DECEMBER 17, 2004
in Three Rivers:
The two young children
squirmed impatiently in the backseat. The girl and her younger brother
had been in the car for four long hours and although it was now dark,
they could sense they were nearing their destination.
It was Christmas Eve and the car was filled with presents.
As if that wasn’t enough, they had grandparents, aunts, uncles,
and a houseful of cousins anxiously awaiting their arrival.
The anticipation was almost too much to bear, and the young
girl strained to see over the front seat.
Grandpa’s Bridge!” she shouted gleefully.
The car had crested the top of a hill in the little town
of Three Rivers and begun its descent. In the distance, a bridge spanned
the river, outlined in the darkness by hundreds of lights strung along
high posts decorated with streaming garland.
A few seconds later, the little girl announced the next landmark.
Santa in the tow truck!” she announced.
To the right of the highway, a tow truck was outlined with
colorful lights, from top to tires. Leaning out the window waved Santa
himself and hanging from the hook at the back of the truck was his giant
sack of toys.
The car turned onto North Fork Drive and crossed “Grandpa’s
Bridge.” Within a minute, the family turned into the kids’
grandparents’ driveway and pulled up to the house that was outlined
with Christmas lights and had a giant lighted star on the roof.
The kids were enveloped in hugs and kisses as they walked
in the house, but they never failed to keep one curious eye on the treasures
wrapped so colorfully that were stacked underneath the Christmas tree.
But the journey didn’t end here on this magical night.
The family was soon back in the car and, after crossing back over Grandpa’s
Bridge, continued up-canyon, while the little girl continued to announce
her favorite sights.
the star on the hill!” she cried. “And, look, the big, orange
The star glowed white from its perch above the flume overlooking
Kaweah River Drive and the entire Middle Fork canyon. The tree of lights
shone from the home of Bill and Elaine Hart in the upper reaches of Skyline
Drive, her mom explained.
And the journey continued. At the entrance station to Sequoia
National Park, all Dad said was, “We’re going to the Buchholz’s”
and the family was waved through with a “Merry Christmas!”
as if they were royalty.
The family parked outside the house, which was an elegant
sight, outlined with all white lights. Through the window on the front
porch, the kids peered into the living room where there was the quintessential
holiday scene. The decorated room was crowded with people sipping drinks
and nibbling food while chatting and laughing. Beyond them, was the Christmas
Oh, it was beautiful, as it was every year. It was so tall
that it touched the ceiling and was decorated with ornaments of clear
glass, which glistened and sparkled as they reflected the candles on the
tips of the branches and the hundreds of tiny white lights blanketing
The family entered the room and was greeted warmly by all.
While the girl and her brother were surrounded by cousins, most of the
people were saying their Christmas wishes and leaving. Remaining were
20 or so family members that then continued with their Christmas traditions,
as they had for many years.
* * *
The little girl in this story was me. And these are the Christmases
of my childhood.
They were nearly the same every year. But from this I’ve
learned that traditions that continue year after year after year are so
comforting to a child.
To me, Christmas in Three Rivers is Christmas. It’s
the place and it’s the people and their traditions.
Some Three Rivers traditions remain to this day, four decades
The lights on “Grandpa’s” North Fork Bridge
are no longer there because, I heard later, they began to be vandalized.
Tow Truck Santa continues to wave to passersby as he has
my entire life. But this year, the twinkle in his eye is replaced by a
giant tear as the community mourns with the O’Connell family.
The giant star that was on my grandparents’ home has
been handed to another generation as it is now on our roof. You can see
it while on North Fork Bridge; just look straight up the hill.
Edison still has the star on the hill. The Harts are still on Skyline,
but their tree no longer shines.
And my aunt, Irma Buchholz, the park superintendent’s
secretary for most of the 20th century, has long since passed on, but
from what I hear from some Park Service old-timers, her Christmas Eve
parties, which were held every year for decades, were legendary. At her
home across from the Ash Mountain visitor center, the entire park staff
would celebrate into the night and as they left, the family celebration
would begin and continue well into the early morning hours of Christmas
Now I can look forward to the days when I have grandchildren
in the backseat of their parents car that writhe and wriggle and drive
their parents mad as they see who will be the first one to see Grandpa’s,
I mean, Grandma’s Bridge.
Yes, traditions evolve even as they stay the same.
MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours.
Some people go quietly
about their lives, always giving, never asking in return.
Shirley O’Connell was such a person. She and her husband,
Pat, have contributed so much to what Three Rivers is today that it’s
unfathomable to even consider what this community would be like if the
O’Connells had not decided to move here in 1964.
What is absolutely shocking is that I don’t think that
most people in the community even knew all that Shirley O’Connell
did in her 40 years in Three Rivers until her son, Jay, gave his poignant,
revealing eulogy on Monday.
Shirley once related to me the story of the men in her life
— all men, only men. As long as I’m recalling this correctly,
it went like this…
Her mother died when Shirley was young and since she was
the eldest, she took over the cooking and cleaning while caring for her
father and brothers. She married Pat and had two sons.
She was thrilled as son Jay met and married Susie. Finally,
after all these years, another woman in the family!
And Jay and Susie, as might be predicted, gave Shirley two
grandsons. Shirley always realized that she was meant to have all these
men to care for her entire life.
She absolutely thrived on caring for them and loving them.
And, come to find out, her nurturing didn’t stop there.
it this way,” Jay told mourners at Shirley’s mass this week.
“We often had unexpected guests at our house. My dad would tow people
in and they would simply have nowhere else to go.
“Many, many times,
my mother would stretch the dinner-for-four she was preparing to feed
were tourists from different parts of the world, but the language barrier
was quickly overcome by my mother’s unhesitant hospitality.”
I lived the first 10 years of my life in Santa Monica, but
had family members on both my mom’s and dad’s sides who were
longtime Three Rivers residents. My best friend’s parents in Santa
Monica had their own Three Rivers story that had happened before we even
It was 1965 and they were on their way to Sequoia National
Park with their three young daughters. It was late summer and, as usual,
very hot in Three Rivers when their car broke down.
They were cared for by, of course, the O’Connell family.
As I had a reunion with this family about 10 years ago, they once again
told this story of goodwill that had occurred 30 years before.
They had never forgotten the hospitality they had received.
And, to them, the O’Connells and Three Rivers were synonymous.
We can all learn a lot from Shirley and her simple, yet rich
life. The phrase “Pay it forward” comes to mind.
“I can even remember
on more than one Christmas Day,” Jay continued, “strangers
sharing the holiday dinner with us. They would be reluctant at first;
you could tell they were uncomfortable and felt they were imposing on
us, but what better example of the holiday spirit. These Christmas dinners,
in a way, echoed the original Christmas story.”
If we all continue Shirley O’Connell’s legacy,
Three Rivers and the entire world would be a better place and there truly
would be PEACE ON EARTH.
DECEMBER 3, 2004
alive after 500
not apply. But anyone with this personality quirk will see the habit quickly
dissipate after time on this job.
All of our news and feature stories are done under deadline
pressure. The most annoying aspect of this is that it isn’t always
possible to hone and polish our writing.
When Ernest Hemingway was asked why he had rewritten the
final chapter of A Farewell to Arms 44 times, he answered, “To get
the words right.” Ah, the luxury of second thought.
Granted, we’re a few fathoms below Hemingway’s
level, but even so, each week, the newspaper is proofread twice, at the
very least. However, a corollary to Murphy’s Law ensures that mistakes
that are not seen during editing immediately become glaring beacons as
soon as 3,000 copies are in print.
In many newspapers, time limitations are invoked as an excuse
for carelessness. Causing the pressure of the job to be much more intense
but ensuring that The Kaweah Commonwealth will always adhere to our standard
of excellence, we have not allowed the looming deadlines to create poor
John and I have adjusted our techniques to these rush hours
without turning slipshod. But errors have slipped through our fine screening
and for this we bear sole responsibility.
We’ve learned that words can be the best of friends
or the worst of enemies. Sticks and stones can break our bones and words
can really cause a lot of sleepless nights.
We never forget that the first duty of language is to communicate.
Some readers have no doubt found certain judgments of ours open to question
— too dogmatic, too lenient, too pompous, too pedantic, too plain,
or altogether wrong.
In addition to unforgiving deadlines, other drains on enlivened
writing are the practical matters of running a small business. The drudgery
of paperwork and red tape are parasites on creativity.
John and I realize that the only way we have reached this
milestone of 500, a feat no other Three Rivers newspaper has accomplished,
is because of teamwork.
As in marriage it is in work. John’s strengths are
my weaknesses and visa-versa, but together this makes us whole.
