The big ranch house stands at the top of a green sheet of lawn and it’s surrounded by elegant gardens in full flower. Late in her remarkable life, Anna Lindsey Perry-Fiske wanted white and there are white flowers and white cats and even white cattle roaming around the hilly pastures. The house is white with blue and white striped awnings, the barns are white, the fences are white — after the morning rain everything is wet and clean and it’s hard to imagine that this place once had the dust and smell of a working cattle ranch.
But the saddles are worn and there’s a shelf full of weathered boots. There are pictures of Anna astride enormous animals, huge stocky horses and even a Brahma bull. She was something of a rodeo queen, with glamorous outfits custom made for her by Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors. But on work days she was a ranch and cattle woman all the way.
Anna has been called the “First Lady of Ranching” in Hawai’i and was, during her long life, a cowgirl, jockey, pā’ū rider, licensed butcher, community leader, rancher, world traveler and humanitarian. A rare woman in any era but especially so in her lifetime!
In 1943, Anna married Lyman Perry-Fiske who was descended from another part-Hawaiian family from the district of Kohala. Lyman, a keen horseman, encouraged Anna in her innovative ranching practices such as introducing Brahma and Charolais bulls to improve her livestock.– Anna Ranch
Anna died in 1995;, ten years later, the ranch was placed on the Hawaii Register of Historic Places. Visitors to Anna Ranch can take a guided tour of the grand and beautiful home — it’s full of gorgeous Koa furniture and other period objects. There’s a demonstration blacksmith — you can watch sparks fly and hear the music of the hammer — and there’s a patio overlooking a stream where the white cows come down to drink. The ranch is adding a “Heritage Trail” — a short stroll around the grounds with interpretive signs and planning to add Hawaiian saddlery educational workshops.
It’s easy to blow by the ranch — it’s right on the Kawaihae Road as you’re driving inland to Waimea from the Kona Coast. It’s worth a stop — the ranch offers insight into the rich history of the paniolo — Hawaiian cowboys — and introduces visitors to Anna. She’s amazing, you’ll be glad you made the time.
Anna Ranch is at 65-1480 Kawaihae Road in Kamuela. Tours are twice daily, at 10am and 1pm. It’s 10 dollars, free for kids under 12 (though you’ll want to keep the little ones in hands, there’s lots of things that beg to be touched). Parking is no problem and there are restrooms. Stop for a look at the grounds even if you’re not taking the tour, it’s gorgeous there.
My trip to the Big Island of Hawaii was sponsored by the Big Island Visitor’s Bureau.