Early last year, I told a friend in Honolulu that we were looking at houses in Puna. He scoffed, saying,”That’s cowboy land. You don’t want to live there.” As things turned out, we did buy a house in Puna but nary a cowboy have we seen.
Little did I know that adventure was lurking just around the corner.
Rochi wanted some straw to mulch the tomatoes and had read about a place called Miranda Country Store, which we found in the business park along Route 11 between Hilo and Kea’au. In my head, a country store recalls bolts of gingham fabric and bags of beans and a big jar of licorice sticks on the counter. But it seemed that ‘business park’ means ‘bunch of warehouses’ and Miranda was as nondescript as the rest. They specialize in Feed, Fencing and Fertilizer, but also sell pet supplies and plastic bulls, not for riding but for roping practice, maybe for rodeos, too. Cool, huh?
When we entered the building, a strong smell tickled my nostrils, familiar but elusive. As my unconscious fiddled with that, I peered around a corner saw bales of hay and straw piled nearly to the ceiling. At times in my life, I have been quite intimate with those smells. I felt a wave of history wash over me in that odd, disconnected way memories pop up, totally out of context, and leave you bobbing somewhere between thrilled and exhausted.
Rochi told the fella in the saggy jeans and cowboy boots that he only needed a little straw, not a whole bale. The fella suggested that we come back after they’d unloaded a delivery and sweep up the bits that end up on the floor. “Just bring a trash bag and a broom and help yourself, but let us know you’re here so we don’t run you over with the forklift.”
The whole exchange was a delight, the smells, the memories, the easy familiarity, the common sense and the proof that there are cowboys out there. I just haven’t been looking in the right places.