We fell into our various job descriptions quite naturally
and, together, have been able to create 500 compelling, graphically-pleasing,
The responsibilities permeate our private lives and we wake
up every day thinking about what we’re going to put in the newspaper.
Even on vacations, we find that we keep the cell phone way too close and
it takes a concerted effort to pry it out of hand.
That’s why backpacking has become our diversion of
choice. For one week or so each summer, we grab the kids and escape to
a parallel world that is totally off the clock and without technological
This annual trip allows us to concentrate solely upon our
survival, and our only deadline is to have the tent set up and dinner
prepared by nightfall.
We always can think of a hundred reasons why we shouldn’t
disappear into the backcountry each year. But something that the 500 deadlines
have taught us is that the next week always rolls around.
There may be easier ways to make a living, but then again,
there’s nothing more satisfying than the art of storytelling when
even just one reader is moved by our words.
And that’s the power of writing, which is...
I’d like to finish that thought, but I’ve got
a deadline to meet.
NOVEMBER 26, 2004
Carie Dever-Boaz was raised
in Three Rivers and graduated from Three Rivers School. Sandy Owen wrote
the following that will also appear in her “Where Are They Now?”
series for the Woodlake High School Foundation newsletter.
by Sandy Owen
Carie graduated from
Woodlake High School in 1986 and received a full-ride scholarship to Fresno
State for softball. Playing pitcher and third base at Fresno State, she
was a three-time All-American, made four College World Series appearances,
and reached the championship game three of those times.
In her senior season, Carie posted a 25-6 record in the pitching
circle with 31 complete games and 155 strikeouts, while also earning the
team’s Golden Glove award at third base. She was a two-time Academic
All-American and was named the Big West Scholar Athlete of the Year in
After graduation from Fresno State, Carie signed on as a
physical education teacher at Tulare Western High School, where she was
the head volleyball and softball coach. In 1993, she left Tulare Western
for the University of South Carolina where she served as the pitching
and infield coach until 1995.
In 1995, Carie was hired as the first ever softball coach
at the University of Arkansas. In her first year, she set up the program
and recruited a team.
During the following eight seasons at Arkansas, Carie’s
teams advanced to five Southeastern Conference tournaments and made two
NCAA regional appearances. She was named SEC Coach of the Year in 1999.
Throughout her coaching career, Carie has served as a teacher
and instructor at many camps and clinics throughout the country. She has
also conducted international clinics in Holland and Canada.
Carie has written and published an instructional book —
The Art and Science of Coaching Series: Softball Pitching Fundamentals
and Techniques — and created several skills videos on softball techniques.
During her last two years in Arkansas, Carie was the coach
of her son Max’s traveling baseball team. The team ended up fourth
in the nation.
Carie broke another barrier by being the first female ever
to coach a boys’ baseball team in Arkansas. But it was while working
with Max’s team that she realized how fast he was growing up and
that within a few years he would leave for college.
This led to Carie’s decision to cut back on her speaking
tours and to change jobs.
So Carie is now the University of Florida’s (Gators)
assistant softball coach, working with Florida’s outfielders and
all aspects of offense. The University of Florida had offered Carie the
head coaching position five years earlier but, at that time, her husband
was in training at a police academy in Arkansas.
This year, the time was right. Her husband, Bruce, was able
to leave the Fayetteville Police Department to accept a job with the Alachua
County (Florida) Sheriff’s Department.
Carie says that her position as assistant coach gives her
more time to dedicate to her family.
Sandy Owen is a resident of Three Rivers and a Woodlake
High School Foundation board member.
By Sarah Elliott
The holiday greetings
are beginning. You know, it’s that one time of year when strangers
will actually greet strangers with smiles and good tidings.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we continued this tradition
* * *
There’s the basics
that everyone is able to be thankful for this season: the ability to have
hope, faith, love, and joy.
Then, as Americans, we have the added benefits of freedom,
liberty, justice, and equality.
In Three Rivers, residents can give a multitude of thanks
that they are one in a community that is always there when needed most
as well as having the good fortune of residing where millions of other
people can only spend their vacations.
More selectively, there is a privilege that some of us are
able to give thanks for while others can only dream — financial
security at the most; steady income at the least.
Also for some, but not all, there is family, friends, warmth,
health, and plentiful food.
Finally, we should wish for all to have kindness, fairness,
NOVEMBER 19, 2004
Letter from Iraq
by Martin Rafter, 2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Army
Hello from Forward Operating Base (FOB) Paliwoda, in lovely
Balad, Iraq. I have called Paliwoda home for the last six months during
my deployment to Iraq with Task Force 1-77 Armor in support of Operation
It has been a fast and wild 16-plus-month journey since I
graduated from college and received my commission as a Second Lieutenant
in the Army. This journey has taken me from West Point, N.Y., to Fort
Knox, Ky., to Schweinfurt, Germany (headquarters for 1-77 Armor, and to
where I will be returning when my deployment is complete), to Kuwait,
and now here to central Iraq, with various other trips around the world
It is somewhat ironic, and something that I never gave any
thought to until my father brought it up during one of our phone conversations,
that during his commencement speech at my college graduation on May 31,
2003, Vice President Dick Cheney noted that within 12 months the vast
majority of the over 900 cadets graduating that day would be deployed
in a combat zone. I arrived in Iraq on May 13, 2004, so I guess, in my
case, his words could not have been more true.
Balad is located along the Tigris River, about 50 miles north
of Baghdad and in the region known as the “Sunni Triangle.”
Balad is a city of about 60,000 people, and I say “city” because
it fits the description of what we would think of a city being —
in a Third World country — with a downtown full of shops and market
places and various other amenities.
What makes Balad unique in our region is that the residents
of Balad are almost all Shia, while the residents of the outlying villages
and towns are nearly all Sunni. Balad is located at the crossroads of
the major highways connecting Fallujah and Samarra to Baghdad.
Fortunately for us, the area is not as hostile as cities
like Fallujah, Samarra, Baghdad, and Baqouba. We haven’t had any
of the major shootouts that you see on television like they do in these
Our primary concerns are the frequent Improvised Explosive
Devices (IEDs) that are a constant danger on Highway One (the major four-lane
interstate from the Kuwait border all the way north to Mosul that runs
through the center of our sector) and the mortars and rockets that pound
Paliwoda on a regular basis.
Paliwoda is the size of a postage stamp, so when we receive
in-coming we know it no matter where on the FOB you are. However, we have
built the FOB up to the point where the mortars and rockets do minimal
damage at best when they hit buildings.
We haven’t had any major injuries from these attacks
and, hopefully, we will not have any in the future.
Iraq has been a unique experience to say the least, and nothing
like I had anticipated. I had the bad luck of being assigned to a battalion
that was way over strength on Second Lieutenants.
So instead of taking over as a tank platoon leader (a tank
platoon consists of four M1A1 Abrams Tanks and 16 soldiers), which is
what I spent four years of college and six months at the Armor Officer
Basic Course preparing to be, I was given the job of Assistant S-5. The
Task Force S-5 is the officer in charge of Civil-Military Operations.
My boss, the S-5, deals with everything in our area that
deals with the Iraqi people. He attends local city council meetings and
works with the fledgling governments in the area to establish a democratic
As his assistant, I have been assigned as the Project Development
Officer and am in charge of all of the Civil Works projects that we are
undertaking in our sector.
For a 23-year-old Lieutenant arriving in Iraq with visions
of leading soldiers into combat and fire-fights and everything else that
I had read about and for which I had studied for so long, being put in
charge of building schools and water projects and the like was a rather
difficult reality check.
But while I am still disappointed that I am not going to
have my own platoon during my time down here, my job has presented me
with many unique challenges and opportunities to really make an impact
on both my Task Force and the area of Iraq for which we are responsible.
So it has been a very rewarding and very interesting experience.
My job is simple. My boss attends the various city council
meetings (I usually go with him every other time) throughout our sector,
and the local governments provide him with packets for projects that they
want completed to improve their areas.
These projects range from new schools to fresh water treatment facilities
to health clinics to whatever. My boss gives me this packet, and then
my fun starts.
I talk to the council members to make sure we all understand
exactly what they want to build and to ensure that basic items are included
such as electricity, running water, lighting, etc.
I next talk to the contractors that the council has recommended for the
project and negotiate the price. This part is big in that the prices in
Iraq became grossly inflated following the end of the ground war in the
summer of 2003.
Following the war, the Army was doing everything it could
to stimulate local economies and rebuild an infrastructure that was ignored
for so long. Combat units that had just spent weeks under fire were in
no mood to negotiate fair prices or oversee the completion of projects
done by local Iraqi “contractors,” so prices sky-rocketed
and the quality of work completed, if it was completed at all, was substandard.
