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
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
“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.”
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.”