Monday, August 20, 2012

paniolo on the Big Island

Ok so we took ten TeenAg members to Hawaii

to experience agriculture Hawaii styles.

Firstly, of course they have farms and stuff in Hawaii.
They only four days supply of food should 
they get cut off for some reason,
so the farms are working farms but 
there aren't enough of them to feed the population,
Most food is imported.
Which explains all the Mexican restaurants.

While on the Big Island we visited a bunch of farms.
But first let's talk about ranches.
Hawaii has a proud and long history of cowboy culture.

And it is a commonly known fact in the States
and other cowboy culture type countries that
those who grow cattle are ranchers
and those who grow crops are farmers.
This is an important distinction.
So the hosts of half of our small group of ten,
the Beatons are ranchers.
One our first day on the Big Island each group of our TeenAg kids
went to a branding.
This tradition is vaguely similar to the type of gathering
that we might have for a muster,
when family and friends come together to get the job done.
In this case the job was to brand, dehorn, vaccinate and worm the calves.
Cowboy style.
The kids loved it.
Loved it so much that most of them ended up learning to rope
and bring lariats home with them.
The other half of our group stayed with the Stouts.
That's Patti Stout in the middle here,
between Alex Beaton and Dr Billy Bergen.
Patti's dad was old school paniolo as was her grandfather
and probably back through the generations until
King Kamehameha I.
Patti's father is an esteemed member of the Paniolo Hall of Fame.

Dr Bergen is an equine vet who had worked for
Parker Ranch most of his life.
He loved the history, community and culture of Parker Ranch.

Over cowboy soup Dr Bergen shared the story of Parker Ranch.

Parker Ranch was the first ranch in Hawaii starting in 1847.
Yes that would be about 30 years before Texan ranches got themselves 
organised and Texan.
King Kamehameha I was gifted cattle by George Vancouver,
as in Canada Vancouver Vancouver.

The cattle as gifts were made kapu (tapu, taboo) by the king
and as a result breed like flies and bothered the people
by getting in their yards and munching on their gardens.

So this smooth guy called John Palmer Parker rocked up aka jumped ship
and offered a hand with wrangling the cattle
resulting in bringing in Spanish cowboys from old Mexico.

Paniolo is Hawai'ian for Spanish and
in turn became the name for the Hawai'ian cowboys.
Mr Parker also, like so many palangi married
a beautiful Hawai'ian princess, Kipikane.

With her hand in marriage Parker was able to own land.
There is still plenty of Hawai'ian homeland land
that can only be owned or leased by Hawai'ians.
There's a fair bit of it sitting unused.
May explain why they can't fed themsleves,
just sayin'

The Parker family has the usual tragic stories of excess and
premature deaths that seem to go with great land owning families.
The land passed out of the family and was owned by a few ranchers
until 1992 when the final owner Richard Smart died.
The ranch passed into a trust which supports
two schools and a community hospital.
Not to mention the centre of our temporary Hawai'ian universe,
Parker Ranch Mall.

The kids here are lined up leaning on the
statue of Ikua Purdy at Parker Ranch Mall,
Starbucks coffees in hand
enjoying a rather cold rain shower.

Ikua Purdy is the iconic cowboy for the Hawai'ians.
He should be to all cowboys.

He and a couple of his mates turned up in Wyoming in 1908
catching the train for days,
arriving and having to borrow horses to
sign up for the biggest rodeo in the West in those days,
the Wyoming Frontier Days.

Of course three brown boys rocking up without horses
entering the roping were greeted with derision.
Just as today, there was little notice taken of the epic cattle history Hawai'i has.
After all we all know cowboys are long, lanky white boys.

Ikua caned those white boys who laughed at his funny language
and expected him to fail.
He caned them on a borrowed horse.
He caned them after days on a train.
He caned them in 1 minute 6 seconds.
He caned them royally.
Probably because his great, great grandfather was King Kamehameha the first
and because he was good at what he did.

See Hawai'i is a lot like New Zealand.
We who are from small islands love it when one of ours
beats the guys from the big places.

So much of the paniolo culture reminded me of the East Coast.
Of riding bareback, of family, of community and hard work.
I'd say New Zealand and Hawaii have a lot in common.
The same feel about how we are.
The farming and ranching practices and ethic differ
but of all the places I've travelled to,
Hawaii is the closest to my home.

On July 5th Louly and I took ten young New Zealand farm kids to Hawaii for an agricultural exchange for two weeks. They are members of the NYZF TeenAg programme. We were hosted by East Hawaii 4H specifically the Beatons and Stouts. We visited many kinds of agricultural and horticultural operations, varied and diverse, learned that American ag folks like to philosophise about their place in the world and had a great time snorkeling and shopping in the sun. These posts are in no particular order cause I was too busy to post while in Hawaii and can be rather abstract and should only be taken as an inaccurate at best record.

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