So I found it somewhat amusing and extremely frustrating
when dealing with locals who were shocked to find out I would not give
them the inordinate sums of money that they were asking.
Once the price and details are agreed upon and the money
is approved for the project through the Army (this is done at levels higher
than I can even imagine), I write up a contract, get it signed, and then
supervise the construction of the project. My American History degree
has done me practically no good through all of this as my learning has
been on the fly.
Dealing with all of these shady Iraqis who are looking to
screw the Americans at every turn has also caused me to develop an extremely
short temper. But my boss and I are both pretty exacting, demanding people,
and the Iraqis learned early on that we weren’t here to mess around,
so things have gotten better.
My boss and I have worked very hard, and our efforts have
been rewarded with an inordinate amount of money being allocated to our
Task Force. To date, we have 66 projects that we have either completed,
have underway, or for which we are currently in the process of getting
This comes out to a grand total of $6.2 million. These projects
include the construction of 11 schools, the construction of a new emergency
room for the Balad General Hospital, three new health clinics, the construction
of six water-purification units, the establishment of two local newspapers,
and a whole host of other things.
We have employed over 5,000 local Iraqi workers through these
projects, brought fresh water to over 35,000 people who have never had
fresh water, provided more than 2,500 students with first-rate schools,
and truly had a significant impact on our area. And these aren’t
random numbers either as I have been keeping track of them myself!
I can only speak for what is going on in my sector, as it
is the only part of Iraq over which I have any control. With all of this
in mind, I can tell you that it is extremely frustrating and genuinely
depressing to watch the news and read the papers and hear how they describe
what is going on down here.
I am not going to tell anyone that everything is great, because
there are obviously still problems. These Iraqis are the most frustrating
group of people I have ever met.
Their whole way of life is based on survival and taking care
of their families. Most of them feel no loyalty to their country, which
is no different than in America, I guess, and they will steal anything
that we try to give them.
Case in point: We have had trouble building schools in a
couple of villages where the people begged us to build a school for their
children. The contractors have not been able to finish their work because
the locals steal the building supplies at night.
So it can be very frustrating. For every project that we do in our area,
we have a ground-breaking ceremony to start work. Then there’s a
grand-opening ceremony to commemorate the completion.
This may sound cheesy, but the purpose is to bring out the
local people and bring attention to the work being done in the area. This
is the work of both the local governments, who are developing these projects,
and of the Coalition Forces, and we obviously want the people to understand
that we are here to help them in the hopes that they will support us.
We write up a “good news” story about the majority
of these events. We submit each one of them to the various American media
organizations here in Iraq.
To date, we have submitted 33 stories and not one of them
has been published in any way, shape, or form.
But when we have a soldier killed by an IED, this place is
all over the papers. Go figure.
At the end of the day, however, this has been an incredible
experience for me. I have learned a tremendous amount about another culture
and about myself.
I have picked up some Arabic to the point that I can talk
in bits and pieces to my interpreters and the locals in their own language.
My interpreters think it is pretty funny when I answer the phone and start
speaking in Arabic, and the person on the other end of the line thinks
I am an Iraqi.
I have been truly humbled by the love and support that I
have received from my family and friends, both in Three Rivers and throughout
the country. I have received letters and care packages from people who
I have never met, which absolutely blows my mind.
For everyone who has mentioned me in their prayer circles,
sent letters, packages, or even taken the time to ask my mom or grandma
how I am doing, I want to express my gratitude, as it means a lot to me.
I only wish I had the time to write a note back to everyone.
I have met some truly incredible people in Iraq as well.
People that have made me truly proud to be an American and proud to serve
in the United States Army.
So I have no complaints. My country has given me an opportunity
to do more in the last 5½ years than most people can ever dream
of doing. It means a lot to me to be able to be here serving her.
I hope that everyone back in Three Rivers is doing well,
and I looking forward to getting back home when our deployment is over
in a few more months and seeing everyone again. Until then take care.
GO ARMY! BEAT NAVY!
Second Lieutenant Martin Rafter was raised in Three Rivers and graduated
from Exeter High School in 1999. His parents are Martin and Eileen Rafter
of Three Rivers.
To correspond with Marty, write him at:
2LT Martin Rafter
Task Force 1-77 AR, HHC
FOB Paliwoda, OIF II
APO, AE 09392
NOVEMBER 12, 2004
looks at 54
November 8 marked a milestone
of sorts for me — my 54th birthday. That day, like any other Monday,
started another busy workweek.
I didn’t have much time to celebrate, but during the
course of the day, I couldn’t help but reflect on my life and wonder
what still might be down the road.
I use the term pirate not entirely in the sense that one
of my all-time favorite storytellers — Jimmy Buffett — would
use it, but I still feel that those of us who experienced the 1960s somewhat
plundered our way through immaturity.
Middle age? Gee, I’ve never given it much thought.
I don’t feel over the hill… and if I am in a
mid-life crisis, it’s news to me.
My health is good overall. I can still run, ride a mountain
bike down Titus Canyon in Death Valley at breakneck speeds, backpack,
split wood, climb up a slippery metal roof, and do strenuous yard work,
Even better than the physical part, I still read, write,
and think daily, but haven’t, as yet, learned when to keep quiet.
I’ve always enjoyed talking since I was a fifth-grade commentator
on a board of education talk show that was piped into Cleveland public
When I learn not to talk, I guess I’ll officially be
old and wise.
A good measure for us boomers, or any generation, is our kids. The proof
is in the product.
My dad always told me that the best and most important thing
I’ll ever do is raise kids. He also told me that when I have those
kids, I will understand what he’s going through raising me.
My kids, ages 14 and 16, definitely think I’m way old.
To young people, I’m old; to old people, I’m young.
I guess the key for me is to stay in this in-between age
as long as possible. The potential of what is still possible in my life
is exciting, but each morning when I wake up, to get my engine running,
it’s best now to do some stretching.
As far as career goals, I couldn’t be more satisfied
with how things have turned out. When I finally worked my way through
college and earned a history degree in 1978 from FIU in Miami, Fla., my
academic advisor said not to worry because I would find a career as a
For 26 years, that’s precisely what I’ve been
doing, selling my words for one publication or another. I’ve done
lots of varied writing from technical reports to encapsulated local history
to restaurant reviews that made me hungry just thinking about the menu.
News, sports, features, stories about people, rants and ravings
— I’ve never had a problem finding a medium in which to publish.
Riding herd on the 10-year odyssey that is The Kaweah Commonwealth
has been such a long, strange, but fulfilling exercise. Thanks largely
to my wife Sarah’s commitment to excellence, the Commonwealth embodies
the best of what a community newspaper should aspire to be. I am so proud
of what we have achieved and our Kaweah Country.
But now what? It was raining on this past November 8 and
that always seems appropriate since on a rainy day in 1962, on the eve
of my 12th birthday, my mother died of cancer.
Death… it’s so final from the living’s
point of view.
On this past Monday, I stopped in at Delta Nursing and Rehabilitation
Hospital in Visalia to check up on Maile Peck. Maile fell last week while
making her rounds to visit her many friends in the neighborhood from Chevron
to Anne Lang’s. She injured some vertebrae and will be in rehab
for four to six weeks while she mends.
At 68, Maile is certainly the youngest in the rehab facility.
Many of the other three-dozen patients are sadly waiting to pass on to
Maile, vibrant and upbeat on Saturday, was slurring her speech
and noticeably slower on Monday due to her “institutional”
She did notice that between my Saturday and Monday visits,
another Three Rivers patient, Jessie Bequette, was checked into the facility.
Jessie turned 98 in September.
I checked in on her, too, only to find out she is blind,
very hard of hearing, and confined to bed. Once she realized who I was
and that I had stopped by to visit, a smile came over her countenance.
work anymore; I just rest now,” Jessie explained. “I’m
so glad you came to see me. Please come again.”
There are very few of us who choose to contemplate the varying
stages of old age in our own lives, much less in others. But these significant
others of our Three Rivers family, like Maile and Jessie, without children
of their own — both of whom have resided in Three Rivers for the
majority of their lives — could especially use a visit to brighten
these days away from the community that they love so dearly.
What’s more, it’s a great way to spend a birthday…
or any day.
Delta Nursing and Rehabilitation Hospital is located in Visalia
at 514 N. Bridge. Visiting hours are from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
got your back -
Nature. It can sure get
in the way of having a carefree outdoor experience.
