ve got an amazing dinner that won’t heat up the house or you.

JUNE 8, 2007


Bound for Capitol Hill


  Mark your calendars… there will be no Commonwealth on Friday, June 22.
   We will be accompanying our son, 16, to Washington, D.C., as he was selected last September to be one of 150 delegates to lobby Congress for increased funding for Type 1 diabetes research and remind the administration of the critical need to find a cure for this disease.
   These children and teenagers, ages four to 17, will be representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia on behalf of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. They will team with six international delegates from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Israel, Greece, and the United Kingdom to convey the message to the U.S. government that Type 1 diabetes is a global problem that requires a global solution.
   The event known as Children’s Congress has been held every other summer since 1999. It will be led by JDRF’s International Chairman Mary Tyler Moore and include congressional meetings for the delegates and a congressional hearing where Moore, select delegates, researchers, a professional athlete, and business and community leaders will testify on the need for continued funding for research of diabetes and its serious complications. The group, under the theme of “Promise to Remember Me,” will ask members of Congress to support an increase in federal funding for diabetes research, as well as discuss issues such as stem cell research and institutional problems with the healthcare system.
   Thank you to all our readers for your understanding as we take the week to support the important cause of raising national awareness about Type 1 diabetes.

maY 25, 2007


The cost of war


  It is hard to get through a Memorial Day in recent years without remembering that this country is currently fighting two wars.
   So far in 2007, 64 young men and women from California or stationed here have been killed in the Iraq war. We’ve listed them all in this newspaper.

  Since the last Memorial Day, over 1,000 troops have died.
   In total, 3,395 American troops have perished in Iraq (as of Friday, May 18) and 324 have died in and around Afghanistan (as of May 16). The following are the most recent California residents killed in Iraq and Afghanistan as announced by the governor’s office:
   U.S. Marine Corporal Charles O. Palmer II, 36, of Manteca, died Saturday, May 5, as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
   U.S. Army Private First Class William A. Farrar Jr., 20, of Redlands, died Friday, May 11, as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Al Iskandariyah, Iraq.
   U.S. Army Specialist Rhys W. Klasno, 20, of Riverside, died Sunday, May 13, as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Haditha, Iraq.
   U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Joshua R. Whitaker, 23, of Long Beach, died Tuesday, May 15, as a result of injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire in Qalat, Afghanistan.
   U.S. Army Sergeant Steven M. Packer, 23, of Clovis, died Thursday, May 17, as a result of wounds suffered when his dismounted patrol encountered an improvised explosive device in Rushdi Mullah, Iraq.
   U.S. Private First Class Victor M. Fontanilla, 23, of Stockton, died Thursday, May 17, as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Iskandariya, Iraq.
   U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Christopher Moore, 28, of Alpaugh, died Saturday, May 19, as a result of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle in Baghdad, Iraq.
   The human toll is steep. So is the economic toll as the cost in dollars is approaching $500 trillion, enough to provide 400 million children with health insurance.
   Take time this Memorial Day to remember our soldiers, past and present, who have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our country.

maY 18, 2007


What's BEST this year?



Now ongoing...

PARTICIPATE: Get your ballot here (PDF)



  Living in Kaweah Country is a never-ending process of exploration and discovery. Whether it’s peering into the nooks and crannies of a Sierra Drive gift shop, taking an evening walk along a riverside road, or touring the nearby national parks, chances are something new and exciting will be encountered.
   We want you to share your findings so others may get excited about this astounding place, whether a resident who may be looking for a change in routine or a visitor planning a vacation.
Inserted in this issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth is the current Best of Kaweah Country readers’ poll ballot.
   We have two reasons for the poll. One is really an ulterior motive.
   Sometime after beginning publication of this newspaper in early 1995, we realized we needed a vacation! In addition, our children were very young and we owed them some quality family time.
   We work twice as hard to prepare this issue in advance because we are concurrently working on others, but it buys us one week without a deadline.
   As of this issue, we have published 41 newspapers in 41 weeks. It’s a grueling, frenzied pace, and our creativity and motivation are only renewed with a little time off.
   But more importantly, the Best of Kaweah Country, which is now in its ninth year, provides an indispensable, year-round source of visitor information.
   This year, after nearly a decade, we pared down the poll a bit. Gone are the nonsensical categories such as Best Public Restroom and Best Health Food Store, which were included basically to make a point that there is a need.
   Last year, we had more Three Rivers residents than visitors complete the poll. That was the first year this has occurred and it made for the best Best of Kaweah Country yet.
   Just like the restaurant with the most cars in the lot is a good indicator of where to eat when traveling, so are the recommendations of readers in a local newspaper’s poll when researching a destination.
   And the poll serves an immediate purpose as well. In addition to the obvious publicity and promotion of what locals prefer, there are many who are waiting to discover all that Kaweah Country has to offer.
   Since our website went online in 2003, we have had inquiries annually from online visitors asking when the current year’s results would go online.
   For local businesses, this is an easy (and free) way to promote themselves. For a little effort, there’s a lot of return.
   For voters, this is your annual chance to celebrate the people and places that make Kaweah Country the absolute BEST all year-round.
   So fill out the sheet and turn it in (by Friday, June 15). Make copies for your family, friends, and customers. Or pass the assignment off to the kids; their answers are always insightful.

