Baptisms and Branding

Last weekend we got to participate in a branding up on Mauna Kea. Our landlords' grandpa, Grandpa Bolo, works one of the beautiful 300 acre Hawaiian Homes lots up in the green plains up towards the mountain. The whole family comes. Horses, dogs, kids, cowboys and cowgirls, uncles and aunties setting out tray after tray after tray of food. Korean fried chicken, Luau, smoke pork, sweet potato, poi, salad (that's mac or potato), fried fish and steamed fish: Kole, yellow, and Moe, bbq ribs, and more.
The cowboys and cowgirls gather in the herd with their horses while the rest of us sit silently and watch by the corral. Then they "cut" the cows away from their calves one by one-- it only takes them half an hour to sort the entire herd. The horses and dogs are a seamless part of the team. Then once they're sorted, everyone jumps in to help with the main project: one by one, the calves are roped, pulled into working corral, mugged (knocked over and sat upon, with one hoof twisted and held up on the sitter's arms, like an Aikido move), then ear notched, innoculated, castrated, branded (twice), cauterized and released. It's a bloody but efficient business. The dogs carry off the ball-sacks and later we fry up the Oysters. The calves don't seem too shaken by the experience, but it is hard to watch: their white faces turn pink with the blood from their notched ear, and the smoke from the brand and the smell of burning hair lingers in the food tent.
After all the work is done, we all sat down to eat and talk story. I eavesdropped on the three youngest cowboys-- 12 and 13-- grandsons and great grandsons to the powerful and solid grandpa Bolo (a real paniolo, fluent in Hawaiian which is the working language of the Hawaiian ranches). They discussed machine parts and ranching like adults. One of them noticed that their cousin Kaika had brought two guests-- young haole guys.
--Eh, who's those guys.
--isn't it the ones who wear the suits and ride the bikes all the time?
--oh yeah, they come over to my neighbor's house all the time, to get him baptized.
--Oh, I been baptized. They do it with some water on your forehead.
--oh at my church, every 4 or 5 months, the pastor ask everyone So who will be baptized? And then you get baptized. I did it twice already.
--Oh which church you go?
--New Hope. Who's your church pastor?
Then the conversation moved on.
I discussed religion with friends as a teenager. It was an exercise in either rolling my eyes about my parents' dumb church or self-righteously pontificating about the relative merits of my particular sect. These boys didn't have any of that grumbling self-conscious show-offiness that teenagers emit, especially at family functions. I couldn't tell who their parents were, no one was hovering or checking in on them. But they were surrounded on all sides by aunties, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, nieces and nephews--all different religions, different educations and careers, but all connected by their common ancestry, and the land. Maybe that's the secret.


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