#153 in the Moʻolelo series
Born in Waimea in 1873, Ikua Purdy was the great-grandson of John Palmer Parker. This meant he was also a direct desendant (great-great-great grandson) of Kamehameha I. (Parker married Kamehameha’s granddaughter Kipikane). According to Hawaiian-culture-stories.com:
In 1833, with the help of Parker, Kamehameha III brought Mexican vaqueros from California to Hawaii to break in the cows and train Hawaiians to be cowboys. These vaqueros who spoke Spanish or Espanol, helped create the “paniolo” culture that is still alive today. Not only did the vaqueros bring their ranch skills and equipment, they also introduced the guitar to the islands.Hawaiian-culture-stories.com
Among these Paniolo, who dealt with the rough, volcanic terrain of Northcentral Hawaiʻi Island, Ikua Purdy excelled. So much so, that he entered the first rodeo competition in Honolulu in 1903. Five years later in 1908, Purdy and a group of paniolo travelled to Cheyenne, Wyoming to enter the Frontier Days Rodeo. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum recounts the impression the paniolo made in Cheyenne:
They were an instant curiosity with their odd slouched hats and colorful hat bands, peculiar saddles, and bright clothes–an exotic blend of Hawaiian and vaquero influence and tradition. Purdy set a record by roping his steer in 56 seconds flat.
Ikua Purdy never returned to Wyoming, but his feat elevated the status of the Hawaiian cowboy to a new level. He worked another 30 years mostly as foreman on Maui’s Ulupalakua Ranch.nationalcowboymuseum.org
Purdy died in 1945 and was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1999.