Lewis Griswold

Third-grade girl sings to her huge cabbage in the garden, and wins a contest

Cate Peterson of Porterville poses with the cabbage she grew from a 2-inch plant as a part of cabbage growing program for third graders.
Cate Peterson of Porterville poses with the cabbage she grew from a 2-inch plant as a part of cabbage growing program for third graders. Special to The Bee

Nine-year-old Cate Peterson of Porterville got the surprise of her young life last week by being named the California winner of Bonnie Plants’ cabbage growing contest.

Bonnie Plants is sending her a $1,000 savings bond, and her name was announced at Westfield Elementary.

It started when third grade teacher Monica Espinoza signed up for the company’s cabbage growing program.

Bonnie Plants, a major supplier of plants to Home Depot, Lowe’s, Wal-Mart and other stores across the country, sponsors a cabbage growing contest for third-graders.

The company delivers 2-inch tall plants to classrooms, and the kids take them home and grow them.

The program started in 1996. This year, 1.5 million plants were delivered to third-grade classes in 48 states. In California, more than 800 schools participated.

After the cabbage grows to an enormous size – it’s an O.S. Cross, meaning oversized – the child’s parent takes a photo and sends it to the company. One winner per state is chosen randomly, company spokeswoman Joan Casanova said.

Cate grew her cabbage in about 10 weeks, which is typical.

“It was really fun,” Cate said. “I got to do it with my grandma and grandpa” – Randy and Tuy Klassen of Porterville.

But there may be a secret to the plant’s growth besides the genes.

“They had her sing to it on a weekly basis,” said Chris Peterson, Cate’s father. “She’d sing to it and do a little dance.”

The program is free. Interested teachers can sign up at www.bonnieplants.com.

Visalia saddle

While researching his family history, Vincent Salinas was surprised to find a connection to the famed Visalia stock saddle of the 1800s, which is how far back his Visalia roots go.

The story goes like this.

Juan Martarell and two associates moved to Visalia from the gold country and opened Visalia Saddle Company in 1869.

A history of the Visalia stock saddle prepared for the California Office of Historic Preservation said Martarell originated the design and called it the Vaquero saddle. (Vaquero is Spanish for cowboy.)

“This model was lighter, stronger, and more comfortable for both horse and rider than the Spanish saddle that was then widely used.  It quickly gained renown for Martarell and his associates in the saddle making trade,” the history states.

Tulare County was cattle country, and tradition has it that a vaquero asked Martarell to repair a Spanish saddle. He transformed the saddle into a new style by removing the high horn and long stirrups and adding a skirt for protection of the rider’s legs.

It’s a design that’s still in use today.

A year after the store opened, Martarell sold the business to David E. Walker, a businessman and promoter who began an advertising campaign for the Visalia Stock Saddle Company. There is a historical marker on Main Street in Visalia about D.E. Walker and the Visalia Saddle Company.

Martarell worked for the company and later another saddle company, and married and stayed in Visalia. This is where Salinas’ family history comes in.

In the 1960s, when Salinas was in his teens, he had an older relative named Pete Martorell, born in Visalia in 1885.

“Tio Pete is my mother Jennie Moreno’s third cousin, but we always call him tio,” Salinas said. (Tio is Spanish for uncle.)

Pete Martorell lived at the Johnson Hotel on Main Street in Visalia. There is a family photo of him standing next to the hotel with several relatives, including Salinas’ mother.

By reviewing documents such as a marriage certificate, the Tulare County registry of marriages, a death certificate and census records – and by typing names into Google – he found the family connection to the famous saddle.

His tio Pete Martorell was the son of Juan Martarell the saddlemaker, Salinas said. (The spelling of the last name was changed over the years.)

“I’m doing this so my children will understand their history without having to do all the research,” Salinas said.

Lewis Griswold covers news of the South Valley for The Bee: 559-441-6104, @fb_LewGriswold