A Real Way with Cows

Big Ed Ignacio straddled an ATV, alternating between the accelerator and brakes, and gently rocked the rumbling vehicle to and fro. Nowadays, we ride ha-ha-ha Japanese Quarter Horses he joked to his potential buyers. Went right over their heads. Sure not gonna sell my dairy for a penny less. Rich guys from the mainland looking down their noses; with their snide comments about outdated methods, their big ideas about new technology. In his milking parlor.


“Hut. Hut”, Big Ed called out to the laggard cow that had stalled at a fence post itching its flank. He slowly rolled his vehicle towards the cow’s rear end, and encouraged it to move on with the rest of the herd trudging up the road that divided his paddocks.

The cattle walked on, past the twin metal silos rusting in the sun. He hated the sight of them. Poor Daddy. He got bamboozled by that ag expert from Ames– ended up with an Iowa feedlot in Hawaii. Made him grow corn, then sorghum, but they all soured in the island weather.

“Whoa-whoa,” he hollered to a willowy heifer with a brindled back. “Where you goin’?” She was one of his best producers and feisty as all get out, liked to wander, escaped three times. Better get to fixin’ that fence and not tomorrow.

Big Ed kept his distance, allowing the lead cows, eager to graze on the upper pasture’s guinea grass, to find their own way to the gate. The black and whites took a sharp turn to the right as they arrived at the big S-curve and half of them disappeared from sight. He wasn’t sure he could actually go through with it. Sell to them. Everywhere you look, more people from somewhere else—buying up the land and taking over.

MOaaah! A distress signal. He speeded up and rode into the curve.

The cattle were spilling over the road and congregating at the galvanized gate leading into their paddock. Pinned against the metal bars by the lowing cows was a haole lady, what the “H” was she doing?  Must be a jogger, probably from California, scared to death.

He chuckled and then edged his ATV through the cows, “Hut. Hut,” they parted as he brushed up against their sides, giving him just enough space.


“Hop on.”


She was ladylike even in jeans, rode side saddle, gripped his sides real hard, thanked him right away.  He drove her up to the highway and she jumped off, graceful with long legs.


“Most newcomers come and go in Hawaii,” he told her. “They find out that the cliffs are crumbling and the kids are on meth and the coqui frogs drive them nuts… can’t adjust and they go home.”


“I think my aunt was friends with your mother,” she said. I’m living in her place now, just past where the cowboys live.”


He felt a sudden release from his lungs, like a tire hissing air. “Sorry about your Aunt.” He removed his cap, “She had a real way with cows.”


He could tell she wanted to cry and there wasn’t a thing he could do. Sadness was like that. Try stopping a wave. He looked out at the highway and waited for her to say something.


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