march 23, 2007


Spring things


by Sarah Elliott


  If we didn’t have clocks, calendars, and meteorologists on the six o’clock news, nobody in Kaweah Country would have noticed that on Tuesday — which was overcast, drizzly, and chilly — there was a subtle change in the seasons from winter to spring.
   The first day of spring varies on the calendar a bit, but the season arrives when the Earth is tilted directly over the equator. In the Northern Hemisphere that is usually somewhere on or around March 21.
   The first day of spring is also referred to as the vernal equinox. Vernal means spring; equinox means equal.
   On this day, at every place on Earth, night and day are the same length — each about 12 hours long during an equinox. This happens twice a year, in spring and autumn.
   From now on, our days will get longer and the air warmer.
   Spring is a time of renewal as is so evident in Three Rivers.

  “Each leaf, each blade of grass vies for attention. Even weeds carry tiny blossoms to astonish us,” writes Marianne Poloskey in Sunday in Spring.
   In the past, when life was less mechanized, Mother Nature was in total control. The changing of the seasons at the equinoxes was widely interpreted as markers to begin planting seed or harvesting crops.
   The two weeks before and after both equinoxes are said to be times of great tension. This is because all the elements of life on the planet are being brought into new balance, psychically, as day and night attain equal length.
   Spring Break, spring cleaning, spring clothes, spring planting, spring weddings… We spring to life when spring rolls around.

march 16, 2007


Take time


by Sarah Elliott


  It is interesting that the nation Marched their clocks forward one hour and the whole Daylight Saving Time concept took a giant Spring forward by four weeks, no questions asked.
   Time is so important to us these days. It’s obvious because there are clocks everywhere — on computer screens, kitchen appliances, cell phones — everywhere.
   But if time is such a priority, why can it just be moved around at a lawmaker’s whim? Congress is the boss of our clocks.
   The federal government says that the time change is to save energy. The general population is refusing to realize that it’s time to do what’s responsible by turning off the lights and conserving.
   Native Americans didn’t wear wristwatches. Day-to-day, they watched the sun and the moon to plan their activities.
   Season-to-season, they watched the weather, the wildlife, and the vegetation to tell them what they should be doing and when. They arose at daybreak and slept when it was dark.
   An alarm clock in the morning is the rudest timepiece around. But clock-watching is most prevalent when on the job because nobody wants to miss a minute of lunch or heading out right at quitting time.
   Our roadways would be safer if we weren’t tuned into the clock, because most people would no longer feel the desperate need for speed.
   We have to get to the bank before it closes, the doctor on time, class before it starts, the post office before the mail goes out, and start dinner because the clock says it’s time.
   We have a certain time that the newspaper has to be completed each week. That can cause some clock-watching fits, like right now!

mMARCH 9, 2007


To write a wrong


by Sarah Elliott



  I just wanna write. That's why I agreed to this challenging profession. That's why I started this column last month.

  I want to write, it's one of my favorite things to do, but it's so hard to find the time. The day-to-day business of the newspaper — subscriptions, billing, and other paperwork — exhausts my mind and drains all creative juices.

  So features like Hiking the Parks and Roadside Attractions, which I always intended to turn into books, have taken a leave of absence recently.

  Then I thought, okay, I'll take one column, right here, each week. I certainly should be able to find the time to fill eight measly inches.

  It's a lot harder than it sounds, even though I've got a long list of subjects on a sticky note on my computer that I want to tackle. So here it is, Thursday morning, 9 a.m., with a deadline looming, that I stare at this column and actually consider not writing because I don't have time.

