Category Archives: Hawaiian History

Saddle up

The headquarters of Parker Ranch, founded in 1847 and one of the biggest ranches in the USA, can be found in the bucolic town of Waimea. It’s the heart of cattle country on the Big Island and where there’s cattle, there’s cowboys, but not here. Here in Hawaii, the cattle are tended by paniolos. That’s because, when the cattle industry grew, ranch hands were needed.

The first three came from California, then part of Mexico. These three vaqueros (Spanish for cowboys) spoke español, but the theory is that, because the Hawaiian language couldn’t handle the word español, it was converted to paniolo. The name stuck.

Over time, the local Hawaiians learned the skills associated with handling cattle. So well did they do this that, in 1908, three of them were entered in the Frontier Days World Championship in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Not only were they a huge hit with the crowds, but they also won titles. Ikua Purdy won the world steer-roping contest and was later voted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame. To commemorate those achievements this monument was commissioned. It arrived on the island in 2003 and today stands next to the main highway, on the edge of the parking lot of Parker Ranch Center, a large (for Waimea) shopping complex in the center of town.

For more information about monument, go to

For a brief history of the Big Island’s cattle industry, go to

Posted in response to Becky’s January Squares challenge theme of ‘Up.’ See more responses here.

Better Days: Old Coast Guard Station

The Old Coast Guard Station near Upolu was constructed in 1944 as a Loran station. Loran was an early navigation positioning system. The original system was Loran A, but this was replaced by Loran C in the early 1960s.

Over the years there were changes to the buildings, staffing, and equipment at the station until, in 1993, the station closed. For many years not much happened. The buildings began a steady decline. The station had been built on two different land parcels and, upon closure, these ended up in the hands of the Hawaiian Homelands and Parker Ranch.

When I first moved to Hawaii, a local policeman used to live in one of the buildings. It was all fairly low key and mellow. When the policeman moved out, Parker Ranch put up no trespassing signs and had security personnel driving by to check the area. They stopped people from walking along the coastline for exercise or to fish because, God forbid that unauthorized people should set foot on any of the thousands of acres they own. (Yes, I was bitter about that attitude.)

Eventually, Parker Ranch sold their slice of the old station and the new owners refurbished the two buildings on that property (the blue buildings in the top photo). Regular people can now walk the coastline again as the very nice owners marked a path with coconut shells.

The rest of the station continues to slowly decay. Owned by Hawaiian Homelands, the chances of anything happening in my lifetime are remote.

For more information about the history of the Old Coast Guard Loran Station near Upolu, go to Scroll down to Documents and find the General Information Books for 1969, 1978, and 1988 for some interesting historical information about the station and the area.

Milo flowers

The milo tree (Thespesia populnea) is a canoe plant, brought to Hawaii by the early Polynesians, though it was probably already here before then and so is considered indigenous.

The flowers, which don’t open fully, start out a delicate yellow with red patches at the base, becoming dark pink later. The flowers are followed by green seed capsules which dry to brown.

Signs: Scalding steam

I was rather taken by the vivid graphic on this sign alongside the Sulphur Banks Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. But it illustrates an incident from 1996 when a 10-year-old boy wandered off the trail and his foot went through the crust into a steaming vent leaving him with serious burns. That small, dark hole in the upper left of the photo is one such vent and it was busily steaming away while I read the gory details.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to

As time goes by

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Weathered.’ See more responses here.

In the top photo, a dead tree on the lower slopes on Mauna Kea, stretches weathered branches toward the sky.

Second photo: Petroglyphs in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park have been weathered by years of sun and rain, but are still clearly visible.

Third photo: A cattle ranch alongside old Saddle Road includes this old structure bordering a stockyard.

Bottom photo: Butterflies have a short lifespan, but in that time they can go from looking boldly marked and colored to very faded, with some looking like it’s a miracle they can fly at all.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to

Water inlet

Behind the beach at Anaeho’omalu Bay are two fishponds, Kahapapa and Ku’uali’i. These ponds are typical of the kind that form behind a beach, which protects them from the ocean waves. The ponds are connected to the ocean by this channel, which allows was to come and go with the tides. A sluice gate was used to prevent fish using the channel as an escape route.

Where natural ponds weren’t available, they were created by enclosing areas with rock walls. I featured one such fishpond here.

In Hawaiian history, fishponds were very important. In such an isolated community it was important to have reliable food supplies. The ponds provided this, supplementing fish caught in the ocean. Many ponds have disappeared due to development, volcanic activity, tsunami, and the like. But the ones that survive are a bit of living history, used now more for education than for food.

For more information about Hawaiian fishponds go here.