Although I’m a Californian by birth, I’ll always be a Nebraskan at heart, thanks to my college days. So why is this blog titled Hawai’ian Cowboys?
Well, first off, I can’t resist a chance to plug my new book, Marrying Minda, set in fictional Paradise, Nebraska (read: Platte Center LOL), which will be released by the Cactus Rose line of The Wild Rose Press in early 2009.
Something about those blazing sunsets, the rolling prairie, the Sand Hills cattle ranches, and ruts from the Oregon Trail just evokes everything Western in me. In my humble opinion, the land of the Cornhusker is a tailor-made and long-overlooked setting for cowboy romance.
My heroine Minda Becker is a mail order bride who finds herself alone in Paradise -married to the wrong man. Yet the hottie cowboy has her tingling top to toe. What’s a poor girl to do? Especially when he constantly yaps about going back to Texas? Stay tuned and you’ll find out.
Secondly, it seems we have another long-overlooked setting for historical Western Romance.
If you’re like most folks, you likely think the Old West stopped at America’s Pacific Coastline. Which it does . . . if you travel three thousand miles farther. Yes indeed, Hawai’i has a cowboy history all its own. It even involves vaqueros!
Those first cowboys, Mexican vaqueros, taught Texan buckaroos how to lasso, make lariats and herd cattle. But much earlier in the 1800’s, those guys traveled across the Pacific and roped longhorns in Hawai’i.
What? Longhorns in Hawai’i, land of coconuts, nene geese, and menehune? (elves)
Yes, indeed. Captain George Vancouver brought Hawaii’s first longhorn cattle as a gift to King Kamehameha I in 1793. Vancouver believed he’d delivered a new resource to the islands, but His Majesty imposed a ten-year kapu (restriction), making them a protected species. The animals were allowed to roam wild and breed freely.
Consequently, the herds became a nuisance, harming native vegetation and forests. Upon descending the uplands, the cows knocked down fences, trampled village gardens, and destroyed taro fields.
So vaqueros from Mexico and Portugal were imported to control the cows and teach native ranchers how to oversee the herds. The islanders called these guys paniolo. (Some folks say paniola.) Ranchers constructed stone walls and cactus barriers to stop the foraging beasts. Tourists today sometimes view old rock walls in Hawaii and assume they’re ancient heiau (temples) or home sits. But more often than not, these rock piles are just leftover cattle walls!
Like cowboys everywhere, a paniolo relied on his horse to round up the wild pipi (cattle) from the places they shouldn’t be. When he roped a bull, he would “dally up” the rope around the horn of his saddle and get the bull over to a strong tree, wrapping the rope around it and pulling the animal flush against the trunk.
Furthermore, he’d secure the bull’s horns to the tree with a short rope. Most times, the bull was left like this until the next morning. At that time, the paniolo returned with several tame bullocks, called pin bullocks, which would lead the wild pipi back to a holding pen for slaughter or sale. Catching wild cattle in this method of Po’o Waiu has now become a rodeo event.
Today about 75 percent of the state’s cattle roam the Big Island of Hawaii. Fifth and sixth generation Hawai’ian cowboys continue to raise, herd, brand, and market cattle.
Parker Ranch is among the largest ranches in the United States, spanning some 150,000 acres across the Big Island. Established nearly 160 years ago, it is also one of the country’s oldest ranches.
The ranch’s story begins in 1809 when nineteen-year-old John Parker jumped the ship that brought him to Hawaii. He quickly came to the attention of King Kamehmeha I for his new, state-of-the-art American musket. The gun got John the “privilege” of being the first man allowed to shoot some of the thousands of maverick cattle wandering the island’s remote plains and valleys. Due mostly to John’s efforts, salted beef replaced sandalwood as the island’s chief export.
Horses, of course, are a cowboy’s best friend even in Hawai’i. In 1803, the first horses arrived on the Big Island and Maui. Many roamed freely and quickly reproduced in the wild. By the 1840’s, horses better suited for ranching and riding were imported but sadly, the wild horses had contributed to the destruction of vegetation. They were considered an “alien” animal. Other “aliens” associated with paniolo history include Koa haole. This plant first used to feed livestock has become a threat on all the islands because it multiplies so quickly. (Haole actually means “foreigner.”) But dung beetles are good aliens! They reduce cattle manure, which controls flies.
And guess what! 2008 is designated The Year of the Hawai’ian Cowboy by Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle and Harry Kim, mayor of Hawaii (the Big Island) County. In Waimea, the Big Island’s headquarters of the ranch industry, festivities for The Waiomina Centennial Celebration have honored legendary rodeo champ Ikua Purdy, who set the rodeo world on fire with his roping and riding skills at the 1908 Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming. In fact, Waiomina means Wyoming in the Hawai’ian language. A year ago, Purdy was inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame.
The Paniolo Preservation Society sent a large Hawai’ian delegation to Cheyenne’s Frontier Days this year, and an exhibit featuring the Hawai’ian cowboy will be on display at the Old West Museum there throughout May 2010. In turn, Wyoming sent a reciprocal delegation to The Waiomina Centennial Celebration in August.
And as for John Parker, he was inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum’s Hall of Great Westerners in April.
I hope you enjoyed this little bit of aloha yee-haw. I know there’s no Chimney Rock in the Hawaiian Islands, but the Iao Needle of Maui is a pretty spectacular pinnacle. Now, I’ve been racking the noggin, trying to find some question to leave with you to get you to respond, so how about: Which of these United States produces your favorite brand of cowboy? And what’s your favorite drink of choice to imbibe while you consider this important question?
(Me, I’d like a Lava Floe please.)
I’m off to the Islands and couldn’t resist blogging about the Hawaiian cowboy, the paniolo. I’ll be bringing back an aloha-style gift for one lucky name drawn from this weekend’s bloggers.
It might be some Hawaiian style Arbuckle’s (Kona Coffee.) Or it might be some Donkey Balls (round chocolate truffly things). Or maybe something practical like a rice paper journal. Just kinda depends on what I find while shopping in historic Koloa Town. Honest, you’d think you were in Wyoming or something. The town is still oftentimes called Homestead and was established about 1835. It’s the site of Hawaii’s first successful sugar plantation.
Thanks to all who participate! Thank heaven for WiFi.
And I hope you’ll not only enjoy Marrying Minda when it’s released, but also the Christmas story I was asked to write for Cactus Rose. His Christmas Angel spins off the handsome schoolteacher who fights for Minda’s hand. I figured he deserves a happy ending of his own…with Minda’s sister. It’ll be a free online read during the holidays.
Thanks to the wonderful Fillies for inviting me back to Wildflower Junction. I promise ya’ll more fun from the Luv Wranglers next time — if they invite me back LOL. Aloha!