From the e-mails and old-fashioned phone calls:
LONG OVERDUE For years now, I've been using this column space to highlight the problem of illegal dumping in the region.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson is using inmate work crews to clean up the garbage, TVs, mattresses and whatnot dumped along the country roads and on farmlands. But stopping the dumpers in the first place is nearly impossible and, in the case of Stan Hyer, was deadly. He was killed Nov. 8, struck by a pickup towing a trailer near his family's ranch west of Keyes. He witnessed people illegally dumping garbage on the ranch and was killed while trying to confront them.
A suspect a man with a long criminal history has been jailed, charged and awaits trial.
State Sen. Tom Berryhill, who sponsored legislation to increase penalties for convicted metal thieves, said he will pursue tougher sentences for illegal dumping as well.
But for a law to have teeth, enforcement is required. About 99 percent of the time, these pathetic vermin aren't witnessed or caught. Deputies can't be everywhere at once, and violent crimes are priorities.
Dumping wasn't considered a violent crime. It became one Nov. 8.
BACK IN TOWN In my Nov. 6 column, I mentioned that Kathryn Kuehl of Modesto would attend a ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., as one of the 2,000 people who would take turns reading the 58,000-plus names of those who died during the war.
She called me upon her return. As it turns out, she also read at ceremonies in 1992, 2002 and 2007. She also took her two Vietnam-era veteran brothers: Peter Kuehl served in the Air Force on a bomber unit based in Guam, and Philip Kuehl was in the Navy on ships in the Atlantic Ocean. Her brothers' wives also attended the readings at the memorial. It was the first time any of them had been to the national's capital.
"I'm not sure I'll go again," she said.
She's done her duty.
IN THE BOOKS In 2011, I wrote about local Vietnam veterans who were in the process of compiling their war memories collectively into a book.
It's finished, and some of the 19 authors will be on hand for a book signing Dec. 8 at the Modesto Vet Center, 1217 Carpenter Road, beginning at 9 a.m.
The book, two years in the making and available at most online bookstore sites at $18.99, already has sold 500 copies. They've formed a nonprofit organization that will monitor proceeds that will benefit the Vet Center, which offers counseling for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
To a man, these authors will tell you the writing process and camaraderie were therapeutic.
SHE CALLED Last week, I wrote an item about Kelsey McKiernan, a young girl from Modesto who raised money to go to a summer camp and then donated $20 of her proceeds to the McHenry Museum.
She participated in the Lemonade Day event in which organizers urge the children to treat their lemonade stands like businesses, and also suggested a charitable contribution.
Kelsey surpassed her $200 goal enough to go to church summer camp. And for her charitable donation, the 12-year-old sixth-grader at Rose Avenue School chose the museum because she had fond memories of visiting it as a third-grader. Hence, the $20 donation, her mom, Shannon McKiernan, said.
They went to the museum and knocked on the door one morning. A museum worker answered and told them the museum would be open in about 10 minutes. Kelsey told her, "I just want to give you this," handing over the envelope and then leaving. Later, museum staff realized there was no contact information. They wanted to send her a thank-you note. They contacted me and asked for a mention in one of my columns, hoping she would see it and respond.
A family friend read it in The Bee at 5:30 a.m. Nov. 13 and called the McKiernans shortly thereafter (yes, they're early risers, too), Shannon said.
Friends posted the item on Facebook and it quickly drew 65 "likes."
Kelsey and her family were thrilled, and she called the museum.
"Looking back, I'm glad we didn't put the return address on the envelope," Shannon said. "Seeing it in (The Bee) was great for Kelsey."
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.