Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Paniolo

My last post included a painting of horses that I did for my granddaughter. I’ll post it again here for those who may not have seen it. I thought it would be interesting to write on how Hawai’i came to have one of the most famous ranches in the world and how it produced one of rodeo’s world champion cowboys.

As I said previously said, one of the most famous ranches in the world is the Parker Ranch on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Horses are not native to Hawai’i so you may wonder how did ranching, cattle and horses come to be in Hawai’i. It all started with a gift from England and help from Spain. In 1793 George Vancouver, British sea captain, presented King Kamehameha with long-horned cattle. After receiving the cattle King Kamehameha declared by a sacred protection order (kapu) that they would be allowed to roam and breed freely. This became a problem because the cattle reproduced in large numbers and in two decades, the cattle had formed huge herds. They ate native crops, stampeding through villages, and caused destruction to villages and instilled terror in the population. Like the Texas Longhorn, the Hawaiian Longhorns were smart, wily, and very dangerous. The king decided that the kapu had to be lifted to allow the capture of the Longhorn and stop the chaos. This is where Spain enters the picture. It was on one of his tours that King Kamehameha saw and was very impressed with the skill of the Mexican-Spanish Vaqueros. He knew this was what Hawai’i needed – trained vaqueros to train Hawaiians how to be Vaqueros and to bring the cattle under control. At the request of King Kamehameha, the King of Spain gathered together some Vaqueros and in 1832 they arrived in Hawaii.

With their well-trained ponies, intricate high-horned saddles, and lariats, the Vaqueros demonstrated handling and horsemanship as an art. They taught the Hawaiians to make saddles, to braid the lariat (kaula`ili), to craft bullwhips (‘uepa kani) and the metalwork for bits and spurs (kepa pele). In talking with the Hawaiians, the Vaqueros introduced themselves as “Español.” The closest the Hawaiians could come to the pronunciation was “Paniolo.” Thus was born the Hawaiian Paniolo.

In 1908, three Paniolo, Ikuā Purdy, Archie Ka`aua, and Jack Low traveled to the World Rodeo Championships in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They were considered curiosities, and were faced with prejudice. Because they were not taken seriously, they had difficulty borrowing horses to participate in the rodeo. There was some relenting in that area, but the horses they were given were considered scrubs. Taking their “scrubs,” they trained them in the Hawaiian style – working them in a river to prevent them from fighting. Low was unable to compete due to his asthma, but after all was said and done; Archie Ka`aua took third place, Ikua Purdy won first place and was proclaimed World Champion. Having won them over with his skill, determination, and style, Purdy was given a standing ovation by the crowd.

If this is all news to you…it is to me also. I had some vague idea of how this all went down, but didn’t know as much as I’ve learned researching this information. I lived on the Big Island and have visited the Parker Ranch. It is like most large cattle ranches…miles and miles of open land, some flat, some hilly…but none other that I know of overlooks the beauty of the Pacific Ocean, nor lets you stand on its hillsides to feel the warmth and softness of the tradewinds as this one does.

Just for fun, here are a couple of fun “pony” drawings that I did for pony story that I am doing for my granddaughter. She told me what their names were but I cannot remember all of them. I do know that the pink one is "Pinkie Pie" and the flying one is "Star Song."

Mahalo for visiting and be well.

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  1. Love the illustrations for the pony story! they tell a story even without one!

  2. Thanks. She, my granddaughter is waiting for that story to be completed. I'm working on it.

  3. Loke posting for Tia:
    On my trip to the Big Island, we made a point of getting to the Parker Ranch, "Kamuela", because I know some of my Portuguese ancestors actually started dairy farming in the Islands...they all ended up in Los Banos and Hollister! How weird is that??? Heading out there was a serious adventure, heading north from Kona-Kailua. It was, ostensibly, only about 11 miles from our first measuring point. What seemed like two days later, I just knew we were lost...we'd gone from beautiful Hawaiian seascapes to something that looked more like we were heading to Reno; with one huge difference, high desert vistas ahead, and the Pacific in the rear view mirror! We did love Parker Ranch ... alot of structures remain, reminiscent of our (mainlanders') first perception of the Islands, back in the 40s and 50s. White clapboard churches on blocks on wide expanses of lawn. The houses, pretty much the same. It was my first view of the Hawaii I fantasized about as a child and it didn't disappoint. Looked just like Elvis' , "Blue Hawaii", LOL

    Oh, and I love Miss Ellie's pink pony!!

    Love you much,

  4. Tia:
    I didn't know you had been there. I lived in Kamuela for a while back in 1992. You're right, even though it might measure a reasonable driving distance, it seems like a very long trek especially since you were driving from Kona. Once we drove to a concert up on the mountain from Kamuela and that seemed like a forever drive, but it was well worth it. Beautiful country.

  5. I like your completed painting Lokelani and interesting to hear the background behind the ranches)

  6. Thank you Sam...not near as well done as your animal portraits, but with practice, maybe.

  7. Hi Lokelani! Thanks for your comment on my blog and for following!

    I had no idea of the ranch history of Hawaii, thanks for sharing it. I think your painitng is beautiful as it captures the tenderness between mother and foal.

  8. Thank you Deborah, for visiting my blog and encouraging comments. Love your work.

  9. Lokelani, I enjoyed this post so much when I first saw it and then didn't come back to comment! I'm slow! The painting is beautiful! Your granddaughter must be thrilled with it! Reading the history of cowboys in Hawaii was very interesting! We have lots of cowboys and ranches here in South Florida but most people don't associate our tropics with cowboys and ranches. I had never thought about them being in Hawaii. I do hope to visit there someday!

  10. Gosh, I didn't know that about South Florida. Like Hawaii, it is not a state one would associate with the cowboys, cattle and ranches. Also, thanks for your kind comments.