In Up­coun­try Maui, there is a con­tem­po­rary paniolo com­mu­nity with traits in­flu­enced by Hawai‘i’s cow­boy his­tory. Ap­pro­pri­ately, it also has its fair share of horses. Man­ag­ing editor Anna Har­mon wran­gles up three paniolo and the work­ing com­pan­ions they ride.

The paniolo of the Val­ley Isle can roam ex­actly 727.2 square miles. That is if you in­clude Maui’s off-lim­its neigh­bor­hood de­vel­op­ments and glit­ter­ing re­sorts, the busy high­ways, and the is­land’s last sugar plan­ta­tion still crank­ing out mo­lasses and smoke. Theirs is a cul­ture that doesn’t fall in step with the busy streets of Lāhainā or the pet-pam­per­ing pop­u­la­tions of Kīhei. It was nur­tured on the slopes of Haleakalā, where wild cat­tle took to graz­ing at the turn of the 19th cen­tury, and va­quero-trained paniolo be­came adept at wran­gling the bovines three decades later. Around the time the paniolo were learn­ing this trade, the volcanic crater’s land was stripped of its re­main­ing san­dal­wood trees, and Western busi­ness­men and plan­ta­tion own­ers leaped at the chance to set up cat­tle ranches, both re­mote and ex­pan­sive, on the naked land. Lo­cal home­stead­ers soon joined in, claim­ing small plots for their own agri­cul­tural en­deav­ors.

Con­cen­trated in Up­coun­try Maui, there is a con­tem­po­rary paniolo com­mu­nity with traits that can be traced back to this Hawai‘i his­tory, and other char­ac­ter­is­tics that mir­ror those found in cow­boy cul­ture on the other side of the Pa­cific Ocean. In Kula, an­nual rodeos seem more like fam­ily gath­er­ings than prize com­pe­ti­tions. At th­ese events, coun­try mu­sic blares from speak­ers, and con­ces­sion stands sell plate lunches and shave ice. Com­peti­tors wear belt buck­les that shine in the sun and trade trucker hats for Stet­sons when the time comes to race around bar­rels or team-rope a steer.

On the hand­ful of ranches on Maui, such as Ulu­palakua Ranch and Haleakala Ranch, a small num­ber of lucky paniolo get to live and breathe the work­ing coun­try life­style. Their horses are not only rodeo part­ners and pets, they are work­ing com­pan­ions. When it’s time to move cat­tle, or to round them up for wean­ing or brand­ing, the abil­i­ties of th­ese horses can mean fail­ure or suc­cess, in­jury or safety.

Meet­ing up with a paniolo ain’t easy. Lo­ca­tions change, horses es­cape, phones are lost. Look for the green gate on the left a mile and a half down the road. Look for the man out back clear­ing weeds and pil­ing them onto the back of an ATV, his new puppy tum­bling along­side him. Look for the cow­boy hat, for the quiet place, for the dusty arena. And of course, look for the horses they ride to wran­gle cat­tle, lead tours, and race time.

Caysie Madeiros is seated on the tail­gate of a pickup truck parked in the fam­ily pas­ture, where buf­falo grass grows tall. The fam­ily’s spot­ted white cat­tle dog Milo sits next to her, and her iphone rests in her lap. The 15-year-old doesn’t wear a cow­boy hat—her long, brown hair hangs loose down her back, and her boot­cut jeans are tucked into worn, elab­o­rately tooled cow­boy boots. Nearby, her dad and a cou­ple of fam­ily friends are shoe­ing her horse, which is named Bucky be­cause he is a buck­skin. But she calls him Bul­let, be­cause he is so fast.

In July 2014, at the age of 13, Caysie be­came the youngest to win the All-around Cow­girl ti­tle at the 4th of July Makawao Rodeo—maui’s largest—com­pet­ing against ex­pe­ri­enced women wran­glers four times her age. She did so by earn­ing the most points in the women’s events, which in­cluded steer un­dec­o­rat­ing (chas­ing a steer across the arena to pull a flag off its hindquar­ters); pole bend­ing (weav­ing through a line of six poles as quickly as pos­si­ble); bar­rel rac­ing (sprint­ing your horse in a par­tic­u­lar pat­tern around three bar­rels that are set up in an equi­lat­eral tri­an­gle); and break­away rop­ing (chas­ing a steer un­til you rope it around its neck). It was no co­in­ci­dence that Bul­let was the horse she rode. “That was all be­cause of him too,” Caysie says. “At rodeos, he’s su­per com­pet­i­tive. I can’t even get him to walk be­cause he just wants to go.”