  Each week, I first have to see to the Snapshots and Letters to the Editor page, then complete the Kaweah Kalendar and type up the Neighbor Profile. There is the Classifieds page, which can take up a couple hours easy, and by then, all the other pages are staring blankly at me, so I rewrite press releases, organize and convert copy, add photographs, followed by making it all magically fit like a puzzle around the ads and looking pretty .

  Then there's the unexpected or unavoidable, such as a Tuesday with no electricity. Yikes!

  Then, all of a sudden, another week has passed me by and, once again, I didn't get to write.
MARCH 2 , 2007


Dedicated Californians


by Sarah Elliott


    Here is a list of a couple dozen California residents. Besides the state in which they reside and being in the prime of their lives, try to guess what else they have in common.
   Mark J. Daily, married for 18 months; Jeffrey D. Bisson, Eagle Scout and skydiver; Andrew G. Matus, avid hunter, fisherman, and weightlifter who loves all things mechanical; Emilian D. Sanchez, raised in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M.; Brian S. Freeman, Olympic hopeful; Michael C. Balsley, newlywed; Carla J. Stewart, ballerina; Cornell C. Chao, a golfer, pilot, and engaged to be married; Anthony C. Melia, 2005 graduate of Thousand Oaks High School; David T. Toomalatai, high school football star; Adam Q. Emul, recent high school grad; Alejandro Carrillo, determined not to die on the streets of L.A.; William M. Sigua, nicknamed “Will the Thrill”; Keith Yoakum, passionate about flying; Jared M. Landaker, skier and snowboarder; Clarence T. Spencer, quarterback of his high school football team; Jennifer J. Harris, ranked fifth in her high school class; Travis D. Pfister, worked for months to create the perfect recipe for barbecue ribs; James R. Tijerina, his dad is his best friend; Dennis L. Sellen Jr., studied media design and computer networking in college; Carl L. Seigart, native of San Luis Obispo; Ronnie G. Madore Jr.; Blake H. Howey; Brian A. Escalante; Clinton W. Ahlquist; and Louis G. Kim.
   So what does this group of diverse individuals have in common besides the state in which they reside? They were all killed in Iraq in just the first two months of this year.
   These 26 men and women, ages 19 to 41, are the bravest of the brave and American patriots. They are heroes who gave their all for their country.
   They are more than just a number or a list of names and ages. They are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, boyfriends and girlfriends, grandchildren, friends, loved ones.
They were our future...
   Army Second Lieutenant Mark Daily, 23, a lifelong resident of Irvine, died January 15 after three months in Iraq as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Mosul, Iraq.
   Army Specialist Jeffrey Bisson, 22, of Vista died January 20 as a result of injuries sustained when an IED detonated near his Humvee in Karma, Iraq.
   Marine Lance Corporal Andrew Matus, 19, and Marine Lance Corporal Emilian Sanchez, 20, were based at Camp Pendleton and died January 21 as a result of wounds received while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
   Army Captain Brian Freeman, 31, of Temecula died January 20 as a result of wounds received when his meeting area came under attack by mortar and small arms fire in Karbala, Iraq.
   Army Private First Class Michael Balsley, 23, of Hayward died January 25 as a result of injuries sustained when an IED detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq.
   Army Reserve Specialist Carla Stewart, 37, of Sun Valley died January 28 as a result of injuries suffered when her convoy vehicle rolled over in Tallil, Iraq.
   Army Chief Warrant Officer Cornell Chao, 36, a pilot from Orange City, died January 28 as a result of wounds suffered when his helicopter crashed during combat operations in Najaf, Iraq.
   Marine Lance Corporal Anthony C. Melia, 20, of Thousand Oaks died January 27 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
   Army Private First Class David Toomalatai, 19, of Long Beach died January 27 as a result of injuries sustained when an IED detonated in Taji, Iraq, near the ambulance in which he riding as a medic attending to wounded.
   Marine Lance Corporal Adam Emul, 19, died January 29 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
   Marine Sergeant Alejandro Carrillo, 22, of Los Angeles died January 30 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
   Army Sergeant William Sigua, 21, a paratrooper from Los Altos Hills, died January 31 as a result of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with the enemy using small arms fire during combat operations in Bayji, Iraq.
   Army Chief Warrant Officer Keith Yoakum, 41, a pilot from Hemet, died February 2 as a result of injuries sustained when his Apache helicopter was forced to land during combat operations in Taji, Iraq.
   Marine First Lieutenant Jared Landaker, 25, a pilot from Big Bear City, died February 7 as a result of injuries sustained when the helicopter he in which he was flying crashed while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
   Army Private Clarence Spencer, 24, of San Diego died February 4 as a result of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with the enemy using small arms fire in Baqubah, Iraq.
   Marine Captain Jennifer Harris, 28; Marine Sergeant Travis Pfister, 27; and Marine Sergeant James Tijerina, 26; all based at Camp Pendleton, died February 7 as a result of injuries sustained when the helicopter in which they were flying crashed while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
   Army Specialist Dennis Sellen Jr., 20, of Newhall died February 11 in Umm Qasr, Iraq, as a result of non-combat injuries.
   Army Sergeant Carl Seigart, 32, of San Luis Obispo died February 14 as a result of injuries sustained when an IED detonated hear his vehicle in Baqubah, Iraq.
   Army Specialist Ronnie Madore Jr., 34, of San Diego died February 14 as a result of injuries sustained when an IED detonated hear his vehicle in Baqubah, Iraq.
   Marine Lance Corporal Blake H. Howey, 20, of Glendora died February 18 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
   Marine Lance Corporal Brian Escalante, 25, based at Twenty-nine Palms, died February 17 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
   Marine Sergeant Clinton Ahlquist, 23, based at Camp Pendleton, died February 20 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.
   Army Specialist Louis G. Kim, 19, of West Covina died February 20 as a result of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire in Ramadi, Iraq.
   At nearly 3,200 U.S. deaths in four years of fighting in Iraq (in contrast, there have been 300 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan in five years), there is a gaping hole left in a generation that could have used the ingenuity, courage, inspiration, mettle, and intelligence these individuals would have contributed.
   Now they will be only memories etched on tombstones.
   I love the warriors, hate the war. The cost is too high.

