Maui Nei

It was pau hana time at the Pizza Factory, a then-popular watering hole in the Maui Mall. It was hard to tell if the place was a saloon that served food or a restaurant that served booze. If memory serves, the Pizza Factory was Jon Applegate’s flagship, the first of a string of eateries on the island.

Two women and a guy were working on their second pitcher of beer. The guy was a malihini not long from Oahu. One of the women was part Hawaiian. The other was a haole born and raised in the islands.

“It really ticks me off when a local thinks I’m some kind of tourist,” the blonde said. “I usually shut ’em up by laying a bunch of pidgin on them.” For her, pidgin was a second language learned on grade-school playgrounds and hanging out with locals. Her hapa-Hawaiian friend grinned. The malihini filed the comment away, one of his early lessons in island culture.

On another occasion, in a motorcycle shop, a couple of locals were eating poke and discussing a biker freshly from Los Angeles. One was skeptical about the newcomer, despite, or maybe because of, the biker’s tricked-out Harley. The other one had partied with the guy.

“Eh, he’s OK. He eats local. Not pushy.”

Island hospitality requires offering food to any guest. Refusing to eat is a major faux pas. Enthusiastically downing the grinds indicates the guest is willing to fit in. Being pushy tends to come across as acting superior. (Yeah, there are locals who are pushy but they are in a minority.)

On another occasion, I watched two local cowboys discussing an upcoming ranch rodeo at Ulupalakua. A Kona storm had cut off Kaupo. That meant the cowboys from Hana would have to come around the Keanae side. The cowboys were discussing ways and means.

The conversation, if you could call it that, lasted for 15 minutes or so. Not more than a dozen or so words were spoken. Mostly, they stood there, thumbs hooked in their back pockets, looking at their feet and shrugging, nodding or shaking their heads.

An early lesson: Locals are more interested in how a person makes them feel than what is actually being said.

All of this trolling through four decades of Maui memories was brought about by a Feb. 15 letter to the editor. “What qualifies to be considered local?” the writer began. Apparently he was perturbed by a bumper sticker saying, ” ‘Just because you live here doesn’t make you local.’ “

His friend had suggested, the writer went on, he needed to live on the island much, much longer than nine months, even though he owned a house. That might apply to being kamaaina. Although rude, the bumper sticker was correct.

The short answer to the writer’s question is you have to be born on Maui – or one of the other islands – to be considered local. There’s a caveat. A local is generally a dark-skinned mixture of Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Portuguese. A Caucasian born in the islands is usually referred to as local haole.

More importantly, a local lives local and has local sensibilities. There are island-born mixtures who don’t qualify because they’ve become thoroughly Americanized in their thinking, language and lifestyles. And not all dark-skinned Mauians are locals.

Living local means living with family, “eating out of the same calabash,” and being aware of what is going on around you. A classic example can be found in convenience stores with a group of individuals waiting to get up to the counter and there is no clearly defined line, everyone just standing around kapakahi. The island way is to walk up, note who is there, make eye contact if possible with the others and wait until the last of those ahead of you get to the counter. Then it’s your turn. Anyone who plows through the crowd will prompt those waiting to roll their eyes at such pushy, or maha’oi, behavior.

With time, education and a respect for pidgin and local ways, a malihini can become a kamaaina but he or she can never be a local. All island-born-and-raised individuals have certain commonalities that can never be shared by a transplant, just as all women have commonalities that are not shared by men and vice versa.

Tips for transplants: Wait until invited in and forget about using pidgin until it comes naturally and spontaneously. Eat local. It’s worked for me. I’ll try to eat anything on a local menu. Just don’t tell me what it is.

* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is

Maui Nei

Live in horse country and sooner or later you’ll find yourself having a firsthand encounter with a lio and wondering what to do next. Upcountry is definitely horse country. Horses can be seen cropping grass and posing gracefully on the top of ridges just about everywhere you look.

Horse lovers are scattered across Haiku and points east. The concentration of horses increases across Kula and points south. They are tools for cowboys taking care of wily cattle in rough terrain.

Most any day, it’s possible to see the president of the Maui Cattlemen’s Association – William Jacintho – cutting leafy vines along the road. He’s a cowboy of more than a few years, and he’s gathering glycine, a kind of legume that grows even when pastures are turned bare for lack of rain. On a recent morning, Jacintho was at work filling his pickup truck with horse food along the edge of an irrigated cabbage field.

“William, you’re the hardest-working seasoned citizen I know.”

He grinned. “I love my animals. Got to take care of ’em.”

Horses prompt intense affection. There’s something about their aroma, shape, controllability and sometimes kolohe personalities that can be endearing. That’s particularly true for those whose childhood involved a lot of riding. My huapala is one of them. Then there are those whose only knowledge of horses was gleaned from watching rodeos and Western movies. I’m one of them.

