The Paniolo Life
A cowboy hat shades Jimmy Miranda’s eyes, and his spurs jingle with the slow and steady movement of his horse. After the dust settles, his horse washed and treated to an apple, the owner of CJM Country Stables takes a seat — with the regal Mount Haupu and jagged Mahaulepu shoreline in the background — and shares with Midweek Kauai what it’s like to be a fourth-generation paniolo.
“I feel so comfortable around horses. I think I can say I know a horse from the inside out,” he says. “They’ve got good minds, and if you can read a horse and understand it , it’s like understanding life.”
The old-fashioned, polite-as can-be rancher has been around animals all his life.
“As a child, you don’t have a choice where you grow up. Your parents dictate where you’re going to be raised,” he says. “We never knew any better because we never knew anyplace else.”
Miranda was born and raised on a ranch on Hawaii island, and starting at a young age, he did everything from raising and training horses to de-horning, roping and branding cattle.
“We did all the things you had to do on the ranch,” he says.
“And that’s where it got started,” says Miranda.
Naturally, rodeos followed, which brought the duties of cowboys (except for bull-riding, which Miranda says started on a dare) into an arena setting, where ranches competed against each other.
“You know, who had the better cowboys basically is what it was,” says Miranda, who was a junior at St. Joseph School in Hilo when he participated in the first high school rodeo competition in the state.
They did everything in the rodeo arena that they did on the ranch, including riding bare-back and bucking broncos. Though the competitions originated on the Mainland in the 1800s, there is one rodeo event that is unique to Hawaii called Po‘o Wai U that grew from the introduction of cattle to the islands. The story goes that Capt. George Vancouver gifted cattle to King Kamehameha I in the late 1700s.
But they were sickly from the ocean voyage, so they were placed under kapu and allowed to roam free. By the 1800s, the population had grown so much that cowboys were given permission to wrangle the wild cows (pipi).
“A lot of people didn’t like these wild cattle because they tear up the taro patches and their grass shacks,” says Miranda, who has a degree in agricultural economics and ranch management from Colorado State University, where he met wife Joyce.
He remembers reining in wild cattle when he was in high school, skillfully tying them to a tree with a knot that allowed them to move around at night. This action is mimicked in Po‘o Wai U, which is one of the many events CJM (Come Join Me) Country Stables regularly sponsors at its rodeo arena.
Three years after moving to Kauai in 1982 to work for Meadow Gold Dairies, he saw an opportunity to open his stable operation, which provides horseback-riding tours of the South coast and Mahaulepu Valley. He wanted to continue participating in and offering these traditional events that are in his blood. He added the rodeo 26 years ago and began with “Team Roping Jackpots,” where wranglers work together to lasso cattle.
Now, aside from running his business with 60 horses and 32 acres of Grove Farm land, he hosts several rodeos year-round, including Kauai All Girls Rodeo Association competitions and a large event for Koloa Plantation Days. He also likes to host high school and keiki rodeos.
“It’s another activity that we can have to help our kids be good sportsmen and learn sportsmanship, and be a caretaker for the horse and cattle,” says Miranda, who still competes from time to time. “Not everybody wants to play T-ball, not everybody wants to play basketball or football. I think any sports for youths that we can have to keep them active with something they like to do are very proactive.”
When asked why the cowboy culture is still so prevalent on Kauai, he replies that it’s because generations have been passing down their knowledge for centuries and like to continue teaching keiki the tools of the trade.
“I always say everybody has a little cowboy in them,” says Miranda, who has two adult children with Joyce, Marti Snyder and Russell, who have followed in his footsteps. “If your grandparents crossed the plains in covered wagons, you’ve got some cowboy in you, see.”
For more information about CJM Country Stables, visit cjmstables.com.