Paniolo treasures

At 80 years old, William F. Jacintho still finds happiness herding cattle on horseback and seeing calves born in pastures, and he takes it in stride when he wakes up in the middle of the night to look for runaway cows and mend broken fences.

“I don’t mind,” the Kula resident said of his 24-hour, seven-day-a-week job. “You got to take the good and the bad in everything. If not, you not for real.

“I like to do it, that’s the good part about it. You got to love what you do . . . if not, why are you doing it? When you love the animals, come like that, come in your blood, just like nature.”

Jacintho retired from his day job as a butcher around 23 years ago to become a full-time rancher at his own ranch, which is on various parcels throughout Maui. Although he had a hard time waking up for other jobs he has held over the years, Jacintho said that his eyes automatically open early in the morning now that he is doing something he truly loves to do.

On Saturday, Jacintho and two other Maui paniolo (Hawaiian for cowboys) were inducted into the Paniolo Hall of Fame during the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council Annual Convention at the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel on the Big Island.

The other Maui honorees were 75-year-old Kaupo resident Francis Napua Poouahi, also known as “Uncle Frank,” and the late William Miki Kalaniopio Sr., who died in 1991.

The hall of fame, started by the Oahu Cattlemen’s Association, was created to recognize people statewide who have contributed to keeping Hawaii’s paniolo heritage alive and to honor those who made the culture legendary.

Although retired, Poouahi still lives on Kaupo Ranch property and helps out when needed.

The Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council said on its website that “Uncle Frank” is still the “go-to person” when someone has a question about the ranch.

In 1956, Poouahi went to work in the pineapple fields for Libby Pineapple Co. in Lahaina but missed the ranching life he grew up knowing in Kaupo, so he went to work part time for the Bill Eby Ranch in Honolua.

He later went back to Kaupo and, in 1959, was hired by Kaupo Ranch, where he worked until 2002.

“I just do it all,” he said last week. “When I started work at the ranch I was a cowboy.”

He remembers riding on his horse to check on the water levels for the cattle.

During those days there were no all-terrain vehicles like there are now, he said.

When he wasn’t on a horse, Poouahi was on a bulldozer and cleared hundreds of acres of land and put in the roads that workers at Kaupo Ranch drive on today.

He also loved to enter the Ulupalakua, Kaupo and Hana ranch rodeos.

In 2011, the state House of Representatives recognized Poouahi as a “Maui Paniolo Living Treasure.”

Kalaniopio worked at Ulupalakua Ranch after the 8th grade. He worked there until he joined the military in 1945, enlisting in the Army and later fighting in the Korean War. He was a Purple Heart recipient.

After returning to Maui, Kalaniopio settled in Hana, where he worked for the Hotel Hana-Maui as a mounted tour guide for the riding stable.

Ranch manager John Hanchett saw much greater potential in Kalaniopio, so he hired him as a ranch hand in 1955, according to the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council.

Kalaniopio quickly excelled in horsemanship and cattle handling.

In 1965, he became acting head cowboy and, later that year, ranch cattle foreman. He was promoted to ranch supervisor in 1972, a position he held until his retirement in 1986.

The council said that Kalaniopio developed a small crew of cowboys equipped to deal with the unique ranch challenges along the Hana coast, where high humidity and frequent rain brought heavy fly infestation.

Kalaniopio rode his horse in the pastures each calving season to ensure that calves were caught and doctored for fly strike and skin infection.

Besides ranching with family when he was younger, Jacintho worked for the former Grove Ranch in Upcountry in 1957.

Before starting his workday at the ranch in the morning, elders taught him skills such as slaughterhouse processing in the middle of the night, according to the council.

In 1963, the ranch closed, with Jacintho able to lease some of the land.

Even as he ranched on his own, Jacintho held day jobs, including as a butcher/clerk at Maui Dry Goods, Kula Branch. He later moved on to be an irrigation system installer for the field engineering department for Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., and then later became a butcher.

Currently, Jacintho has about a couple hundred head of cattle. He used to have around 1,000 before Maui Pineapple Co. closed. He used to feed the cattle pineapple byproducts.

He raises Black Angus and Brangus cattle and sells beef to small stores on Maui.

His son, also William, raises his own cattle. The two share ranching stories with each other.

The elder Jacintho said he still likes the challenge of herding.

“I still ride horse, I chase cow yet,” he said last week. “I enjoy doing that with the boys.”

Although he admitted he isn’t as quick as he used to be, he quipped that he can still keep up with the younger herdsmen: “I can give ’em a rub. I keep a close eye on them if they don’t do the job right.”

He also enjoys not having to work for a boss, meaning he can come and go as he pleases.

“I go check the cows . . . sometimes get new baby, you feel happy.”

Overall Jacintho calls ranching “hard work.”

“But it’s satisfying. . . . My wife guys can eat any amount of steak if they like,” he said, laughing.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at