Uncle Thompson is there every day

NAWILIWILI – A job brought Richard Thompson over to Kaua’i from his O’ahu

setting of Kalihi.

The job ended in two months, and Thompson has been here

ever since.

That was 40 years ago, and today, “I going be 80 this year,” he

says as he looks up from the task of repairing a fishnet under the shade of one

of the coconut trees fronting the sea wall overlooking Kalapaki

Bay.

“Richard,” he pauses as his fingers knowingly search the

monofilament. “They got too many ‘Richards’ down here, so most of the guys

call me by my last name, ‘Thompson.'”

“I started makin’ nets when I was

11,” Thompson reflects, “in those days, we nevah use this kind stuff,”

referring to the monofilament.

“We used cord…was moe easy to work

with.” His fingers stop their search and reach for the small scissors he uses

to snip off a piece of netting that has been stressed from being pulled over

rocks, or aged from use.

Now, at age 79, Thompson likes to sit in the fresh

air blowing in off Nawiliwili Bay. “When I was in Honolulu, I never used to

make nets down the beach. But, the wind here is good. On some days, the kids

they ride the waves so good I stop and watch them.”

“People, mostly ladies,

like learn how to make nets,” he says as his fingers deftly pick up a netting

needle and begins the task of darning the section needing work. “I teach ’em

… they like learn how to fix net … I teach ’em.”

“And, people they like

take my picture,” he says with a twinkle in his eyes, his gnarled fingers never

missing a beat as they finish with a section and continue their search for

another stressed section of the net.

“This net?” he indicates to the piece

sprawled across one of the unoccupied picnic tables. “The guy he brought it to

me Tuesday. By Friday, going be ready for catch more fish.”

“Uncle

Thompson, yeah…he’s heah almos’ every day,” one of the regular visitors to

the park agreed. “He sits under one of the trees and just makes his nets.

That’s Uncle Thompson.”

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