FEBRUARY 23, 2007


Shop with a conscience


by Sarah Elliott


  Global warming is a hot-button issue. Just read the letters to the editor on page 2 in this issue and in every issue for the past two months.

  Although there is debate whether the entire planet is heating up to life-threatening levels or not, there can't possibly be any debate that automobiles contribute to unhealthy air quality.

  To that end, it is imperative the automakers act responsibly by taking steps to combat carbon dioxide pollution emitted by cars and trucks by reinventing the wheel and other parts of vehicles to reduce emissions. Car dealers have a part to pl ay in this effort as well .

  In 2002, California's Global Warming Standard for Vehicles was signed into law. This legislations directs the California Air Resources Board to adopt regulations that require carmakers to reduce global-warming emissions from new passenger cars and light trucks by about 30 percent by 2016.

  In December 2004, all of the major automakers and 13 Central Valley auto dealers filed suit against the people of California to overturn this law. Amidst public pressure, three auto dealers have since dropped out of the lawsuit.

  These businesses, who view their bottom line as more important than clean, healthy air should not receive any car-buyer's business so they realize that consumers, at least, have their priorities in order. Here are the names of three local dealers who are a party in a lawsuit that is fighting the mandatory reduction of pollution:

  Bob Williams Chevrolet in Lemoore, Sturgeon and Beck in Tulare, and Swanson Fahrney Ford in Selma.

