Rainy Side View: Goats: Big Island’s next big industry

What shall we do about the goats?

No, I’m not talking about those grizzled, grouchy, grumpy old guys with food bits stuck in their unkempt beard who snarl and scare the children (full disclosure: I personally don’t know any). I’m talking about THE GOATS! The ones cavorting on the dry side of the Saddle and the up road to Kona, also mauka of Kawaihae and Waikoloa.

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Whenever I see them, one is always at the top of a rocky outpost.

“Why do goats like to perch on high rocks?” I asked a friend who’s lived here all her life. “So they can enjoy the view” she solemnly replied, proof that she’s been living too long in a place that caters to tourists.

Unconvinced, I ask another pal, Siri, who lives in my iPad, and from this more objective friend, I learned that goats climb high rocks to watch out for predators. They are also looking for an escape route in case they get attacked.

I pause with newfound respect for these goofy four-legged creatures who look out for each other and are endlessly planning their getaway. They are clearly a more highly evolved species than previously thought, but I am not sufficiently impressed to give them free range of our entire island.

Besides, what dangers can be lurking around Waikoloa other than flying golf balls?

Let’s start at the beginning. Captain George Vancouver is responsible for bringing cattle to Hawaii in the late 1,700s, but he also dropped off sheep and goats. Some history books would have us believe that he wished to contribute to islanders’ diet and nutrition, but I’m not buying it. I suspect he just wanted more choices for replenishment of food supplies on his long overseas voyages.

Think about it: Why haul unruly live animals across two oceans on small rickety ships to give as presents when a barrel of nails would have been more appreciated? It’s like the gift of a flimsy diaphanous negligee from Victoria’s Secret. Is that what the birthday girl really wants, and exactly who is hoping to be the recipient of such largesse?

On our island, there is already an enterprising young man offering his herd of goats to clear grassy expanses, and hats off to his practical and entrepreneurial spirit! This is, however, a big island, and there’s a lot of grass to be eaten.

I’m thinking about John Palmer Parker who was given the OK by Kamehameha the First to round up Vancouver’s “gifts,” resulting in the renown cattle empire in Waimea known as Parker Ranch.

So, how about this: Offer some brawny wranglers a few acres to start a goat reserve, along with permission to capture as many of the ungulates as possible.

After collecting and growing the herd, they produce goat cheese, goat jerky, goat skin rugs, jackets, vests, caps; decorators will clamor for billy horns to hang on walls as hat racks. Like the rabbit’s foot, a goat’s tail or ear can be turned into a lucky charm key ring.

The possibilities are endless, especially when these products are stamped with the magic words, “Made in Hawaii.” And even though goat is the most consumed meat in the world, it is not enjoyed by many Americans, but given enough cachet, it will catch on.

Tout it as exotic, price it high, and give it a French name, like chevon, then wait and watch.

But remember that the goats are also waiting and watching. Our new paniolo will have to devise a plan to fool the billies into thinking they are not predators.

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Good luck with that.

Rochelle delaCruz was born in Hilo, graduated from Hilo High School, then left to go to college. After teaching for 30 years in Seattle, Wash., she retired and returned home to Hawaii. She welcomes your comments at rainysideview@gmail.com. Her column appears every other Monday.

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