Tanya Hanson and Her Hawai’ian Cowboys

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!

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54 thoughts on “Tanya Hanson and Her Hawai’ian Cowboys”

  1. Hi Tanya – I’ll be one of your earlier posters this morning as Nikki called at 5 AM to say they missed their train to Siena… we had to scrunge for the contact number for her and so, here I am.

    Great post today! I loved learning details about the cowboys to the far west! The pic of the cowboy wearing the Hawaiian lei is my favorite. I hope everyone gets a chance to read Marrying Minda – a great story and your Christmas read sounds like a lot of fun!

    Have a great time this week!

  2. Aloha! Have a fabulous time in Hawaii, Tanya! Your blog is fascinating–Hawaii never even entered my mind as far as cowboys. It’s wonderful to envision that setting. I learned a lot from your blog!

    Marrying Minda sounds like a lot of fun to read, with their temperaments. Remind us about the Christmas story when it comes out during the holidays, okay? We don’t want to miss it!

  3. Good morning, Tanya! er, Aloha! What a delightful change of pace this morning. Hawai’ian cowboys–something most of us wouldn’t think of. See what we learn here in Wildflower Junction?

    I’m soooo jealous you’re there in Hawaii now. What an awesome get-away. Enjoy!

    BTW, I’ve added the cover to Marrying Minda in our library!

  4. Hi Tanya! I learned something today. Like most folks, I thought the Wild West stopped at the Pacific Ocean, maybe as far as Catalina Island : )

    I hope you enjoy your trip. That’s what I call enjoyable research : )

  5. Yahoo – cowboys in Hawaii. As I’ve never been to Hawaii it would be interesting. I loved your blog. Have a beautiful trip. Enter me win – sounds like interesting reading.

  6. Hi Charlene, my dear friend. Give the newlyweds a hug! How amazing, honeymooning in Italy after that gorgeous wedding. And thanks for all your help with Minda…I love the lei-wearing cowboy, too. Couldn’t resist him.

  7. Hi Kate and Victoria, thanks for stopping by. Hawaiian cowboys sort of surprised me, too. My siste-in-law has a teaching colleague whose great-grandfather was a paniolo…and the story of how he and his wife fell in love is truly a romance novel plot I intend to work on someday.

    And ya’ll will be the first to know the release date for the Christmas story. It was truly fun writing something SHORT 🙂

    Thanks, everybody, for your good wishes.

  8. Thanks, Pam, for adding the cover. I just got the final galleys (good timing LOL, due in ten days. er, nine) so should have a release date soon. I really apreciate all the support from all the fillies and friends out there.

  9. Good morning Minna and Jane. Thanks for coming by. Hawaii is a fun place. I actually snorkel which is miraculous for someone who doesn’t like to get her face wet LOL.

    Thanks for your good wishes 🙂

  10. I learned something today. I always thought most cowboys were from the west. I guess I never thought about it before but I do guess there could be cowboys from anywhere including Hawaii.

  11. What an interesting post, Tanya!!! I’d never heard of Hawaiian vaqueros, and I have relatives on Kawai. Thanks for sharing 🙂 I look forward to reading the book!!

  12. Thanks for the great post. Hope you have a great time in Hawaii. I guess I never thought much about cowboys and all of the place they actually were. I love learning new stuff and now I have a little more knowledge on different cowboys. Thanks

  13. Hi Kel….so good to hear from you! Hugs.

    Stacey and Rebekah, I learn something new every day at the Junction. It’s so fun to be here today with this topic. Thanks for posting.

  14. Hi Tanya!

    Hope you’re not living it up too high over there. You might not want to come back home. And those lava floes will get you in trouble! lol

    It’s always a joy to have you guest blog. You find the most interesting things. The Luv Wranglers were very unique and I’m looking forward to having them back again when you come next time.

    As for your question…I’m just a tad prejudiced when it comes to my cowboys. I don’t think you can beat the ones from Texas. But I know those from the other states are just as tough and hunky and can make you swallow your tongue when in the vicinity of them.

    Hope you have a great time. Soak up the sun and surf!

  15. Hi Tanya. Good to see you here. Great post. I learned alot about cowboys. Marrying Minda sounds great. I love mail order bride stories.

  16. Oh, and you’d better steer clear of those hunky Hawaiian cowboys. 🙂 They’re HOT!

    Great cover of your new book too! Love the title and the stagecoach on the front. Glad your publisher chose that graphic because I remember that scene where she arrives by stage all decked out in her wedding dress. Created quite an impression.

  17. hi Linda, yeah, I gotta admit. There’s nothing like a Texas cowboy. Even set in Nebraska, Minda’s hero actually is one LOL. Thanks as always for your support and good wishes and encouraging words!

    I don’t think I, a 21st century wuss, could have ever been a mail-order bride, although like Cristal, I love their stories.

    As for showing up in a town full of strangers in a wedding down…I sure couldn’t have done it. But it was a fun scene to write.

    Hi Crystal, thanks for coming by today and for your kind compliment.

