Sheriff Larry hosts talk story with cowboys, veterinarian at Honokaʻa Western Week
Country music and cowboy boots filled the historic Manuel S. Botelho building in Honoka’a Monday evening during a special Western Week “Cowboy Talk Story,” when lifelong residents reminisced about the “good old days.”
Paula De Silva spoke out about her late husband Donny, who took care of breeding and weening foals as head of horses with Parker Ranch, one of the oldest ranches in the United States that predated mainland ranches by more than 30 years and spread across 130,000 acres on the Big Island.
De Silva said her husband was “just a cowboy” at the beginning of his career, starting out in the dairy and tending to the ranches’ cows until later he “got into the cowboy gang.” They moved to Kohala and then he got transferred back to Waimea to lead the horse department.
His natural way and love for the animals had him in that position for years, she said, until he suffered from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. They were married for 49 years, with “lots of good memories together,” when he passed, she said.
Married into a cowboy family, she recalled a time in the early 1950s when her father-in-law helped to start the local saddle club, which included building a rodeo arena out of eucalyptus trees with help from his friends.
It’s the stories that draw people to the annual Western Week Cowboy Talk Story hour, hosted once again by Sheriff Larry Ignacio and back after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A previous talk story theme was cowboy scars, but this time the guests were cowboys Harry Jose and John Andrade, and veterinarian Jennifer Martin, who shared their love of horses.
Martin, who was dancing and hanging out after the session, said she talked about a pony she used to ride named Pumpkin and when she was in veterinarian school, and the times she worked with horses in the ICU.
“I’m a small animal veterinarian but I’ve always been a horse-crazy girl,” she said.
She said she was surprised to be invited alongside such legendary cowboys.
“They are old Portuguese cowboys so I felt a little bit like the thing that didn’t belong but they welcomed me,” she said with a laugh.
Over the years, Sheriff Larry told the talk story crowd he’s had about 10 horses. The first horse he rode was a $5 “stubborn” mule from a plantation. He would ride the animal around and be the most popular person in Laupāhoehoe for having his own “ride.”
“I loved that little mule,” he said.
Sheriff Larry doesn’t ride anymore because he’s been injured too much, but he loves being able to have a connection with these special creatures. He also spoke out about “the original Hawaiian cowboys,” or paniolo, whose pictures hang on the walls of the Honoka’a Heritage Center at the Botelho building.
“These are the real cowboys from way back,” he said while pointing to a black and white picture showing the paniolo driving cattle into the ocean where they would reel them in and ship them off to places like O’ahu.
“Not like the drugstore cowboys,” he joked saying those are the ones that just wear the cowboy boots.
When asked if he was a horse whisper he answered, “I’d whisper to my horse, but they don’t want to whisper back.”
But one thing they did do was provide him with peace of mind.
“If I had a difficult day, I would go home and saddle my horse and just ride. It’s like magic,” he said.
Sheriff Larry got his name for fake-arresting people who aren’t wearing the staple Western Week button during Western Week activities.
This year’s festival is spearheaded by the Honoka’a Business Association and started May 19 and runs through May 29, with a parade, rodeo and even a Portuguese soup competition. For all the events, click here.
Michelle Hartman, president of the Honoka’a Business Association, said it’s the stories that draw people to the talk story each year: “We’ve woven farmers, ranchers, townsfolk and businesses all into one for this event.”
Kahilu TV filmed the event. The sessions are recorded in order to collect the rich history of the people interviewed. View a past talk story here.