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When tourists replace cattle

IMG_1794 (800x600)Just outside the town of Waimea on the big island of Hawaii, sits Parker Ranch. In truth, however, like neighbouring Waikoloa Village, the town actually sits on the ranch. It was once the largest cattle ranch in the USA under sole ownership and definitely the largest ranch in Hawaii (500 000 acres and 30 000 cattle at its peak).

Its history goes back to 1809 when 19-year-old John Parker jumped ship in Hawaii. He crossed paths with King Kamehameha I and when, after one of his travels, he returned to the island with an American musket, he was the first man the King allowed to shoot some of the wild cattle that roamed the islands. Just 21 years earlier, a British Captain had given the King five head of cattle – and these had multiplied into thousands. Parker, recognising a good thing, was in large part responsible for initiating the export of salt beef from the island.  In 1816, he married the daughter of a local Chief and, with a daughter and two sons, the Parker dynasty began. It ended in 1992, after six generations, with the death of Richard (Dick) Smart, last sole owner of the ranch, Broadway actor, and high-flying socialite.  The Parker Ranch Foundation Trust now works  to support healthcare, education and charitable giving through named beneficiaries in the Waimea community.

IMG_1793 (800x583)During the Second World War, the ranch was home to Camp Tarawa and 50 000 marines as they prepared to do battle at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In the 1960s, as the land became too dry for cattle, Smart leased land to hotelier Laurance Rockefeller who built the Mauna Kea Hotel in Kaunaʻoa Bay. He began to diversify, building towns, villages, theatres, and  museums, recognising that tourists would be the new cattle. Today, you can drive for miles through the Big Island’s high desert and still be on Parker Ranch land.

There’s a small part of me that wishes I’d been born into the wild west. I’ve been overdosing on Bonanza, and Have gun, will travel, and the like and somewhere, deep down (very deep down)  inside, there’s a bonnet-wearing, petticoated, church-going, pie-baking, homesteading woman just waiting for a hat to be tipped in her direction, accompanied by a low-drawled ‘ma’am’. Fanciful, I know.  But what can I say? Manners, good manners, win out every time.

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2013 Grateful 52

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for quite a while. Months, in fact. Life has been busy. Work has been manic. And I find it difficult to say no. But I’m getting better. My trouble is that although I know I don’t  have the time or the energy, if a project sounds interesting and will teach me something, then even though my brain says NO! my mouth says YES! The result is that in 2012, I sometimes had to pull all-nighters to get through it all. This year, I’m resolving to take better care of my eyes, my body, and my self. I’m going to better manage my time, and take more time for me.

IMG_1524 (800x600)The first step down this road of resolution, was to catch up on my sleep. I’d  run out of sleep credit and had gotten to the stage that to sleep through the night was a miracle. I needed some serious down time and where better to find it than in Hawaii. Life on the big island is slow and laid back. People are of the ‘early to bed, early to rise’ ilk and the restorative power of the sun cannot be underestimated.

IMG_1598 (800x600)Sun, I hear you say? Sun? Yes, I know I’m no great lover of the sun, and would prefer 20 below to 40 above any day, but sunsets are a different story. Down at Kawaihae Harbour (one of the two main harbours on the Big Island of Kona) one evening, we sat watching the sun go down. Situated in North Kohala, it was here in 1793 that the first horses and cattle brought the island were docked. It’s still in operation and is also a good sighting point for humpbacked whales.

IMG_1590 (800x589)IMG_1576Often home to the Makalii, one of three traditional Hawaiian sailing canoes, it was from here that  King Kamehameha and his entourage set out in canoes to conquer the neighboring islands. It didn’t take much to imagine what life might have been like back then. A couple of sailboats dotted the horizon and had I been able to bottle the salt-aired serenity, I’d be a very rich woman. That night, I slept like a baby – for the third night in a row. I woke at 6.30 am, fully awake. Perhaps it’s the sea air. Perhaps it’s the sun. Perhaps it’s the company. Whatever it is, this week, I’m truly grateful that I’ve rediscovered the joy of sleep and to my friends D&SF for sharing their refuge with me and being there for me over the years.

Way back in 1994, I visited an old boyfriend in Washington State. We spent the weekend at Ocean Shores with D&SF and their friends M&DW. That last-minute change to my travel plans resulted in a friendship that has spanned nearly 20 years. When I moved back to the States later that year, I went to live with them in Longview, Washington, where they graciously adopted me as one of their own for nine months and even forgave me for flooding their home with suds when I put washing-up liquid in the dishwasher!

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Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52