  18. Hi Tanya,
    I never knew Hawaii had cowboys and ranches. I always enjoy a cowboy story set in Texas and my favorite drink right now is hot chocolate because it got cold here today.

  19. Never thought of Hawaii having cowboys and ranches. I always enjoy a cowboy story set in Texas or Arizona, but hey any cowboy in jeans makes a good story (lol). Can’t wait to read your book love mail order bride stories. Again I love that cover.

    Have a great time!

  20. well-I for one, have never even thought about cowboys over in Hawaii!!! This was very interesting to read about Tanya! I hope you have a lovely time!

  21. I’m just gonna say what everybody else has. I didn’t know there were Hawaiian cowboys. LOL
    Very nice pictures and interesting information!


  22. hi Maureen! Hot chocolate and cowboys are favorites of mine, too. I’m actually eager for some cooler weather at home. October is usually the hottest month where I live in Southern California.

    Sherry yes, any cowboy in tight jeans does it for me, too…and I too am just delighted with the cover. Nicola Martinez is the artist and she does incredible work. AND she asked me for my input LOL and actually spun off it. Yay.

    Thanks for blogging with me today, ladies.

  23. Hello there Melissa D and Diedre~ yeah, I too generally thought of Hawaiians as bare-chested surf dudes…which I guess might still be the case if it hadn’t been for ole’ Captain Vancouver…On a previous trip to Kona (Big Island) we learned a bit about the paniolo and it seemed a great topic for the Junction.

    Glad you enjoyed the info, and thanks for your good wishes.

  24. hi Caitlin,
    Thanks for stopping in. I owe the Paniolo Preservation Society and the Parker Ranch for most of the pix. I love the one with the snowy volcano in the background. It still amazes me that such tropical Islands can get snow at high elevations.

    And the cowboy with his lei is just too adorable, don’t you think?

  25. Great info on the Hawaiian cowboys.
    I really enjoy reading about Texas cowboys.
    Diet Pepsi is my drink of choice.

  26. Hi Estella! Oh I’m a Diet Pepsi girl myself! And I even won a blindfold taste-test vs. Coke at the county fair. Yes, bring on those Texans LOL.

    Thanks for blogging with me today.

  27. Hi Tanya,welcome,I know you are going to have a great time,jealous I am,ive been ,but its been a long,long time ago,an went horse back riding in Hawaii!It was our daughters 11th birthday an we told her we would do whatever she wanted to do,so she picked go horseback riding,in Hawaii!So thats what we did,thanks for the memory

  28. Hi Vickie, what a wonderful memory to have and to share with us! That’s my goal this year (I just had a birthday) to learn to ride a horse. We’ll see LOL.

    Thanks for commenting today. I’m having a great time with the fillies and friends.

  29. I’m one of the ones that didn’t have a clue about cowboys in Hawaii! That was very interesting. I have read where we more or less took over their country and made it a state and got rid of their royalty 🙁 As far as where I like my cowboy to be from – anywhere lol. And cabernet savignon lol.

  30. Hi Tanya;

    I must say your blogs are always full of interesting information.

    I knew there were cowboys in Hawaii but I wasn’t as smart as you to go over there to do research for a book. Good thinking!

  31. Yeah, Jeanne. I started to read Michener’s Hawaii and couldn’t finish after reading what the “missionaries” did. Whew. I gotta confess I’m more merlot or pinot noir than Cab…but it’ll do in a pinch LOL. Thanks for commenting today.

  32. Hi Tanya! Thanks for blogging here today. Lots of fascinating information! Marrying Minda sounds great! I’m looking forward to reading it.

  33. Thanks for this fascinating and informative post. Your book looks delightful and interesting. Enjoy your trip and wishing you much success and fun.

  34. Hi Brenda, thanks for joining me today. I’ll have fun, I promise!

    Good evening, Margie and Ruth. I’m glad you enjoyed the information on the paniolo. I had a great time getting more details on them. I only knew a little. I really liked learning that 2008 is the year of the Hawai’ian cowboy.

  35. I had no idea about the cowboys in Hawaii. I would love to visit there, check them out and see for myself. My drink of choice right now is hot tea because I’m sick. If it wasn’t for that, I’d be wanting a strawberry margarita in a fancy glass. A very large fancy glass. lol

  36. I really enjoyed your blog about cowboys. I’m also very jealous of your trip to Hawaii. All those beautiful flowers, great weather and COWBOYS!

  37. Tanya, we’ve sure enjoyed having you here again. It’s been fun. We hope you keep coming to read the blogs. And of course, we’re going to have you back for other fun blogs. How coud we not?

  38. Being a native of Texas, there cannot be any other
    answer but TEXAS! Favorite beverage is iced tea!

    Pat Cochran

  39. Wow, I am going to have to read more closely the history of Hawaii. Never figured there to be cowboys there. Love our Nebraska cowboys, of course, and after a weekend of camping my favorite beverage at this moment is water, plain old water.

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