With pesky lightning, sneaky snowstorms, altitude sickness,
vertical cliffs, teetering trees, rolling rocks, swift rivers, and insatiable
wild animals, it’s a wonder that anyone makes it out alive. But,
whether in the wilderness or the water, stuck in a tree or a trench, there
are some highly-trained, dedicated people who’ve always got your
The paid professionals and volunteers who plan, prepare,
implement, and participate in search and rescue (SAR) operations provide
a very basic, yet high-risk, service to humanity. Whether in distress
on the highest peaks on Earth or within its deepest recesses, SAR personnel
are the unsung heroes who risk their lives to save lives, regardless of
race, gender, religion, cultural background, sexual preference, or economic
During the October 2004 storms, nearly two dozen hikers and
climbers from Yosemite National Park south were stranded. SAR operations
were conducted by land and air.
Imagine this: Your arms are over your head and cold water
from a garden hose is running down on you from above. Now consider this
happening while clinging to a rock face about 2,000 feet in the air with
swirling winds and freezing temperatures.
This is what it was like for three parties of climbers who were navigating
various routes on El Capitan when an intense early-season storm struck
last month, dumping several feet of snow across the Sierra Nevada and
turning El Cap’s climbing routes into waterfalls and, later, ice
Two ill-prepared Japanese climbers froze to death, their
bodies dripping with icicles as they dangled 600 feet from the top. Rescuers
were dropped off by a helicopter on the top of El Capitan and spent the
night in deep snow before beginning recovery efforts.
At daybreak, they rappelled down, placed the bodies in mountaineering
bags, strapped them into harnesses, and carried them the hundreds of feet
to the top of the icon peak.
In addition, the teams rescued two other climbers and provided supplies
to another pair who said they wouldn’t need additional help.
And, herein lies the point. SAR operations are like a finely-tuned
car, but if there’s no key, the engine can’t start; if it’s
low on gas, it can’t run for very long. In other words, SAR teams
can’t initiate a search if they don’t know a general location
of the missing party (the key) and, as in the case of the Japanese couple,
proper preparation is like having a full tank of fuel.
These climbers didn’t have any bivouac equipment, such
as a portaledge with a waterproof covering, that could have bought them
some precious hours until help arrived. In addition, there may have been
a language barrier that prohibited them from hearing the weather forecast
change from “sunny and warm” to “freezing rain and snow.”
The most technically-skilled and highly experienced rescue
mountaineers would never embark on SAR missions without 10 essential items
and neither should anyone else. In fact, a large percentage of search
fatalities would have probably survived had they carried and used these
most basic of items.
So, even though rescue personnel are ready and waiting to
assist you at a moment’s notice, consider it a challenge to ensure
that they are not deployed.
THE ‘10 ESSENTIALS’
Topographic map and magnetic compass— If on an extended
wilderness trip or a dayhike, these items need to be a staple in the backpack.
If you don’t have them and actually make it home, consider it just
pure dumb luck… this time.
Flashlight— And don’t forget extra batteries and a bulb. Good
for traveling in darkness, which tends to fall quickly sometimes. Also,
it can be used for signaling and seeing what bumps in the night.
Extra clothing— Hypothermia is generally what will
strike first if caught unprepared, so don’t forget to also pack
mittens/gloves, hat, jacket, and rain gear. We carry these items during
our summer backpacking trips and have used all of them.
Sunglasses— Ultraviolet glare from the sun can cause
blindness, whether on snow, granite, sand, or water. Unfortunately, this
risk is sometimes not realized until it is too late. The sun takes its
toll quickly as well as over time — during a recent eye checkup,
the doctor looked into my eyes and said, “You’ve spent a lot
of time outdoors in your life, haven’t you?”
Extra food and water— This can be the difference between
an uncomfortable situation and a life-threatening one.
Waterproof matches in a waterproof container— Building a fire may
be impossible without these due to wind or rain. And fires not only provide
heat, but a visible signal for SAR teams.
Candle/fire starter— Candles burn longer than a match
and both of these items are helpful when the world around you is soaking
Pocketknife/multitool— Aron Ralston used one to cut
off his hand when it became trapped by a boulder, proving that the lifesaving
uses are limitless.
First-aid kit— Critical until second aid arrives. I
also carry a pocket-sized wilderness medical guide that describes procedures
from splinters to heart attacks.
If lost or injured in the backcountry, the first rule is
STOP, which means: Sit, Think, Observe, Plan. Stay put, yell, and plan
for the night well in advance of darkness.
But, remember, no amount of equipment or personnel can save
someone if they don’t know where they are. The first rule of travel,
whether on foot, rope, horseback, boat, or vehicle, is to always tell
someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
If you follow a few precautions while playing outside, you’re
as good as saved if the worst does happen. After all, SAR personnel will
move mountains, will not rest, and will spare no expense in their mission
to bring you back alive.
NOVEMBER 5, 2004
Rivers contributes to
and shade in Tibet
Hello, Three Rivers!
I am happy to say that your compassion and generosity have
once again brought smiles to others. And along with the smiles came shade!
In May 2003, I had an amazing journey across Tibet and to
27,400 feet on the north face of Mount Everest. Aside from the intensely
humbling and inspiring Himalayas, I was truly affected by the compassion
and spirit of the sherpa, the true heroes of the mountain.
meaning “people of the east,” has become the word used for
those people from Nepal and Tibet who work hard as a part of expedition
teams to carry gear and prepare camps and food. And they are so much more!
Some of my fondest memories after returning home were of
the sherpa’s faces as they served me tea at my tent, the laughter
we shared in the mess tent, and the incredible strength and spirit they
showed on the mountain. I was truly touched by these people.
Nepal and Tibet can be challenging places to live. One of the specific
challenges facing these people is blindness.
Living at high altitudes in open plains and snowy mountains
without sunglasses leads to cataracts and blindness; so few have any protection
from the brilliant sun.
Hence, “Shades for Sherpa”! When I returned,
I put a call out to the community here and in Mammoth Lakes for any and
all sunglasses we could gather.
Thanks to those who responded, I collected over 70 pair of
I co-led a group of women on a trek around Mount Kailas this
last May. It was so amazing to return to that magical land. And…
I had lots of shade to share!
Thank you to all who helped to share smiles and shade.
I am accepting glasses at anytime, as I will return to Tibet
again and again.
When not globetrotting, Petit Pinson is a resident of
Three Rivers. To make arrangements for a sunglasses donation, call her
at 561-4971. Sunglasses may also be dropped off at the office of
The Kaweah Commonwealth.
OCTOBER 29, 2004
'Yes' on Prop 71
makes fiscal sense to invest
cures rather than treatments...'
In 1974, a medical breakthrough
occurred with the discovery of how to engineer recombinant DNA. Critics
opposed further research, however, with charges that any benefits were
theoretical at best and unethical laboratories could create monster microbes.
Strict, ethical guidelines were established, funding was
secured by the National Institute of Health (NIH) — the world's
leading medical-research institution and an agency of the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services — and within a few years, genetically-engineered
insulin was created. Now, 30 years later, my son, who was diagnosed with
Type 1 diabetes in 1998, uses this insulin continuously to sustain life.
If opponents of DNA research had been successful, our son
would today be injecting himself with insulin extracted from the pancreas
of a slaughtered animal, such as a pig or sheep.
* * *
Medical research is about life, it's about health, it's about
cures, and it's about forward thinking. Currently, it's about politics
and ideology, too, and Californians will be voting on this new frontier
Proposition 71 is a ballot initiative that would result in
the state investing about $3 billion in stem-cell research over the next
decade. This will provide an average of $295 million per year to support
stem-cell research at California universities, medical schools, and research
There are several positive ways to look at why the state
should assume this amount of responsibility. First of all, leading scientists
say that there is a possibility that the research could pay for itself
within the next decade through revenues generated from patents, royalties,
and research license fees (a result not usually accomplished in bond measures).
And it is estimated that about half of all Americans can
benefit in some way from stem-cell research. That means everybody in the
nation knows someone, will someday know someone, or is related to someone
who is afflicted with an, as yet, incurable disease.
Also, in my son's lifetime, for example, he can plan on spending
more than $1 million on diabetes equipment and supplies. This money currently
goes to medical corporations who commercially develop these products —
it's big, BIG business.
The best hope for a cure for Type 1 diabetes, which carries
the constant threat of devastating complications, is with stem-cell research.
Simply put, in Type 1 diabetes, the body attacks its own beta cells, which
regulate blood-sugar levels; if those cells could be restored, the disease
would be cured.
It makes fiscal sense to invest in cures rather than treatments.
This country is in the midst of a healthcare crisis and stem-cell research
could be a giant step toward stopping a downward spiral.
* * *
Prompted by research restrictions on embryonic stem cells
imposed by the Bush Administration, two prominent Hollywood couples formed
an organization called Cures Now in their mission to change federal policy.
