My recent knowledge of bull testicles started with an innocent friendly phone call from Sen. Clayton Hee asking if I would like to see (and maybe “take a few shots”) at a cattle drive at a ranch in some deep untouched countryside in central Oahu overlooking the North Shore.
I said sure.
After a hidden left turn through an Army outpost, through tree-lined jungle and past three gates we came to a clearing with horses, ATVs, pick-up trucks, pop-ups and plenty of coolers. I was clean for the first four seconds. Then I was covered in red dirt and dust and on my way to seeing cattle being driven to the corral and sorted. I soon learned they were being sorted so about 40 bull calves could be castrated.
That’s right, the cute little 500-pound cow puppies were to have their manhood cut off so they wouldn’t reproduce (breeding controls) or become too aggressive and dominant in the herd. Castrated males (called steers) also produce higher grade and more tender beef when they go to market. Luckily on the anatomy of a bull the testicles are not in close proximity to their penis as they are in humans, so there’s no chance of some extremely drastic mistake with a very sharp knife.
The continued urbanization of Oahu means ranches, ranchers and cowboys are declining. In fact, the acreage shown in these images is currently for sale and there have been proposals to put a solar farm where the cattle are grazing.
In Hawaii, raising cattle is dependent on people helping people. The ranchers and cowboys only have each other to count on and sometimes paniolos — Hawaiian cowboys — fly in from other islands for the weekend.
Most have other jobs, mainly in construction. They aren’t paid and no one sues if they get hurt. They work the cattle because they love it and want to perpetuate this way of life.
The history of the paniolo is a long one, having arrived in the islands in 1832 when King Kamehameha III sought help from the vaqueros in California with his herds on the Big Island.
But these particular Hawaii cowboys say they don’t look at themselves as paniolos, but rather as people who enjoy working with livestock. They don’t stand on ceremony and everyone is treated equally.
Out here, even the chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee is just another dust-covered ranch hand named Clay, helping to herd and rope cattle.
Watch a slideshow of the roundup: