Every few mornings, the late Gary Moore would make the rounds of Makawao, looking at utility poles. He took a very proprietary approach to "his" town. On these early-morning rounds, he was armed with a claw hammer, pliers and something relatively sharp.
The something might have been a screwdriver or it might have been a World War II bayonet designed for the barrel of an M1 rifle. The knife was a favorite tool - and weapon. Gary kept the blade in a drawer near the front door of his shop. He sold stoves, barbecue grills, fireplaces and had a wall of hot sauces. He always warned buyers about the most fiery blends, many of them concocted on Maui.
The sauces went with Gary's personality, volatile and to the point. The Vietnam vet who had been a scuba diver in Lahaina, a contractor and lifelong car nut, always had a dog sleeping in the doorway of his shop on Baldwin Avenue. When he bought the store from Chief Munier, the place stocked outdoor gear, including firearms. Gary switched to stoves and such when the outdoor business fell off.
Selling was his livelihood but taking care of Makawao was his passion. He was known to intimidate rowdies and got the reputation of being the "sheriff" of the cowboy town. On a more peaceful note, he was involved with getting a star planted in a towering Cook Pine at Christmas and was the instigator of the stick horse races held before the start of the annual July 4th parade.
One year, his kolohe side kicked in. He recruited some friends and painted all the fire hydrants in town red, white and blue. Authorities weren't amused. The hydrants were soon repainted traditional yellow.
Gary Moore was a bona fide Makawao character. The big difference between him and the island's other characters was his willingness to take on community projects such as volunteering to work the annual Upcountry fair and removing posters and notices stapled and nailed to utility poles.
He collected the illegal notices and confronted those who posted them. It was against the law to nail or staple fliers and posters to utility poles. Gary would inform the offenders they could be fined $250.
"Those things are dangerous. Linemen could get hurt," he'd say with some heat. Those who got one of his calls seldom repeated the offense.
All of these memories came up while driving down Na'alae Road. They were reinforced by a Maui Electric ad in The Maui News.
Just a few yards off Kula Highway, a red plywood sign had been nailed to a pole. It amounted to a mini-billboard, which had been outlawed after a long struggle by the Outdoor Circle in the 1930s. The sign advertised firewood and included a telephone number. It was too high to easily remove.
Gary immediately flashed to mind. A polite call informed the wood cutter about the law. The warning didn't take. The sign is still up there. This week, the sign was joined - on an adjacent pole - by a poster asking for help in finding a lost pet. Any pet lover could sympathize, but that didn't mean the poster was any less illegal.
A week or so ago, there was a large display advertisement in the paper.
"Utility poles may seem like the perfect place to tack up notices about garage sales, special events or lost pets, but they're not," said the ad signed by one of the company's engineers. "Nails, staples and tacks used to attach signs to utility poles can puncture insulated safety gloves and expose linemen to serious injury," the ad went on to say.
Bear in mind all the times linemen have to work during storms, often in the dark, to restore power to homes and businesses.
One question pops up. "Why doesn't MECO go after the miscreants?" Maybe it's because linemen seldom climb poles these days. Most of the time, they are hoisted hydraulically by so-called cherry pickers. They climb into buckets big enough for two men. The buckets are attached to long arms mounted on the backs of big trucks. Up they go.
Even so, when the winds howl and hard rain soaks the island, a crew might have to make do without a cherry picker. Then it would be a matter of strapping on their spikes and climbing to the top of a pole. Their job is dangerous enough without negotiating a gauntlet of staples, nails and tacks.
The MECO ad calls the illegal notices "litter." And they are. Maui doesn't deserve litter of any type. The poles themselves are bad enough. Any volunteers to take up Gary Moore's fight?
* Ron Youngblood is a former editor and staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.