The Bright Side: The legend of the lassoed Marlin

As with all things technological, I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I won’t go into details on why, because if I do, a thread may start and things would devolve from there. Recently, however, a couple of posts were actually interesting.

One was a story tip about a paniolo, George Waiwaiole Manoa. George is in the Paniolo Hall of Fame, and according to their page, he had a storied career and was known as an outstanding horse trainer.

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The story tip was not about his horsemanship, though. It was about him catching a marlin down in Ka‘u — with a lasso. If one were to think about the probability of that really happening anywhere on Earth, one could surmise that the odds of it happening anywhere other than the Big Island were pretty short. But it did happen, and it happened here.

This column is about stuff like that, and George sounded like a character from a Brother Noland song, so I dug in.

One of the great ironies of technology is that the more it can do, the more is lost. After a while, it’s easy to get the distinct feeling that many people believe that if something is not on the internet, it never really happened.

The first commercial web browser, Netscape Navigator was released in 1994. That was about 26 years ago.

Today, we have about 3.465 billion people under the age of 26. Many of these folks only know a version of reality based upon the internet. The total population of Earth is about 7.7 billion and the rest of us don’t live in a vacuum. We can all be suckered in.

The more everyone peers into their screens, the more we seem to forget that there was a prior life. However, when one goes looking for a specific legendary feat of history, the great god of google appears to be quite selective about what knowledge is being handed down, and what is being lost.

Digging into the story of George Manoa turned out to be a bit like this. The Paniolo Hall of Fame page mentioned that the story made the national news, but upon query, even google was silent, as great gods often are, when pressured.

Queries extended to folks in the local Paniolo community did not find any eye witnesses. George worked at Kahuku ranch back then. A friend who also worked Kahuku in those days said that while not personally involved in this story, she knew some of George’s running buddies, and they were all Paniolo legends in their own right. My hopes soared.

My hopes suffered a hard landing. None of those guys are still alive today, including George.

On one hand, the story has been recorded, but on the other hand the details have been lost, and those details, quite possibly, could be the funniest part.

Imagine:

It was June 6, 1966, and Arnold Howard, a well known fisherman from Punalu’u was struggling on the rocks with a marlin he’d hooked near South Point. The trade winds howl from land toward sea down there, and deep water is not far offshore.

In “the old days” Hawaiians created holes in the rock and dropped lines down, to which they tied their canoes. To fish the deep water, they simply payed out line and let the winds blow them to whatever depth they wanted to fish.

In the 60’s, fishermen with no canoes capitalized on the holes their forbearers had fashioned into the cliffs and tied their lines to them too. However, at the end of their “new fangled lines” were toy sail boats. Ingeniously, they let the little boats carry their lines, dangling a series of hooks, out to the fishing grounds, while they (if they are like “they” of today) drank beer and played ukulele.

Back then they would have likely played cribbage too. Not many play cribbage or use toy sail boats these days.

For reasons we have yet to uncover, George Manoa was cruising the area where some of these eighty odd holes were being employed by fishermen, possibly using those toy sailboat rigs. Was he on a horse? Was he driving by in a rackety old pickup truck, or was he out walking up and down the cliff, talking to fishermen? None of the accounts say. They just say he was in the area, and he heard Arnold, calling for help.

Was Arnold down in the froth with the fish, or, had Arnold somehow managed to play the marlin to the base of the cliff from the precipice? Did George come upon him while he was looking down from 80 feet above going, “Ho brah. Too good, yeah? Now what?”

History is not kind to us on these details, but it must have been quite a scene.

If this happened in today’s world, it’s quite possible that the guy playing George’s part would see Arnold totally concentrated on his fish — and steal his truck.

But in 1966, George did “the right thing.” With his paniolo skills he helped the lucky, yet somewhat hapless fisherman out. George made the national news for managing to lasso the marlin around the tail, which allowed he and Arnold to somehow get the 200 pound fish up the cliff and into the “caught category”.

Was Maui on hand to pull it from the sea? Did they tie the rope to Georges horse and yank the marlin like jail bars in a western movie? Or did the two men just muscle it up the old fashioned way?

So far, we haven’t found anyone who knows.

All of these details are ultimately left up to the readers imagination. If you have any first hand experience with these types of local characters, you might visualize in your minds eye what fun that whole experience must have been, and what good friends those two guys would have become, if they weren’t already.

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And to think; folks back then did things just because things called to be done, not to put them out for the world to see or “like.”

Old timers used to say, “you don’t have to tell everything you know.” Today that might be translated to “you don’t have to post everything you know” but that toy boat has sailed.

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