Until recently, my only close encounter occurred in Olinda. Home was a cottage inside a pasture fence. Opening and closing a gate while coming and going was a small price to pay for a serene environment. At one point, the pasture was occupied by a large gelding.

One day, I found the horse – no halter – standing in the carport. Eh, ‘a’ole pilikia. I’ll just shoo it out. Or, so I thought. The horse ignored me. I tried pushing it around so he’d be headed out. The horse ignored me. In a fit of frustration, I slapped its shoulder hard enough to hurt my hand. The horse ignored me.

I remembered one of those Western movies where a cowboy controlled a horse by grabbing one of its ears. Worth a try, I thought. I pulled on the ear, wary of being bitten or kicked. The horse slowly turned around. He moved a few feet, paused, looked over his shoulder and kicked a hole in the back wall of the carport.

Horses don’t suffer fools gladly, a lesson I relearned last week.

It was Valentine’s Day and my girlfriend, Mary, hadn’t been on a horse in something like 20 years. That’s a long time for someone who began riding when her legs were too short to reach the stirrups. She was excited about taking a trail ride at Thompson Ranch up off Polipoli Road. I admitted I’d never ridden. Toni and Jerry discussed who would ride which horse. Mary drew Akamai. A big roping horse named Wrangler would have to put up with me.

I was briefed on steering, starting and stopping. Mostly stay centered on the saddle and let the reins droop. “They know where to go.” Wrangler started and stopped when the other horses did.

First, I had to get on, struggling to get my leg over the cantle. The comedic combination of ignorance and age-stiffened joints was repeated when I tried to dismount. Days later, I thought about getting on and off a motorcycle. Oh, that’s it! I needed to lean forward instead of off to the side to get on and off a horse.

Part way up, we stopped at a water tank so the horses could drink. Akamai was more interested in the grass. Wrangler drank. Toni and Mary moved off. I put the reins on the left side and used my heels to urge Wrangler to swing right. He began playing in the water and refused to move. I gave up and let the reins hang loose. He went the way he wanted, left around the tank.

At one point, the two-hoof-wide trail skirted a steep drop-off. Wrangler swung his head out over the abyss. My heart stopped. No big deal, Wrangler was just swinging wide around a turn. The views were spectacular. Toni’s running commentary was informative. It was a beautiful day. Mostly, I hung on to the pommel and watched Wrangler’s head going up and down.

Halfway through the ride, Jerry showed up with an ATV he was using to carry feed to his cattle. I’d had enough. I went back in the ATV with Jerry and one of his dogs. Mary was having the time of her life and wasn’t about to miss half the ride. It was an enjoyable two hours, although . . .

I really prefer an iron horse, a two-wheeled steed with no mind of its own.

* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is

Maui Nei

Twice a week, Sharing comes by to feed and check on one of the cat colonies she began on our rural road some years ago. All of the cats have been “fixed” and are older animals. Sharing began the colony down below the house. For a variety of reasons, the feeding station has moved up to the front of the house where their presence is a delight and I’ve inherited food chores five days a week.

Tubster, a gray tabby now in his dotage, and Malone, an orange and white guy who likes to hang around with humans, have been around the house for about a decade. They were here when I moved in with two cats of my own – Neville, an elegant Abyssinian cross who died a couple of years ago, and Cyrano, whose butterscotch and whip-cream coat matches Malone’s. Cyrano is the only inside cat. All the others get no closer than the garage, even though they’ve all seen Cyrano come and go via a cat door.

The current crew also includes two females, one other male, and one who lives down the street but is always on hand for an evening meal. The male is Zipper, a gray tabby who sleeps with Tubster. The hungry neighbor is Garbanzo, a juvenile Persian. The females are Baby Black, the smallest and feistiest of the bunch, and Patches, a calico who shies away from contact. Two other cats, Slinky Black and Fat Face Charlie, show up on an irregular basis.

During the years, two short-term members of the colony fell prey to traffic – a beautiful long-haired gray (I’ve forgotten the name) and Dusty Dawg, a large orange tabby named for his looks and anxious canine-like behavior. For a while, Tigger came around. He was part of nearby colony tended by Sharing until the property owner took over.

Plenty cats, for sure. However, once a colony is established there’s no choice but to feed and care for them. Sharing and I have the vet bills to prove the care part. Besides, judging from their behavior, most of the animals were abandoned pets.

Five days a week, the gang hangs out near the house around dinnertime. On the two days Sharing comes by, they spread across the yard and watch the driveway. When she drives in, they greet her. How they know one day from another is a mystery.

During one of her recent visits, a conversation turned to the need for animal care and population control. She was all in favor of any group devoted to no-kill philosophies. A bug bear of mine centers on TV ads asking for donations to off-island organizations such as the national Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Oahu’s Hawaiian Humane Society. The money should stay at home. The Maui Humane Society certainly needs it.

Sharing put up some low-key objections, saying the only excuse for putting down an animal is if it is so sick or injured it has no chance of a decent life. Yes, the Maui Humane Society has to put down animals but every employee and volunteer hates to do so. It’s a hatred that is matched only by their love of animals.