Bul­let is a com­pet­i­tive but soli­tary geld­ing who took months for Caysie to sync up with af­ter she got him in Au­gust 2013. He doesn’t care to nuz­zle vis­i­tors, and is ea­ger to wan­der off to a lonely cor­ner of the pas­ture. But the other two horses owned by the Madeiros fam­ily make up for Bul­let’s reclu­sive­ness. “[Johnny is] the per­son­al­ity horse, come over here and bother ev­ery­body,” says her dad, Chucky Madeiros, about their black geld­ing, who Caysie rides for team rop­ing events since Bul­let can’t help but run too fast. “He’s go­ing to latch on to you in a few hours . ... Sweet Pea is the same thing.” This sor­rel mare is the de­fault horse for Caysie’s 9-year-old brother, CJ, who has re­cently grad­u­ated from mut­ton bust­ing (an event in which chil­dren at­tempt to ride and race sheep) to rop­ing. All three horses came from Ralph Fukushima, the owner of Ralph’s Tack and Trans­porta­tion on O‘ahu, who helps sup­port the Madeiros chil­dren by pro­vid­ing steeds and tackle. He goes way back with Chucky, a long­time rodeo cow­boy whose land came from grand­par­ents who home­steaded in Kula—their res­i­dence sits on land from his grand­fa­ther Joseph Madeiros, and the pas­ture where they keep the horses is from his grand­mother, Rose Ro­driguez. It is Chucky who opened the door to rop­ing and rodeo for Caysie. She team ropes with him, and calls him her best friend.

“[Caysie] was on the horse be­fore she could even walk, just sit­ting on the sad­dle with one of us,” says her mother, Jan­ice Palad, who picked up bar­rel rac­ing when she was mar­ried Chucky. At events, the cou­ple’s daugh­ter would be passed from sad­dle to sad­dle. Palad re­mem­bers Caysie’s first com­pe­ti­tion rid­ing solo when she was around 2 years old, in an event with par­ents lead­ing their chil­dren around bar­rels. “Pretty soon, she would not want any­body to lead her,” Palad says. “She’s just like, I don’t care if I don’t have a fast time, I just want to go by my­self.”

Nowa­days, while at­tend­ing King Kekaulike High School, Caysie hangs with a like­minded crew. “Some­times one of my friends brings the rop­ing dummy and we rope at school,” she says. Twice a week, she prac­tices with them and other com­mu­nity mem­bers at Piiholo Ranch Arena. Af­ter­wards, she likes to ride with a friend through the for­est to take the cat­tle back to the fam­ily’s pas­ture. But her dad makes sure that rodeo doesn’t dis­tract from school. “We just got her re­port card, and she’s got a 4.0 GPA,” he says. “We’re re­ally proud of her.” Upon grad­u­at­ing, Caysie hopes to study marine bi­ol­ogy on the main­land while com­pet­ing in ju­nior col­lege rodeo. She hopes Bul­let can come along, too.

In 2015, as a fresh­man, Caysie was one of 21 Hawai‘i high school stu­dents who com­peted at the Na­tional High School Fi­nals Rodeo. For the qual­i­fy­ing state high school rodeo com­pe­ti­tion on Big Is­land, she had to send Bul­let ahead on a freight ship one week in ad­vance, with an overnight stop on O‘ahu—an ex­pense cov­ered by a fam­ily friend at Young Brothers. At

na­tion­als in Gil­lette, Wy­oming, where she com­peted in break­away rop­ing, she used the horse of a cow­boy fam­ily from Utah, since trans­port­ing Bul­let would have been too ex­pen­sive, and too stress­ful on him. For paniolo, the cost of roam­ing and rodeo­ing out­side of home is­lands brings a high toll.

Back on Maui, Caysie and Bul­let have be­gun com­pet­ing in dou­ble mug­ging at high school rodeos, which, her dad ex­plains, is usu­ally a men’s event, and in­volves a team of two rid­ers rop­ing a steer, wrestling it to the ground, and ty­ing three of its legs to­gether. “It just looked fun,” Caysie ex­plains. “Plus, like how my dad said, it’s like a guys’ event, and I’m a girl. I wanted to prove that I could do it, too.”

