IT LIKE IT IS:
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.
Talent just seeps out of this very spry and
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.
Very low-key and he seemed surprised at the
uproar he caused by appearing in person.
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.”
The definition of grace, health, and beauty.
She was genuinely surprised when so many members
of the public were clamoring for her autograph.
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
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!
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
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
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
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
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.
IT LIKE IT IS:
mountain of change
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
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
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
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
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.
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
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.
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)
yes, but what a wonderful world this would be.
IT LIKE IT IS:
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.
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
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
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
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
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
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
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.
21 , 2008
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
There are several negative effects
of light pollution:
Light that is shining up and into the night
is light that shines into the eyes of drivers,
walkers, or bike riders.
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
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
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
21 , 2008
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
* * *
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
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
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
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.
IT LIKE IT IS:
Give 'em a brake
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
—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.
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.
18 , 2008
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
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
The kayakers were on the Middle Fork at the Pumpkin Hollow
“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
Not according to Bill Pooley, who looks at river levels on
a daily — okay, hourly — basis from the perspective of a kayak
“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
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.
30 , 2007
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
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.
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
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
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
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
(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.
IT LIKE IT IS:
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,
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
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,
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
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
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.
28 , 2007
IT LIKE IT IS:
Feeding bears -
A tale of death and
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
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:
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
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!
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
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
IT LIKE IT IS:
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.
IT LIKE IT IS:
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,
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,
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
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,
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,
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.
IT LIKE IT IS:
What's BEST this year?
COUNTRY READERS' POLL 2007
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
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
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
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.
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
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.
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
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!
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
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
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
Then, all of a sudden, another
week has passed me by and, once again, I didn't get to write.
2 , 2007
IT LIKE IT IS:
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
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
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.
IT LIKE IT IS:
with a conscience
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
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.
16 , 2007
IT LIKE IT IS:
crews and blues
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
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
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
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.