Both have children with Type 1 diabetes; both are active in the Juvenile
Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).
They have since gained the support of such high-profile citizens
as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver, the late Christopher
Reeve, Michael J. Fox, Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman, and Nancy Reagan.
JDRF has provided $1 million, which is the first time that
the organization has contributed to a state-initiative campaign. And Robert
Klein — a real-estate developer from Palo Alto, father of a child
with juvenile diabetes, JDRF board member, and the initiative's appointed
author — has contributed more than $2 million and currently has
his house on the market and is prepared to sell if the campaign needs
* * *
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that do not yet have
a specified physiological function, but can renew and develop into other
types of cells, tissues, and organs. Embryonic stem cells offer a potentially
unlimited source of cells for transplantation, as well as providing for
drug discovery and the study of human development.
In addition to Type 1 diabetes, stem cell research could
benefit those with various types of cancer, spinal-cord injuries, Parkinson’s
disease, heart disease and, ultimately, even Alzheimer’s disease,
If voters approve Proposition 71, the state of California
will become the biotechnology leader of the world and the state would
attract top research scientists from around the nation and abroad.
I am more proud than ever to be a native of California
and will be voting "Yes" on Proposition 71 on Tuesday, Nov.
2. Please consider the millions of afflicted children and suffering adults
and join me in forwarding this progressive cause.
SEPTEMBER 10, 2004
For the past several
years, there has been a pleasingly passionate interest in the Three Rivers
Union School board of trustees. This indicates a thriving, caring community
and proves that the ideals of diversity and individualism ultimately mean
In fact, diverse interests are imperative to the health of an elected
board. This ensures a refreshing exchange of ideas and opinions that,
in turn, results in creative compromise and substantial solutions.
Currently on the board are three dedicated members –
Moises Garza, Bobbie Harris, and Marie Powell. The two incumbents –
Kaye Cannarozzi and Elizabeth LaMar – have decided not to seek re-election.
Moises is the veteran of the group, having served more than
a decade as a TRUS trustee. He has three children — the youngest
is now a senior in high school — and all were educated at Three
Bobbie Harris is a retired teacher who spent her entire career
at Three Rivers School, following in the footsteps of her mother —
Mary McDowall, TRUS teacher and the district’s first superintendent
and principal In addition to Bobbie’s three decades Three Rivers
School, she also attended the school as a student.
Marie Powell was a longtime kindergarten teacher at TRUS
who recently retired. Her daughter also attended and graduated from Three
So, rest assured, Three Rivers School is in good hands. These
board members bring a well-rounded wealth of experience to the table.
But, wait, there’s something missing from this picture.
First of all, it’s two more board members. You see, even though
the terms are up for Cannarozzi and LaMar and they didn’t refile
to run, no one else filed to run either.
Also missing from the board makeup are parents who currently
have children enrolled in the school.
So the Three Rivers Union School board of trustees election
has been removed from the November ballot. But that doesn’t change
the fact that the board will be two members shy come December.
However, the process just got a little less intimidating
for those interested in seeking a board seat. There will be no grueling
campaign and subsequent vote count; no public speaking required at a candidates’
So what’s your passion? Is it public education as a
whole? Budgets and programs? Improving student achievement? Maintenance
of facilities? Academics and athletics? Encouraging community involvement
and parental participation?
Whatever it may be, take a giant step toward volunteerism
by expressing your interest in being on the Three Rivers Union School
District board of trustees. It’s a heroic act because, after all,
it’s about the kids.
SEPTEMBER 3, 2004
City slickers, flatlanders,
and tenderfeet, beware. If you’re thinking about moving to these
parts from Southern California, the Bay Area, or some other overcrowded
concrete jungle, don’t expect the cows to smell sweet, electricity
24/7/365, fast-food or home delivery of same, or your recyclables and
green waste to be picked up curbside.
There’s a document called the “Code of the West”
that has been ratified in some counties in the western half of the U.S.,
beginning with Larimer County, Colo., in 1996. The code credits western
author Zane Grey as its inspiration for his account of the men and women
who had an unwritten code of conduct of integrity and self-reliance that
guided their decisions, actions, and interactions.
The code has since been localized and amended to suit several
individual rural counties. Its primary purpose is to inform current and
prospective property owners about the challenges of the rural lifestyle.
The introduction to the Code of the West offers this advice
to fleeing city dwellers:
“It is important
for you to know that life in the country is different from life in the
city. County governments are not able to provide the same level of service
that city governments provide. To that end, we are providing you with
the following information to help you make an educated and informed decision
when choosing to purchase rural land outside the boundaries of incorporated
Here are some excerpts from the document that parallel life
in Three Rivers and much of the unincorporated foothills areas of the
Sierra Nevada, so take note:
—Emergency response times (sheriff, fire, medical care, etc.) cannot
—There can be problems with the legal aspects of access, especially
if you gain access across property belonging to others. It is wise to
obtain legal advice and understand the easements that may be necessary
when these types of questions arise.
—Extreme weather conditions can destroy roads.
—School buses travel only on maintained county roads that have been
designated as school bus routes by the school district. You may need to
drive your children to the nearest county road so they can get to school.
—In extreme weather, even county-maintained roads can become impassable.
—Natural disasters, especially floods, can destroy roads, bridges,
—Standard parcel delivery can be a dilemma and overnight package
delivery is not really “overnight.”
—Cellular phones will not work in all areas.
—Sewer service is not available, [so] you will need to use an approved
onsite septic system.
—The most common sources of water in rural areas are private wells.
—Power outages can occur in outlying areas with more frequency than
in more developed areas. A loss of electric power can also interrupt your
supply of water from a well. You may also lose food in freezers or refrigerators,
and power outages can cause problems with computers as well.
—Trash removal can be much more cumbersome and expensive in a rural
area than in a city. It is illegal to create your own trash dump or incinerate
your refuse, even on your own land.
—You may be provided with a plat of your property, but unless the
land has been surveyed and pins placed by a licensed surveyor, you cannot
assume that the plat is accurate.
—Fences that separate properties are often misaligned with the property
lines. A survey of the land is the only way to confirm the location of
your property lines.
—The surrounding properties will probably not remain as they are
indefinitely. The view from your property may change.
—If you have a ditch running across your property there is a good
possibility that the owners of the ditch have the right to come onto your
property to maintain the ditch.
—Water rights that are sold with the property may not give you the
right to use the water from any ditches crossing your land without coordinating
with neighbors who also use the water. Other users may have senior rights
to the water that can limit your use.
—It is important to make sure that any water rights you purchase
with the land will provide enough water to maintain fruit trees, pastures,
gardens, or livestock.
—The water flowing in irrigation ditches belongs to someone. You
cannot assume that because the water flows across your property, you can
—Flowing water can be a hazard, especially to your children.
—The development of lots or portions of lots may be affected by
geological hazards, frequent flooding, wetlands, streams, rivers, and
—The physical characteristics of your property can be positive and
negative. Trees are a wonderful environmental amenity, but can also involve
your home in a forest fire. “Defensible perimeters” are very
—Steep slopes can slide in unusually wet weather. Large rocks can
roll down and trees will fall.
—North-facing slopes and canyons rarely see direct sunlight in the
—The topography of the land can tell you where the water will go
in the case of heavy precipitation.
—Spring runoff can cause a very small creek to become a major river.
—Nature can provide you with some wonderful neighbors. Most are
positive additions to the environment. However, even “harmless”
animals can cross the road unexpectedly and cause traffic accidents. Rural
development encroaches on the traditional habitat of coyotes, bobcats,
mountain lions, rattlesnakes, bears, mosquitoes, skunks, raccoons, deer,
and other animals that can be dangerous and you need to know how to deal
with them. In general, it is best to enjoy wildlife from a distance and
know that if you do not handle your pets and trash properly, it could
cause problems for you, your neighbors, and the wildlife.
—Land preparation and other operations can cause dust.
—Animals and their manure can cause objectionable odors. What else
can we say?
—Agriculture is an important business in [Tulare] County. If you
choose to live among the orchards, farms, and ranches of our rural countryside,
do not expect county government to intervene in the normal day-to-day
operations of your agribusiness neighbors.
—Animals can be dangerous. Bulls, stallions, rams, boars, etc.,
can attack human beings. Children need to know that it is not safe to
enter pens where animals are kept.
Both personally and professionally, we have heard about and/or
dealt with each and every one of these issues. Life is a bit more challenging
here, what with property upkeep, critters, lack of services, out-of-town
high schools, and nature’s whims.