Gar­rett Mon­talvo goes by the name Po­tagee Paniolo, which he uses in his voice­mail and as a sig­na­ture on ev­ery text mes­sage he sends. He got this nick­name when he was a teenager. “All my friends Up­coun­try call me Po­cho, Po­tagee,” says Mon­talvo, who is Por­tuguese and Filipino. At Bald­win, he was the lone stu­dent in a cow­boy hat and boots, hence the nick­name paniolo. “I just put the two to­gether and that’s what ev­ery­body started call­ing me,” he says.

If you can’t reach the 31-year-old on the phone, you will hear, “I am ei­ther on the job, driv­ing, or be­ing with the an­i­mals.” To make a liv­ing, Mon­talvo builds and fixes fences, raises an­i­mals, leads trail rides for Triple L Ranch, and pitches in on cat­tle roundups. If he could choose, he would be a full-time ranch hand.

“I’m the last of my fam­ily to be a cow­boy,” he ex­plains at a coffee shop in Honolulu, where he is vis­it­ing from his home in Makawao in or­der to ob­tain le­gal ser­vices for di­vorce—woman trou­bles, a trope of many a coun­try song. Amid stu­dents study­ing for fi­nals and baris­tas steam­ing milk, Mon­talvo isn’t quite at home, in­sist­ing he doesn’t need a drink. He wears a black cow­boy hat and new Wran­glers. His belt buckle is from his 2004 bare­back bronc-rid­ing win at the 4th of July Makawao Rodeo. “My great grandpa was a paniolo at Haleakala Ranch,” says Mon­talvo, who picked up the skills from his dad, a man he says he didn’t get along with out­side of wran­gling cat­tle. For most of his child­hood, Mon­talvo lived with his grand­par­ents, who weren’t in­volved in rodeo or ranch­ing (his grand­fa­ther was a Maui chief of po­lice), but for Mon­talvo, “It was just what I was born to do.”

To­day, the paniolo has five horses, the youngest of which he has set aside for his 6-year-old nephew. He likes to get them green-broke, which means that the horses come with ba­sic knowl­edge of how to be rid­den, so he only has to “give them a job and show them how to do it,” such as round­ing up cat­tle or tourists. There is Blackie, who Mon­talvo has had since he was 5. (The av­er­age life span of a horse is 25 to 33 years.) “Blackie is my most faith­ful horse,” he says. Un­like a dif­fi­cult horse that may be hard to catch or that may refuse to en­ter a trailer, Blackie comes right up to Mon­talvo when the paniolo ar­rives at his pas­ture, tak­ing a hal­ter and walk­ing into the trailer with­out a fuss. Then there is Pepe, who he got in high school. “She’s got her good days and her bad days. Some days she feels like she’s ready to work, other days she’ll pull a quick one on you and act like she’s hurt.” Next is Pa­liku, a sor­rel geld­ing that he got from his un­cle who just

Some horses take care of you; oth­ers, with their speed and com­pet­i­tive na­ture, can be trusted to get you to the win­ner’s cir­cle.

passed away. The fi­nal two are a 7-year-old buck­skin and a 5-year-old chest­nut colt he has yet to name.

Of them, Mon­talvo in­sists he doesn’t have fa­vorites. He rode Pepe all the way from Kula to Bald­win High School when he was a stu­dent, has rid­den Blackie on wild cat­tle roundups, has taken the buck­skin to lead tours from Bully’s Burg­ers on the slopes of Kanaio in Kula to Kanaio Beach in Wailea and back. On long ex­cur­sions, he needs all his trained horses to ro­tate through, to en­sure that one doesn’t get over­worked.

Mon­talvo re­calls his scari­est horse­back ex­pe­ri­ence, which took place with his dad in Mā‘alaea, where tow­er­ing wind­mills now stand. “A bunch of wild cat­tle chased us through the fog, you couldn’t see five feet in front of you,” he says. “They were charg­ing for us. We ran, made a big cir­cle, a loop around them, and the dogs chased them.” In the end, the father and son es­caped un­scathed. Typ­i­cally, the tac­tic is to rope th­ese wild an­i­mals, tie them to a tree, and then leave them there for a cou­ple days to wear them­selves out, mak­ing it eas­ier and safer for the paniolo when he re­turns to bring them down the moun­tain for slaugh­ter. Nowa­days, to com­bat the ero­sion caused by the cat­tle, the an­i­mals are mostly be­ing shot from he­li­copters, con­sid­ered a safer, more fi­nan­cially ef­fec­tive ap­proach. Mon­talvo thinks dif­fer­ently. “I’m try­ing to get it so we can go in and ex­tract them be­fore they go shoot them again,” he says.

