Rodeo Whales

Skyla announced at playgroup on Friday that her son, Kalani, would be riding in the high school rodeo this weekend, and that everyone should come down and watch.
I like rodeos-- I like the girls dressed up in their ribbed plaid shirts and pink alligator boots, and the boys in their silver-spangled hats and shiny belt-buckles. I like the little brothers and sisters roping each other behind the stands, and the parents screaming and cheering, and the terrible food stalls.
I don't know anything about rodeos-- I know enough to correct myself from "Baby cow" to "calf" but don't ask me what event is on or who is up or what a good running time is.
The rodeo is a cultural experience for me-- like being a tourist in Athens. I can appreciate the aesthetics and excitment of the moment without really understanding what's going on.
When I asked Skyla where the arena is, she said, "at the end of the road. Just go to the end of the road, and it's right there."
Huh? Which road? What end?
This is the problem I always have with asking directions in Hawaii. The answer is always a vague wave of the hand and "right over there. You can't miss it." Well, I can miss it.
"Where exactly is it?" I asked.
She rolled her eyes. "Hunter, you tell her." So her 6 year old explained it to me.
"So you go past the Hyatt, down by the golf courses, and through the big gate where the road ends. Go on the dirt road. If you get to the ocean, you went too far. Find a sign for the stables."
Sufficiently humbled that a 6 year old had to give me directions, I wrote the directions down.
The next morning, we made our way by Hunter's directions, and found the arena and the stables. Skyla was standing on the arena gate, and jumped down when she saw us. She gave us hugs and kisses, and pointed up in the direction of her canopy over the bleachers, and ran back to open the gate for the next competitor.
There were hardly any audience members-- just participants and moms who drifted between the bleachers and the arena and the trailers. I felt a little out of place in my shorts and sandals, and admired everyone else's tight embroidered jeans, fancy hats, and well oiled boots.
The kids were great-- charging in on their horses, knocking over and tying up goats and big strong calfs, racing around poles. Even when a storm blew in and whipped all the canopies over and soaked the arena, they went full speed and came back to the bleachers mud splattered and proud.
We huddled on the bleachers in the shelter of Skyla's canopy and I got to eavesdrop on the fast-paced familiar chatter of these women and moms and teenagers who had spent their whole lives working and playing together, intermarrying, organizing, and rodeoing. I suddenly felt very alone and separate and different-- disconnected from the long strong history these families shared.
It was a beautiful setting-- the dominant face of Kipukai and the green mountains to the left, the horses and trailers and storm clouds to the right, and straight ahead, just beyond the arena, the open ocean. We even saw whales surfacing and spouting just beyond the kids on the horses.

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