But even though the day-to-day chores around this house and
property in these dog days of summer can possibly consist of wiping yet
another horde of ants off the kitchen counter, pulling a foxtail out of
a cat’s eye or a tick from the dog’s nose, rounding up an
errant lizard in the living room and carrying it back outside where it
belongs, driving a roundtrip of 40 miles to visit my children’s
high school, battling yellow jackets, a year-round cycle of weedeating
or chainsawing, keeping a constant eye out for rattlers and black widow
spiders, and even, recently, removing a downed oak that had fallen on
the driveway overnight, I realize that, in this day and age, self-reliance
is a rare trait indeed. I wouldn’t trade this life for all the urban
luxuries in the world.
Are you up to the challenge? If so, welcome!
AUGUST 27, 2004
RIDING THE RAILS TO
SOME AMAZING TRAILS... For the past five years, for a couple
weeks in August, we’ve traveled back and forth to Vernonia, Ore.
The main reason for these annual trips has been to take our son, now 14,
to a basketball camp in this rural community, located about 30 miles west
of Portland, hosted by Chris Dudley.
At the conclusion of this year’s camp, Dudley, a Yale
grad who played in the NBA for 16 seasons, was in Portland to meet President
Bush during a campaign stop. Dudley, who has Type 1 diabetes like the
73 kids ages 10 to 17 attending camp, was presented with a humanitarian
award by the President, commending the 6-foot, 11-inch rebounding legend
for his work with juvenile diabetes.
This camp is always the highlight of our summer, but the
travel, at a most opportune time to be away from Three Rivers for a week
or so, has really furnished a chance to get know the best camping places
to do what our family likes to do most: Live and play in the great outdoors.
We couldn’t do it so well without the extraordinary
planning of Sarah, who has coined a term to describe what she does —
getting Oregon-ized. The definition not only means where we will go along
the way and when we will be landing in Vernonia, but all the details of
camping that allow for sudden changes in plans due to weather, wildfires,
road closures, global warming, wildlife jams, sour milk, etc.
Along the way, we have climbed Mount Whitney and Mount Lassen,
bike-hiked the Humboldt coast at Redwood National Park, crawled on our
bellies inside lava tubes at Lava Beds National Monument, cruised Crater
Lake with a Park Service ranger, gone to Hell (Bumpass that is), biked
the Bizz Johnson Trail from Chester to Susanville, swam in the Trinity
River, encircled Mount Shasta, biked loops around Diamond Lake, Ore.,
biked 120 miles of Rails-to-Trails in Idaho’s panhandle replete
with 200-foot tall trestles and tunnels up to 1.75 miles in length...
and these are just a few of the highlights.
There are so many places and so little time, but we’ve
settled on what we like to do most — ride mountain bikes, hike to
the highest point in the region, and camp somewhere that’s comfortable.
This year’s trip to Heyburn State Park in the Idaho panhandle is
going to be difficult to top.
Heyburn State Park was named for Weldon Brinton Heyburn,
a U.S. senator from Idaho who was instrumental in the late-19th century
in bringing federal reclamation projects to Idaho. The state park, one
of the oldest in the Idaho system, is a gem that time seems to have relegated
to memories of yesteryear. It is part of the Coeur d’Alene Indian
Reservation, of which the biggest attraction nowadays is a gaudy, glitzy
casino and new golf course.
The park’s excellent lakefront camping, situated along the
southern end of Lake Coeur d’Alene, is 35 miles south of the burgeoning
city by that same name. The lake, which is actually a chain of lakes more
than 30 miles long, has some unbelievable fishing, kayaking, and now,
thanks to the Rails to Trails program, is the southern trailhead of a
72-mile paved bike trail.
Heyburn State Park is remote enough (it’s just over
1,000 miles from Three Rivers) so as not to attract crowds. The jet-skiers
and power-boaters mostly ply the north end of the lake while those seeking
quietude stay at the south end in the park.
Benewah Campground on Benewah Lake, that actually becomes
three lakes during low water, is practically deserted during summer weekdays.
The facilities are aging but maintained in excellent condition.
The park terrain is situated at about 2,500 feet elevation, but
being surrounded by mountains, gives the appearance of being higher. The
nearest town, St. Marie’s, (pronounced St. Mary’s) is a friendly,
non-pretentious logging town situated at the confluence of the St. Joe
and St. Marie’s rivers.
It’s the rivers that lend a totally unique character to Idaho’s
panhandle land. During the Ice Age, debris plugged even the widest of
the river channels so especially near the mouth, are large lakes of mirror-like
The St. Joe, that flows 94 miles westerly until it drains into
Lake Benewah, is nicknamed “the shadowy St. Joe.” There are
scenic points within the park where the river, flowing in a lake channel
is but a ghost in a setting with no other humans, prolific birdlife, and
fish jumping everywhere.
july 23, 2004
VISITING AROUND TOWN
Eugene Taylor, who was raised in Three Rivers and graduated from Woodlake
High School in 2003, is packing his bags and preparing to report to bootcamp
on Tuesday, Aug. 3. He has enlisted in the U.S. Navy and will serve as
Next week, he will make a final stop in Three Rivers to say
goodbye to family and friends.
Bon voyage, Eugene!
MY BUSINESS… This week’s “Snapshots”
question got me yearning. Being of a self-employed frame of mind, I’m
always thinking of new businesses that could be successful in Three Rivers.
From an outdoor store/Sierra photo gallery/wilderness expeditions to a
natural foods restaurant/market/ bakery/bread shop, maybe someday I’ll
turn in my pen for climbing gear or stove and spatula.
SPEAKING OF… More than a decade ago,
I contacted Trader Joe’s, a health-conscious grocery store chain,
asking if they would consider a Visalia location. Coincidentally, I was
informed that company representatives had just completed a scouting trip
to Visalia and Fresno, and decided to open a store, which they did, in
Since then, I’ve talked to many people who have also
tried to persuade TJ’s to open a location in Visalia. Last April,
it was reported that TJ’s declined to consider a Visalia location
even though several offers have been made to the company.
When we were in San Francisco in May, an issue of The Examiner
newspaper had a lead story called, “Trading ideas in the Castro,”
about TJ’s coming to that neighborhood. In contrast to having to
beg and bargain with TJ’s to come to Tulare County, this article
stated, “If Trader Joe’s wants to wash ashore in the Castro
then the grocery store better be accommodating.”
In other words, it’s Trader Joe’s that is pleading
to build an 11,000-square-foot store and the community that’s calling
the shots. Evidently, the area doesn’t allow chain stores, so TJ’s
is promising to build “a unique Trader Joe’s that really fits
the neighborhood in every respect.”
A company VP said “the store is willing to accommodate
almost any suggestion…”
Here in Tulare County, we obviously need to switch tactics and play hard
MINERAL KING VIDEO… Currently on sale
is a video produced by the Mineral King District Association entitled
“Mineral King: The Heritage of a Community.” The 16-minute
video combines new and archival film footage, historic photos, and interviews
with cabin residents and visitors to recount the epic story of the Mineral
King valley and cabin community.
The story spans three centuries and up to six generations, from the 1870s
mining boom to proposed ski resort to national park inclusion.
The video is available for $25 with all proceeds going to
the nonprofit MKDA. Videos may be purchased by going to the association’s
website at www.mineralking.org; sending a check or money order to Mineral
King District Association, P.O. Box 1904, Canyon Country, CA 91386; or
at the office of The Kaweah Commonwealth.
WOODLAKE MOTOR POOL… Carol Stenger,
a Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce representative, reported that 124
stock and modified cars, street rods, pickups, muscle cars, and low-rider
cars and trucks attended the community’s seventh annual Custom Car
and Bike Show (Saturday, July 10), making this year’s show the most
successful to date.
“[They all] thundered
into Woodlake to show off their bright and shiny investments,” said
Carol of the event that drew nearly 2,000 people.
APRIL 23, 2004
VISITING AROUND TOWN
A HORSE, OF COURSE… Christy Wood, owner of Wood
‘N’ Horse Stables in Three Rivers, is the subject of an article
that appears in a magazine with national distribution. Entitled “Go
With the Flow,” Christy is featured in the April 2004 issue of Western
The Wood ‘N’ Horse is located two miles up North
Fork Drive from Highway 198. She has been a trainer for nearly 20 years.
The article describes how Christy uses her Kaweah riverfront property
to teach horses to lose their fear of water. Beautiful color photos show
Christy in the river with a young appaloosa while the story tells how
Christy desensitizes horses to water.
The article states: “Wood works in the water July through
September, when the snowmelt is gone and the river is warm enough to create
an inviting environment for a horse. Each summer, before she begins, she
explores the river afoot, assessing any topographical changes from erosion
and scouting the perfect pool to do the training.”