This paniolo’s pre­ferred way of life is of­ten at odds with con­tem­po­rary Maui. He­li­copters are used to kill the wild cat­tle that Mon­talvo would rather wran­gle up. He has been re­ported to the Maui Hu­mane So­ci­ety for a hand­ful of things, like not feed­ing his horses while keep­ing them in pas­tures with over-knee-high grass (though sus­te­nance of this type is plenty suf­fi­cient), or not pro­vid­ing the horses with enough shade, which he rec­ti­fied by mov­ing his fence to al­low for more cov­er­age. Trails he once rode are now closed to him, since horse­back rid­ing can be con­sid­ered an­other form of ero­sion. De­vel­op­ments con­tinue to ex­pand, while ranches con­tract. But he is still ex­cited that his young nephew has taken an in­ter­est in what he does, even though some­times all he feels that he gets out of Maui’s Up­coun­try com­mu­nity is a lot of headache. Liv­ing on an is­land, “You be­come sort of a topic af­ter a while,” he says.

But it’s a com­mu­nity Mon­talvo knows he needs. The rodeo events he com­petes in, be­sides bull rid­ing, in­volve tech­niques that lend them­selves to ranch work, such as round­ing up calves for brand­ing. From rop­ing to hog­ty­ing cat­tle, the skills demon­strated in com­pe­ti­tions are also those nec­es­sary in man­ag­ing the grass-fed or -fin­ished cat­tle on Maui’s ranches— which Mon­talvo is ea­ger to help with when he gets the chance. One cow­boy can’t do it alone. “Up­coun­try,” he says, “we all kukui each other on the ranch, so we all go on a cat­tle drive.” Emerson Makekau likes to get up early— very early, at 3:30 a.m. At this dark hour, even be­fore birds have be­gun chirp­ing, the soft-spo­ken paniolo turns on the news, drinks his coffee, and fills out any work re­ports he may have as a ranch hand at Ulu­palakua Ranch. “My fa­vorite mo­ment is go­ing to work, be­ing around the live­stock,” he says.

As Makekau ex­plains this, he sits at a pic­nic ta­ble be­hind Ulu­palakua Ranch Store as his 2-month-old Kelpie puppy, Jake, chews on his fin­ger. The 51-year-old’s home is just within view. He wears a brown cow­boy hat with a braided horse­hair band, and a belt buckle me­mento from when he was honored at Molokai Ranch’s cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tion. In his spare time, he likes to pitch in around the re­mote com­mu­nity.

Ev­ery day, Makekau moves the ranch’s grass-fin­ished cat­tle to graze in a new area. Other days, he and the five other ranch hands will bring the herd down for brand­ing or wean­ing, work on ir­ri­ga­tion (for this task he uses an ATV, not a horse), what­ever needs to be done. His work horses, Princess, Lily, Beau, Bad­ger, and Mahina, which he may ro­tate through­out the day de­pend­ing on how de­mand­ing the task is, are kept at the ranch.

Most of them are quar­ter horses, though a cou­ple are part-thor­ough­bred. “Thor­ough­breds, you’ve got the speed, the quar­ter horse, you’ve got the brains,” he ex­plains. Makekau breeds and trains his own horses, and has earned a rep­u­ta­tion for his skills and pa­tience with the an­i­mals. “Peo­ple like to call it ‘break them in,’ but we put them through train­ing,” he says. “It’s day by day, you know? You can­not start from kinder­garten and ex­pect to grad­u­ate the day af­ter. Some horses is fast learn­ers, and some takes a lit­tle while.” In the ones he chooses to keep, he looks for good com­po­si­tion, at­ti­tude, speed, and heart.

Makekau got a taste of this life­style at an early age, on Moloka‘i, where he was born and raised. His un­cle, a paniolo at Molokai Ranch, took him un­der his wing. “I loved horses, an­i­mals,” he says. “It kept me out of trou­ble.” He be­gan work­ing

sum­mers, help­ing with the brand­ing at Molokai Ranch, and com­pet­ing in rodeos. “Grow­ing up, when I was a young boy with my un­cle … it was like the rough tough cow­boy deal,” he re­calls. “I guess I en­joyed it, and loved the horses so much that I wouldn’t go to bed. The next morn­ing, you know, I’m al­ways wide awake.” He would ride horses un­til 11 o‘clock at night, of­froad­ing through ranch pas­tures and up in the moun­tains.