FEBRUARY 16 , 2007


News crews and blues


by Sarah Elliott


  Last week was a challenging one in terms of providing Three Rivers and our subscribers with the weekly newspaper. In fact, it came close to not happening.
   We operate with a skeleton crew here at TKC. One person takes care of their specific job duties and there is little time left to learn, let alone do, anyone else’s job.
   This has worked fine for the past several years, and we actually have settled into some semblance of routine, where the newspaper is cranked out week after week after week after week for nigh on 600 issues now.
   Concurrently, however, publishing technology has changed by leaps and bounds, and it’s difficult to keep pace. At the same time, when the large dailies are threatened by everything from 24-hour cable news networks to bloggers, community newspapers have found their niche by providing information to their readers that can’t be found anywhere else.
   Last week, our not-so-finely-tuned, not-so-well-oiled machine hit a bump in the road. Many of you know Nancy Brunson; she has worked for us for more than a decade as well as many other businesses and nonprofits around town.
   She was very ill last week and by the time she dragged herself into the office, it was mid-morning on Thursday, mere hours before deadline. She realized she was too sick to work and soon was driven home.
   A medical examination later that day determined her diagnosis to be a ruptured eardrum. Within three days, she was in the hospital with tests being run for meningitis.
   Meanwhile, back at the office that Thursday, there was a newspaper awaiting publication. My job throughout the week — which I perform from my home office because I do double-duty as a full-time mom — is to complete the Snapshots, Letters to the Editor, Classifieds, and Kaweah Kalendar, then input and lay out all pages with additional copy and photographs. This was completed about 1 p.m.
   At this time each week, I normally take a deep breath and relax for an hour or two before beginning on subscription preparations. Last week, I checked in at the office and heard, “We need you in here right away”
   I had already been working nine hours by the time most people take their lunch breaks. What was still to be done at the office is what Nancy completes for us each week — last-minute ad changes, compiling the ads onto their respective pages, merging the ads with the copy on each page, and packaging it all to be electronically sent to the printer.
   Sounds simple enough, right? This is where importance of keeping pace with technology caught up with me.
   Nancy insists on working with certain software for the advertisements. I work with an entirely different program for the page design and layout.
   These two programs are so incompatible that they can’t even be installed on the same computer without causing glitches. So, each week, the ads and copy are merged into a completely different program before being converted into a format for the printer to read.
   I had only been instructed in the process once previously about two years ago. So it was at 10 p.m., after an 18-hour workday, that I completed these tasks on a wing and a prayer.
   Working under such duress, I had to put aside some of my perfectionist ways and just let some things go, such as the page heading on the Kaweah Network page; it still read February 2. In addition, Sequoia Pacific Realty took a hit because their logo didn’t make it through the final step of the conversion process.
   About 4 a.m. Friday morning, a phone call from the printer had me up and running once again with completion of the newspaper once again in jeopardy.
   One page had not arrived. Gridlines were appearing on three pages. Elements had disappeared from certain ads.
   Into the night I went, back to the office to add, delete, resave, reprint, rearrange, and resend. By 9 a.m., the pages were all at the printer and in an acceptable enough form to be put onto the press.
   This week wasn’t much different except that we had more notice that we would be shorthanded.
   Enough of the newspaper staff’s problems. Nancy’s problems are greater.
   She was hospitalized for several days, but by the time you read this article, she should be home. Because her jobs are all freelance, if she’s not working, she doesn’t get paid.
   An account has been set up in her name at the Valley Oak Credit Union to accept donations to help offset living expenses and what are sure to be some astronomical medical bills.
   And, finally, the February 9 issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth would not have hit stands and mailboxes at all had it not been for the incredible team effort by the following people:
   KATHY CASEY— She’s worked at the Commonwealth for less than six months, but she worked late into Wednesday night, arrived early Thursday morning, and stayed till dinnertime that day to create ads and make ad changes. She was calm and steady as a rock.
   About 5 p.m. that Thursday, I ran into a problem in converting the pages from one format to another. I thought I had hit the ultimate roadblock and was ready to finally admit that the newspaper was not going to be printed.
   I explained the problem to Kathy, who made a simple suggestion in her rational way and, poof, the paper was back on track toward completion. It wouldn’t have happened without Kathy.
   DEBORAH JENSEN— She offered to make the 4 a.m. run to Sanger on Friday to pick up the newspaper from the printer and deliver it to Three Rivers. She ended up waiting in the pressroom for three hours because of the kinks being worked out back in Three Rivers. But it was Deborah who reported back to us the efforts of the pressroom manager, as well as transporting the newspaper back to town safe and sound.
   STEVE PERRY— This is Kathy’s life partner who supports her unconditionally and, because she now works at the newspaper office, that support carries over to us as well.
   MO BASHAM— Every Friday morning, she delivers a stack of newspapers to park headquarters at Ash Mountain. Because the newspaper was late last week, she came down on her lunch hour, picked up papers plus made a couple of extra distribution stops for us on the way back up the hill.
   MIKE HUERTA— He is the pressroom manager at Mid-Valley Publishing in Sanger. Week after week, he and his staff take the Three Rivers newspaper from computer screen to negative to printing press to final product. Last week, he went above and beyond by allowing us three missed deadlines but still printed the paper so it could be distributed Friday. The man has the patience of a saint.
   SUBSCRIBERS AND ADVERTISERS— Week in, week out, we couldn’t do it without the support of these folks who believe in our product, trust us to get the news out, and read it religiously. It’s what keeps us going no matter how tough that going may get.



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
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
© Copyright 2003-2009 The Kaweah Commonwealth