At the two mile marker Kohala Mountain Road intersects Highway 19. Take a left to head toward Waimea town. It won't take you long to figure out that Waimea is not your average Hawaiian town. These are the lands where west and far west meet and create the paniolo, the Hawaiian cowboy. The Parker Ranch, formerly one of the largest, privately-owned ranches in the country, has a presence in just about everything in Waimea, from the schools to the hospital. At one point in time, the ranch covered 225,000 acres of land, 9 percent of the Big Island. Hawai'i's history with cattle began in 1793 when King Kamehameha the Great received five head of cattle as a gift from British Captain George Vancouver. The king quickly labeled the cattle "kapu"(off limits) in order to allow them to grow and thrive. What seemed like a great idea at the time eventually turned into a dangerous nuisance for the native people living in Kohala and on the slopes of Mauna Kea. The wild cattle, which were anything but docile, would rampage homes, destroying property and injuring people. To help solve this problem, the king called on John Palmer Parker, a Massachusetts-born sailor who had already garnered favor with the king in 1809 at age 19. Parker would capture and butcher the cattle, then sell the meat to visiting ships. The process sounds a lot easier than it actually was since the cattle had adapted to their wild surroundings and were rather quick to avoid being caught. As his fee, Parker kept the best cattle for himself.


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