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lifestyle. The paniolo, or Hawaiian cowboy, was born. Waimea’s own Ikua Purdy took first prize in the World’s Steer Roping Championship in 1908 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Purdy upstaged the mainland cowboys by roping, throwing, and tying the steer in 56 seconds—all on a borrowed horse. Purdy had worked at Parker Ranch, which was founded and to this day headquartered in Waimea Town. Parker Ranch began operations in 1847, an astonishing 30 years before many famous ranches in Texas. Today, a large bronze statue of Purdy roping a steer prominently displayed in town pays tribute to the world-famous Hawaiian cowboy, who was inducted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame in 1999. Meanwhile, in the forests that did remain on the slopes of Kohala above Waimea, a new threat emerged—globalism. Halfway across the largest ocean on the planet, the Chinese affinity for the fragrant hardwood of a native Hawaiian tree, the ÿiliahi (sandalwood), kickstarted Hawaiÿi’s very first export—sandalwood. Men lined up by the thousands carrying as much of the native ÿiliahi as they could down the slopes of Kohala to the ships docked below. This lucrative sandalwood bubble eventually burst in the early 1840s, leaving a decimated forest in its place. In 1899, Walter Maxwell, the Chief Chemist of the Hawaiÿi Sugar Planters Association observed, “…vast breadths of superb forests have dried up, and are now dead and bare.” The Hawaiians have a saying: Hahai nö ka ua i ka ululäÿau. Rain always follows the forest. Fewer forests means less rain. No rain, no watersheds. No watersheds, no water. No water, no life. Getting angry at our ancestors for their decisions is fruitless. What we can do is learn from their mistakes and move forward. A BIG ISLAND TRAVELER


looms in the distance with a lofty summit elevation of almost 14,000 feet above sea level. When snowcapped, the view of Mauna Kea from Waimea Town is humbling. Locals across the state tend to get a far-off, dreamy look in their eye when Waimea is mentioned, usually followed by a deep sigh and a declaration that someday, they’d like to retire in Waimea. The first Hawaiians to populate Waimea were descendants of those brave Tahitian explorers. As the small community grew into a large settlement, most likely around the 1100s to 1200s, this group of people burned swaths of the native forest to make room for farming. They built extensive rock walls to contain fertile soil in massive terraced farm plots. These plots were irrigated by canals pulling water from the Waimea streams, ingeniously utilizing gravity to keep the water flowing. Farmers grew kalo (taro), sugar cane, and sweet potato. Native birds chirped in the forest. The population boomed to about 10,000 people before Western contact. Post Western contact quickly and dramatically changed the landscape of Waimea forever. Why? Two species: Bos taurus, and Santalum paniculatum—cattle and sandalwood. Cattle were unloaded on Hawaiÿi by Captain George Vancouver in 1793. The few cows that Vancouver gifted to King Kamehameha multiplied to over 25,000 only 5 decades later. A majority of these cows roamed free, unfettered by fences, into the forests. These powerful ungulates treated Hawaiÿi’s native flora like an all-you-caneat salad buffet. Stomping through the undergrowth and chomping on anything trying to grow, cattle quickly turned green into brown. To take care of the four-legged problem, in rode the SpanishMexican vaqueros from California. They taught the Hawaiian people the ways of ranching and cattle management, who in turn elevated the

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