Makekau fol­lowed in his un­cle’s foot­steps, work­ing at Molokai Ranch for 15 years. Watch old pro­mo­tional ranch videos, and even a doc­u­men­tary about Hawai­ian paniolo, and you will spot Makekau rid­ing a hand­some bay stal­lion. This is the quar­ter horse that he has fa­vored the most in his ca­reer. “He had the power in him, but he was re­ally, re­ally tame and mel­low,” Makekau says. “A lot of stal­lions, you go into an arena and they’ll make big noise and prob­lems.” Makekau was 28 when he got him as a 6-month-old colt, and while it was one of his main work horses, he would also walk his young son around on him. “My wife and I raised him un­til he died. He was 26,” Makekau re­mem­bers.

Eleven years ago, Makekau moved to Maui, bring­ing with him his wife and five chil­dren, be­cause he “got into fam­ily life,” as he puts it. He worked as as­sis­tant man­ager and ranch hand at Kaupo Ranch for sev­eral years be­fore join­ing Ulu­palakua Ranch. “This ranch, it’s un­be­liev­able,” he says. “Ev­ery­body bonds to­gether here. We call it the Hawai­ian style—if one’s down, you pick them up, you know. We cheer them on and move for­ward. If they have a prob­lem we’ll talk story, try to solve it, and move for­ward.”

Some of the most ex­cit­ing mo­ments Makekau re­mem­bers in­volve wran­gling wild cat­tle. “A lot of them is be­ing shot. … The the­ory is, ‘Why you guys wanna go rope a wild bull with a horse that cost you $2,000, $2,500, $5,000, and the bull is only worth ten cents?” But that misses the point, he says. “The risk, the li­a­bil­ity, the dan­ger­ous part—the high in the paniolo cow­boy is to show off your skill, what you have and what your horse have.”

The first horse ever to step hoof in Hawai‘i ar­rived on Maui on June 23, 1803 in much the same way that wild cat­tle were in­tro­duced to the is­lands in 1793: It came from Cal­i­for­nia aboard a Western ex­plorer’s ship and was in­tended as a gift to win King Kame­hameha’s fa­vor. (He ap­par­ently showed lit­tle in­ter­est.) The horses that were in­tro­duced served no im­me­di­ate pur­pose on the is­lands, since ranch­ing and cow­boys were yet to be. In­stead, th­ese wild mus­tangs roamed free.

As Haleakalā’s slopes be­came home to wild herds and ex­pan­sive ranches, more horses were im­ported, this time to serve as the trusty steeds of paniolo wran­gling in feral cat­tle for the beef trade and man­ag­ing do­mes­ti­cated herds on ranches. The tech­niques re­main sur­pris­ingly sim­i­lar to­day, as do the tools: the lasso, the sad­dle, the boots and hat—and the trusty steed.

Like Caysie says, some horses take care of you; oth­ers, with their speed and com­pet­i­tive na­ture, can be trusted to get you to the win­ner’s cir­cle. For Mon­talvo, a horse de­serves your re­spect be­cause he car­ries you far and wide. And for Makekau, a stal­lion with spirit and speed, with the right at­ti­tude, will hold a place in your heart for as long as you live. Your grand­chil­dren will ride them, will fall in love with roam­ing the re­main­ing open spa­ces on the is­lands. A good horse, he says, “It be­comes a part of you.”

Caysie Madeiros rides her bucksin horse, Bucky, who she calls Bul­let, at her fam­ily’s pas­ture in Kula. In their first 4th of July Makawao Rodeo to­gether, in 2014, Caysie be­came the youngest in the con­test’s his­tory to win the All-around Cow­girl ti­tle.

Gar­rett Mon­talvo uses all of his trained horses, in­clud­ing this 7-year-old buck­skin that he has yet to name, for ev­ery­thing rang­ing from horse­back tours to wild cat­tle roundups. “A horse, you

gotta give a lit­tle more re­spect be­cause he has to carry you all over the place,” he says.

Emerson Makekau breeds and trains his own horses, look­ing for com­po­si­tion, stamina, speed, and heart. When it comes to train­ing a colt, “From day one, just keep treat­ing them like your kids,” he says.

Makekau is one of six ranch hands at Ulu­palakua Ranch, where he keeps his work horses Princess, Lily, Beau, Bad­ger, and Mahina.

Caysie and her 9-year-old brother, CJ, are happy to fol­low in the foot­steps of their father, Chucky, a long­time

rodeo paniolo. Pic­tured with them are their three horses, Bucky aka Bul­let, Sweet Pea, and Johnny.

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