Christy takes to the river with every horse she trains. When not
training, she’s judging, officiating at national shows all over
ON THE BEAT…
Local VIPs (Volunteers in Patrol) have welcomed recent graduates to the
county-sponsored regular patrol of Three Rivers. The VIPs assist the Tulare
County Sheriff’s Department by performing vacation-house checks,
providing immediate assistance to those in need, and calling for help
in emergency situations. There are currently 12 VIPs who make Three Rivers
April 2, 2004
times roll through
and thin, rain or shine
fans! From our family to yours, and on behalf of The Kaweah Commonwealth,
it is wonderful to see you all again in Kaweah Country. Only a few years
ago, it was unknown if there would even be a Jazzaffair in 2004 –
but the absolute best of all the small-venue festivals is back, and it’s
better than ever.
In a world where there
is so much competition for the entertainment buck, simply stated, there
is nothing even close to Jazzaffair. The setting, the people, the opportunity
to experience some of the best musicians on the planet playing small,
folksy venues like Lions Arena and the Memorial Building… it just
doesn’t get any better.
As Kaweah Country’s
newspaper, this is our 10th Jazzaffair. Each year the anticipation
starts around Mardi Gras, continues through all the planning and preparation
of the program and jazz issue, and then suddenly it’s here…
the party of the year.
Around our house,
the calendar revolves around Jazzaffair. The publishing year, like the
busy visitor season in Three Rivers, begins in earnest during March and
takes off after April 1.
From a work perspective,
the days leading up to Jazzaffair are like the frenzy of the holiday season.
Now that two biennial years of seventh-grade fundraising are behind us,
Jazzaffair has become more like New Year’s Eve — the hopeful
anticipation of another great tourist season all rolled into one beautiful
The last chorus of High
Sierra’s grand finale on Sunday at Lions Arena is really something
special. It’s a time of thankfulness that we made it through another
year, enjoyed another weekend of jazz, and an opportunity to vow that
we will meet again right here, same place, same time.
In 1996, the Commonwealth
was bent on proving to the local jazz community how much we support Jazzaffair
and how the local newspaper could help promote the event. The entire process
was still new to us, so come Friday, we were physically and mentally exhausted…
feeling the effects of too many details and consecutive sleepless nights.
After delivering a couple
stacks of papers for distribution at Lions Arena about two hours before
the first set, I promptly backed into a new Ford Explorer, owned by Ben
Coombs, then-jazz club president.
I was so embarrassed.
Fortunately, the damage was minimal and promptly repaired by our local
auto body guy. None of us were the worse for the wear of that weekend
that featured the best purely trad jazz lineup during our tenure.
Believe it or not,
much of what we all have grown to love about Three Rivers in early April
is the ever-changing tableau of weather and scenic beauty. Remember 1999,
when Friday’s torrential rains and bolts of lightning raked the
Our family will never
forget that eventful night. I was camped bedside at Kaweah Delta Hospital,
praying that my wife would turn the corner during a very serious illness.
When I saw that violent weather flash outside that Visalia window, my
frazzled mind thought, “That weather is headed right for Jazzaffair.”
After an hour or so,
I called a friend at the Memorial Building to see if everybody was okay.
“The music is great
and the electricity stayed on,” said my news source. “I already
scored those Jean Kittrell CDs that you asked me to.”
By the finale on Sunday,
I was on my way to Children’s Hospital Central California as my
son, too, had been struck by a serious illness, although an entirely different
one. It was a stormy weekend, literally, but in the case of both my family’s
health and Jazzaffair, it had a happy ending.
During my decade on the
local jazz beat, I have enjoyed getting to know the musicians, the club
members, and especially Sue Mills and her legion of volunteers. But the
most amazing ingredient of Jazzaffair is the fans, especially the RV pilgrims
who come year after year.
Last Friday, I arrived
at the Commonwealth office to find it blocked by a 32-foot home-on-wheels
with Alaska plates. These friendly folks were seeking an RV “hideaway”
until they could get settled at Lions Arena.
Lions Arena officially
opens for “dry camping” on Wednesday, but by Monday of jazz
week, there are always early birds seeking their favorite places to park.
In the case of the Bensons,
who retired years ago in Alaska, but now pick up their mail in Newport,
Ore., these jazz transients were making their first-ever visit to Three
“We met Bruce Huddleston
at a festival in Washington and he insisted that we experience Jazzaffair,”
said Mr. Benson. “We are huge fans of the High Sierra Jazz Band.”
Let the good times roll…
forever... at Jazzaffair!
March 26, 2004
VISITING AROUND TOWN
SCHOOL SPORT… The newest after-school sport at Three Rivers
School doesn’t require a ball, but the kids are having one anyway.
Scholastic Chess, which began last year sponsored by The Heritage Project,
is currently ongoing, under the direction of Deb Pfenninger.
Deb’s two sons,
Ben and Brian, began playing chess as kindergartners when the family resided
in Virginia. Upon moving to Three Rivers, Deb discovered that Visalia
had a Scholastic Chess program.
She started the Three
Rivers club last year with the goal of exposing Three Rivers students
to the game.
“It exercises the
mind,” Deb said, “and extends across cultures and generations.”
Research has also shown
that it improves problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and concentration,
More than a dozen TRUS
students in grades three through six meet Wednesday afternoons to learn
the game and hone their skills in preparation for competition.
And compete they did.
On Saturday, March 6, eight of the students competed in an all-day tournament
in Reedley. For five of them, this was their inaugural tournament.
More than 200 chess players
from elementary schools throughout the San Joaquin Valley participated.
“Everyone did fantastic,”
said Coach Deb.
Trophies were awarded
to the top 10 participants in their respective age and skill-level categories.
Ben won first place and Brian placed fifth.
Ezra Graber placed fifth
in the K-3rd division; Alex Gray placed 14th. Cyrus Graber, Conner Beck,
Phillip Tidwell, and Jim LeFave played in the 4th-6th beginner division.
Cyrus and Jim were just one win away from a trophy, however, Jim brought
home a 10th-place trophy from his last tournament in Fresno.
Sound fun? No matter
what your age, you’re invited to play.
This chess season will
be stalemated at the end of this month, but will resume play in the fall.
The club is open to all students third grade and older; adults, too!
Deb’s goal is to
have enough returning players to establish a school team.
“With the chess
skills the kids are developing, we should be able to win a first-place
team trophy next year,” she said.
For more information,
call Deb, 561-4905.
AND CASPER… Kacie Fleeman of Three Rivers and her horse,
Marks Norfleet, better known as “Casper,” have been riding
the horse-show trail together and leaving competitors in their dust. Kacie
competes on the American Paint Horse circuit and has the ribbons and medals
to prove it.
Kacie is currently under
the tutelage of trainers Jerry and Shelly Lunde of Norco.
she has been awarded Reserve Hi-Point in Tucson, Ariz.; Hi-Point at the
Temecula Valley Paint Horse Show; and tied for Hi-Point in Bakersfield.
Because of her collection
of first, second, and third place wins, Kacie has qualified to attend
the World Paint Horse Show that will be held in Fort Worth, Texas, in
March 12, 2004
VISITING AROUND TOWN
HERE AFTER ALL THESE YEARS… An anniversary came and went
this month that John and I didn’t even notice. March 1 marked nine
years of publication of The Kaweah Commonwealth, and we were so
busy publishing The Kaweah Commonwealth that we didn’t even
have time to give each other a high-five.
Ten years (March
1, 2005) will be the real milestone or the 500th issue (makes me weak
in the knees just thinking about it), which will occur right around the
same time… but, again, who’s got time to count? Mark your
calendars because this anniversary we won’t forget and you’re
GIVE IT AWAY… It’s a sad statement on our society when
something being done for the general good of the population and with the
best of intentions is destroyed. In what has been an extremely challenging
effort for more than a year to continue without interruption providing
all Three Rivers residents with the opportunity to receive The Kaweah
Commonwealth on Fridays, we invested in five distribution containers
and attempted to place them in locales convenient to all throughout town.
So far, two of the boxes
have been vandalized. We are attempting to give something of benefit and
interest to the community for free, and certain segments of the population
take it upon themselves to ruin the opportunity.
— barbaric, actually — but, sadly, we expected it. We were
originally planning to purchase more of the newspaper boxes, but instead,
if this keeps up, when they’re gone, they’re gone.
To speak of: Bill Tidwell of the Three Rivers Lions Club presented
monetary awards to this year’s student-speaker contestants, Amanda
Gepner (left) and Molly Wittenstein.