The Maui Humane Society gets a bad rap partly because it runs the island’s animal control agency. That began when Council Member Joe Bulgo got the leash law passed. The Police Department wanted nothing to do with enforcing the law. The county negotiated a contract with the Humane Society to handle the enforcement of the leash law and animal cruelty statutes.

When it’s said and done, responsibility for Maui’s cat and dog population belongs to owners who don’t bother to have their animals spayed and castrated. Because they don’t, the island has too many dogs and cats, many of them living miserable lives “in the wild.”

It’s a myth that domestic cats can fend for themselves. And, on their own, dogs turn into predatory animals. In packs for three or more, even the most domesticated dogs will kill calves, goats and other livestock. That’s one of the reasons you’ll seldom see dogs running loose around ranches. A strange dog spotted in a pasture doesn’t live long.

Do Maui’s companion animals a favor. Spread some aloha. They didn’t ask to be brought into the world. If you want a pet, get one from the Maui Humane Society or some other shelter. Make sure they’re “fixed.” It would be nice – especially on Valentine’s Day – if someone besides a member of the choir hears what I’m preaching.

End of sermon.

Most of the outside gang are slumbering in the shade. Later, they’ll be up, waiting for supper, each with its own personality and ready to add a little animated delight to a sunny day.

* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is

Maui Nei

The first journalism-trained Maui County Information and Complaints officer since Charley Young had the job in the 1950s – at the same time he wrote for The Maui News – worked out of a tiny, one-desk office on the ninth floor of the county building. The space once had been a mailroom.

The main purpose of the position was to turn out press releases while fielding complaints, usually from malihini. Locals went straight to Mayor Elmer F. Cravalho. It wasn’t hard. Just show up or give him a telephone call. In the 1970s, Cravalho had all the answers. The county, population 46,000, was small and Cravalho kept up with everything the county did and didn’t do.

The press releases involved publicizing county programs and projects. It was an easy gig. Women in the Mayor’s Office loved the fact they didn’t have to do any typing. They were used to male bosses hand drafting stuff, getting it typed, editing the result and then having the missive retyped. Years of working in newsrooms made the Information and Complaints guy an expert typist.

Press releases were cranked out on an IBM typewriter, Xeroxed, initialed by the mayor and hand-delivered to the island’s newsrooms. It took less than two hours by motorcycle to hit The Maui News, the Honolulu Advertiser, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, the weekly Maui Sun, KMVI, KNUI and KAOI.

To give you an idea of how small county government was in those days, the number of Xerox copies came to the attention of Finance Director Masao Muraoka. He kept a tight rein on the $22 million county budget with a 28-person staff, including one each for Molokai and Lanai.

“Is it necessary to Xerox the press releases?” he once asked. “Couldn’t you just use carbon copies?” Muraoka didn’t mention the subject after hearing a simple fact. The third through seventh carbon copies would be unreadable. (Ask an old-timer if you’ve never heard of carbon paper.)

During a 1976 interview, Muraoka said, “This office has to have a complete overview of the entire picture . . . we must give the best return for the tax dollar.”

By chance, I ended up as the Information and Complaints officer. A freelance writing job for the Maui County Commission on Aging under Robert Yokoyama led to a writing job with the Department of Parks and Recreation under Jan Dapitan. That led to writing a county annual report and Cravalho offering me the PR job and the chance to join Paul Mancini, Dapitan, Chris Hart and Bob McCorriston as the only haole in the building.

In addition to writing and telling malihini they weren’t “back home,” the job also involved leading tours through the building. Being something of a smart mouth, I’d ask those on the tour, “Who owns all of this?” Most of the time the answer was “the county.” “Nope,” I’d say. “It belongs to you.”

To stay clear of politics, I chose to think I was a hired technician working for the public. The mayor was my supervisor, but it was my job to forge closer links between county government and the general public. That idea led to the creation of a column in The Maui News – “Maui County Q&A.” It was published every week once then-Managing Editor Earl Tanaka was convinced I could keep it going. Tom Stevens took my photo that went with the column.

All of this came to mind after seeing the latest column added to Monday’s edition of The Maui News – “Ask The Mayor,” in which “Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.” It’s doubtful he does the actual writing.

In the case of “Maui County Q&A,” most of the questions came legitimately into the Information and Complaints Office. On those weeks when the column needed filling out, a question and answer would be dreamed up in an effort to educate the public about this or that aspect of county government and its responsibilities. Then, as now, there was persistent confusion about which government agency did what to whom. Many of the questions involved state agencies. Malihini were nonplussed when they learned there were no municipal or township governments, just the feds, the state and the county.

Any attempt to educate the public about government is worthwhile. That’s one of the main jobs of newspapers and broadcast newsrooms. It can also be a job taken on by government. Just “Ask The Mayor.”

* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is