Small keed time, my brother Lippy (Philip) and I had a common enemy, our stepfather, so we developed a close bond of a mutual admiration for one another. Most of the time we would pal around, arms on the shoulder and then the times when we disagreed and would fight with the same gusto. The last time we fought, I think I was 12 and he 10 yrs. old and we were really punching away, going for the kill. Our mother was so tired of those fights and since this took place in the kitchen, she picked up 2 knives, offered them to us and said, "I'm so sick and tired of your fighting! Here! Kill each other!!" It was such a shock to the two of us and I don't recall us ever fighting or even arguing again.
This was during the tail end of WWII and we had just moved back to Ka'u from the town of Papaikou where we had relocated after a family fallout with our grandfather. Papaikou, to the two of us, was heavenly because it had the constant flow of the river and a stream that were close by. The dry river beds and streams in Ka'u flowed only when there was rainfall in the uplands. At the Hilo and Hamakua coasts the mountains kept steady waterflows to the river and small streams, some of the streams were created by the overflow of water that was used in flumes that transported bundles of sugarcane from the fields to the mill. Since the river was off-limits for Lippy and me, the stream (gouch as we called it) became our favorite stomping ground. Water in its natural state! How much better can it get for 2 boys, 8 and 10 years old?
We had a daily ritual after school, which was to hurry home and change into our play clothes, grab our slingshots and head for the gouch. Across the street was a long house for the single men that worked the cane fields and below that was our gouch. Yes, OUR gouch! We would stop at the gravel driveway and fill our pocket with pieces of gravel for our slingshots. All the plantation homes were built on stilts and since that particular house was above the gouch, the back end was higher and under that section there was always a banana bunch dangling on a rafter. The occupants liked us and we were allowed to help ourselves to the luscious and welcomed snack; we usually ate one and stuck an extra one in our pockets before heading for our journey.
Someone had built a dam at the bottom of the grade and the pool of water harbored fish, river opae, tadpoles - a magical place full of surprises. There, a huge mango tree dropped fruit that we ate along with an occasional solo papaya plucked off one of the trees. While munching on guavas, we held our loaded slingshots, wading in the knee-deep water for about a mile to the road mauka to a paved road. The gouch was lined with large guava bushes and any bird sitting on a branch was fair game to us. The birds were safe, not a single one got hit and it wasn't because we were lousy shots because we could hit tin cans and bottles.
At the road was a large Indonesian plum tree with pika fruit (for us meaning bitter or sour) it had several forked branches that were perfect for being in a pretend fighter pilot's seat. Since it was the war years, there were military aircrafts soaring - a Mustang, a Wildcat, a Black Widow and we shot at them with our make believe .50 calibre machine gun.
One day, while walking aimlessly, I heard a bird, a mijiro as we knew it, singing at the top of a tree and without a thought I picked up a piece of gravel and without aiming I shot it in the direction of the mijiro. I was surprised as I watched the wounded bird plummet to the ground where it fluttered and chirped in pain. With it in the palm of my hand I could see its intestines in the open wound and my astonishment turned into compassion and sorrow when it looked at me as if to say, "Why did you do this?" before it gave its last chirp and died.
I dug a hasty shallow grave and buried it, pulled the slingshot out of my pocket and flung it as far as it would go. Never to have another one again! I never told any of my friends about this but the memory haunted me for a long, long time. I never even told Lippy this story.
Lippy and I are now kupuna.. He on the Big Island and me in Kaliponi. He sends me Big Island coffee and sometimes I send him a pair of cowboy boots; he's a drugstore paniolo who retired after working at the Ka'u ranch and dairy. We talk on the phone and end with, "I love you bruddah." The answer,"Oh yeah, me too!" Nuf talk story, A hui hou.
"I was born in the village of Hilea (where Mary Pukui was from) mauka from Punalu'u black sand beach. I Lived mostly in Na'alehu, spent most of the war years in Papaikou and back to Ka'u. I wen join the army after pau high school. Lived in Northridge CA, owned an Ad Agency, PR and Marketing but today, I kanikapila when I can. Mostly I practice and teach Tai Chi and Chi Gong (you can see me on youtube: Tai Chi Maku).The oldtimers still call me Boy but I'm Uncle Maku to most locals and Maku to others. A hui hou!"