AND THE LIONS CLUB… According to Bill Tidwell, Three
Rivers Lions Club’s student speaker chairman, members and guests
at the club’s meeting on Thursday, Feb. 19, were very impressed
by the speeches researched and delivered at the annual Student Speech
Contest by two Three Rivers students from Woodlake High School. The topic
this year was “Democracy: Is it for Everyone?”
This was the 67th annual
contest involving Lions Clubs throughout California and Nevada.
a sophomore, was judged the winner. She was awarded $50; Amanda Gepner,
a senior, received $25 as the other club finalist.
Molly represented the
club at the next level of competition Wednesday, March 10, competing against
the club winners from the Exeter and Porterville Lions Clubs. She competed
against two other contestants with the ultimate winner being a high school
junior from Porterville.
Bill Tidwell, who was
in attendance at this week’s competition in Exeter, was impressed
by Molly’s public-speaking ability.
“She knows what
she’s up against now, so we hope she competes again next year,”
There are six rounds
in the contest, with the ultimate winner receiving over $20,000 in scholarships.
Total scholarships awarded in the contests amount to $100,000.
Judges at any of the
levels may not be affiliated with the Lions Club or the contestants. This
year’s Three Rivers judges were Lloyd Hicks, a Tulare County
Superior Court judge who was raised in Three Rivers and was once a local
student-speaker contestant himself; Rick Kimball; Rita Pena;
and Dr. Harry Ison.
The local competition
is held each February and open to high school students from Three Rivers.
Each year, a new, timely topic is provided and each student researches
and writes their own speech, which is required to be between five and
10 minutes in length.
For more information,
contact Bill Tidwell, 561-3105, or the Woodlake High School counseling
February 20, 2004
VISITING AROUND TOWN
The Three Rivers chapter of the Red Hat Society
The local chapter of the Red Hat Society (in photo right) met Friday,
Feb. 13, at We Three Bakery. This was the group’s third annual gathering
of its 25 members.
The Three Rivers chapter
is just one of over 17,000 chapters worldwide that have a total of 300,000
members. The group was founded by one woman in 1997 when she received
a copy of the poem “Warning” by Jenny Joseph and a red fedora
for her 55th birthday.
The poem begins: “When
I am an old woman I shall wear purple, With a red hat which doesn’t
go and doesn’t suit me…”
The main premise of the
Red Hat Society, which has grown beyond even the wildest imagination,
is to ensure that women have the opportunity to have fun and be silly
after 50. The club has no rules except to enjoy the company of their fellow
members and bond in sisterhood.
The society’s motto
is “Red Hatters Matter.”
I ought to practice a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked
and surprised, When suddenly I am old and start to wear purple.
— Jenny Joseph,
from the poem Warning
by Rich Latta
all to come and play
I want to take
the opportunity to introduce myself to you and invite you to come say
hi and introduce yourself to me. My name is Rich Latta, and I’m
the interim pastor at the Community Presbyterian Church.
here since November and am thoroughly enjoying this wonderful community.
What a great place we have here!
The big news
in my life is that I’m a newlywed. My bride, Colleen, and I have
been married just over a month now.
We met not quite
a year ago on a blind date in Fresno, arranged by my best friend since
childhood. Colleen has four children, two of whom live with us in Kingsburg;
I have three grown children, all living in Santa Barbara.
The church put
on a wonderful reception for us this past weekend.
I wish you could
have seen it; it was marvelous!
churches in Walla Walla, Wash.; Dallas; Oregon; River Forest, Ill.; Santa
Barbara; and now here. I grew up in Fresno, but had only been to Three
Rivers once before on my way to backpacking in Mineral King.
My folks and
sister still live in Fresno, so it’s a great joy to be near them
after many years away.
The things that
get my heart pumping are bicycling and playing guitar. I’ve been
on several century rides (100 milers) and am trying to get in shape again
now for one, so you may see me pedaling around here on my lunch hour.
to find a few other cyclists to join me. Give me a call if you want to
Music is the
other passion of mine. I’ve played guitar for about 40 years now,
taught guitar to earn my way through college and, most recently, played
in a country-and-blues band with my son and brother-in-law in Santa Barbara.
You can see me
playing guitar just about any week at Community Presbyterian Church. Again,
I’d love to have some others play along with me.
me take this chance to invite you to hear renowned Christian singer/songwriter
Sonny Salsbury at our church on Sunday, Feb. 29. Sonny has written hundreds
of songs, many of which have been sung in youth groups and around campfires
for many years.
He now leads
backpacking trips and other outdoor adventures, as well as sings and tells
stories in churches all over the U.S. Sonny will be preaching at the 10:30
a.m. service and then will sing some more for us at 12:45 p.m. The community
is warmly welcomed.
So, come by.
Meet Sonny. Introduce yourself to me and/or Colleen (she’s definitely
the best looking of the three of us!).
We would love
to meet you and get to know you.
February 13, 2004
VISITING AROUND TOWN
FOR DUTY… Garth Gipson of Exeter was sworn into the
United States Navy on Monday, Feb. 2. Garth is currently completing his
bachelor’s degree in business with a minor in finance at Cal Poly
San Luis Obispo and will graduate in June.
He will then report to
Pensacola, Fla., in August for officers’ candidate school. His next
stop will be in Georgia for supply officers’ training.
His selection for this
training is an honor since only 134 candidates for supply officers’
training will be selected this year from throughout the U.S.
Garth is a graduate
of Sequoia Union School in Lemon Cove and Exeter High School. His parents
are Curtis and Kathleen Dichiera of Exeter; his grandparents are Jim and
Joan Peters of Three Rivers.
EYE… Keep one eye on the road and another on the view when
driving around Lake Kaweah. Kevin Bohl of Three Rivers shared with
us a rare scene he was fortunate enough to photo-document in which a bald
eagle is perched in the top of an oak tree in the vicinity of the lake.
And that, folks, is the
BEST of Kaweah Country.
Do you have a fear of Friday the 13th? Probably not or you wouldn’t
even have ventured outside to get this newspaper. Whether it’s the
sixth day of the week or the number 13, both have questionable reputations,
even in the 21st century.
As many as 21 million
people in the U.S. alone suffer from this phobia. And many of them are
obviously in charge of making really important decisions because many
cities do not have a 13th Street or Avenue and many buildings don’t
have a 13th floor.
And you certainly
shouldn’t have 13 letters in your name. After all, Jack the Ripper,
Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy, and Albert De Salvo do.
And what about Friday?
Yikes! There’s the tale of HMS Friday. Her keel was laid on a Friday,
she was launched on a Friday, her crew was selected on a Friday, and Jim
Friday was her captain. The ship embarked on her maiden voyage on a Friday
and, go figure, was never seen or heard from again.
by Shirley A. Blair Keller
Wok + Puzzles = Community
take used comforters and linen?” the man asked after he had entered
The Thingerie, looked around, and inhaled.
“Yes, we do,”
I said from behind the counter.
exhaled nervously. “I just got married and my new wife, she likes
her taste better than mine.”
He smiled and turned
to leave, had a second thought, and said, “I think I’ll take
a look around.”
He said as he walked
back to the front door, “I have a wok in the car. Would that be
okay? It’s a single man’s tool,” he smiled.
His arms were full of
comforters and linens. I took them from him. Under the pile was the wok.
I placed the wok in the
back where the kitchen items sit on shelves, waiting to be chosen. The
Thirty minutes later,
a younger man appeared.
look around,” he smiled.
He put the wok on the
"Do you think this
“Yes, the man just
“It’s a great
tool for a single man,” he said.
Before I responded, a
young woman, who had been working at a shelf nearby, counting out puzzle
pieces, said, “That’s exactly what the man said, ‘A
perfect tool for a single man!’ He just got married so didn’t
need it anymore.”
“Well, I guess
I still do!” the man laughed.
He paid for the item
The young woman and I
chuckled. How nice it is to have a place like The Thingerie where one
person’s excess is another person’s need.
She said The Thingerie
is the only thrift shop she has ever shopped in where people were considerate
enough to donate puzzles that have all the pieces. In counting through
six puzzles, she discovered they were in good shape, ready for her children
The rest of my volunteer
time until closing I felt appreciative that I am a part of a process that
gathers people together to give, to take, and to enjoy the excesses in
our country and, at the same time, raise money for those who need a hand.
According to the 2003-2004
Three Rivers Woman’s Club brochure, since 1980, the club, which
is the proprietor of The Thingerie, has contributed $137,266 to the surrounding
areas. In the year 2002-2003 alone, $11,700 went to academic scholarships
and a host of other needs.
A wok and a few puzzles,
surprisingly, equal community.
Shirley A. Blair Keller
writes from her Three Rivers home.