The last of the Hawaiian cowboys


So much has disappeared from the islands of my childhood. Will the paniolo be next?

My infatuation with Hawaiian cowboys began on O‘ahu’s North Shore, a quiet district enlivened by big waves and show-off surfers. On Sundays we country kids would sneak to a rugged polo field laid out parallel to the beach. We’d ogle the Honolulu high society gathered under big white tents — men in navy sport coats and women in high heels, who’d sip champagne while they watched the matches. Prince Charles played there, and some jet-setting Argentines, but the polo players we rooted for were paniolos. They’d come from Maui and the Big Island, and they’d wield their mallets like ancient Hawaiians did their spears. Some were the descendants of missionary families or the scions of families who owned Waikiki hotels. Others were Native Hawaiian horsemen in a class of their own. Our favorite was Tuna…

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