Sunday, May 22, 2022 |
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When I first started to work at Kipu on Dec. 12, 1941, Mamoru Matsumura was one of the first people to befriend me.
I was the grandson of the boss so I had to work extra hard. Mamoru helped me get into the hang of “paniolo” (cowboy) life at Kipu. Kipu was in the process of changing from a small sugar plantation to a large ranch. I was an extra and learned how to do almost every job there was to do.
Another young Japanese boy and I were sent out with six older Japanese men to dig post holes for a new fence. At this time, all the old cane fields were being turned into pastures. As a field of sugar cane was being harvested, we would fence it off so that it could have the “kikuyu” grass stolons (low growing grass) planted between the rows of cane.
When the cane was about three feet high, we would put the cattle in to eat down the cane. At first, we young boys didn’t have the finer points of digging holes but we soon caught on and now, we were soon outdoing the older men. Now we were accepted as okay.
My grandfather’s last name was Rice and we did everything on “Rice” power; there were no mechanical aids to the work details.
For a two-week stint in February 1942 I was sent into the harvesting field to work with the “Ka‘akalaka Gang” (the train gang). Mamoru was the tractor driver and the other three fellows coupled and uncoupled the cars, first the empty cars that were to be loaded the next day were pulled into the field on portable tracks with a “crawler tractor,” then the cars which had been loaded that day were pulled out to the main line so that the locomotive could take them to the mill in Lihu‘e.
After about four months of grunt work, I was promoted to be the harvesting “luna” (boss) for our harvesting crew who was now harvesting sugar for Grove Farm Plantation. Mamoru and the Ka‘akalaka gang were also a part of this for five months.
For the first month the Grove farm field was close enough for my grandfather to ride over and see what was going on. He could always find something he didn’t like in the way we were working and would yell at me, “you (bleep) fool kid, don’t you know anything.”
After he was gone, the Filipino “luna” Ricardo under me would come over and say, “don’t worry Mr. Hobey, we take care of you.” And off we would go the way we started and got the job done. We all were happy when this work was “pau” (finished) and we could go back to Kipu.
Finally, Mamoru and Hiram Matsumoto and I were back being “paniolo” again. Now I had to learn the finer points of training horses for one and Mamoru taught me how to ride a bucking horse.
The Hawaiians would saddle up a young horse and say “kau mai” (get on). They would then pull off the blindfold and give the horse a swat on the “okole” (rump) and after a couple of jumps, Hobey would be on the ground.
After a couple of times Mamoru started telling me how to sit in the saddle and lean back and pretty soon I caught on and became a good rider. Mamoru was also a good rider and was also a very good trainer of young horses.
He was one of the better ropers and, head and shoulders above the others in all cowboy work. I can’t remember what hand he used to rope with, but in baseball, he threw and batted left handed. At Kipu, we raised our “pipi” (cattle) to maturity and had to do our own slaughtering.
Mamoru being left-handed was a welcome addition to the skinning crew. When we finally got an electric power saw, Mamoru did all the splitting of the carcasses. He caught on very quickly with any of the new ways of doing things on the ranch. Unfortunately the chance of upward mobility was based on heredity and not on ability, so Mamoru never had a chance to become “luna.”
Mamoru left the ranch a short time after I did in 1962. He had several other jobs but never again in the cattle business. He and I would have wonderful times over a cup of coffee reminiscing about the old days when I was working at Garden Island Motors.
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