The Harder They Come: Oi’o and Haoles

Words: Miles Nolte

It was a rare, calm winter morning on the south side of the island. We were making our way through the channels, in between a series of flats that were now mostly dry and the boat ramp where the old men sat on faded lawn chairs soaking squid under bobbers and smoking cigarettes. When we rounded the corner, he was already there, anticipating our approach.
“You f—ing haoles! Come ova hea! I going kick you f—ing asses!”

As he jumped up and down, everything heaved. His large, brown gut jutted well over his frayed khaki shorts and rose and fell as he bounced on the edge of the sea. The jostling was exaggerated by the fact that his dilapidated houseboat rose and fell under his substantial, Polynesian girth. It was really quite the idyllic setting in which to live if one were to fantasize about an island life of warm spartan simplicity. He lived in a plywood box pocked with small, salt-crusted windows anchored at the edge of a deeply dredged channel and backed up against a flooded mangrove forest of spindly roots and fingered leaves. A narrow walkway surrounded the diminutive structure and he stood at one corner, tipping his floating home under the weight of his fury. His dog stood at his side, a honey-colored mutt with short fur, barking ceaselessly in time with his vitriol. His face was flushed, hurling obscenities and a spray of spittle at us in the crisp tropical light of early morning.

Mike waved at him and smiled brightly as we motored within 100 feet of his doorstep. Mike seemed genuinely amused.

“F–k you, YOU F—ING HAOLES…”

His voice was drowned by the roaring outboard as we got on plane. Mike shouted to make himself heard over the two-stroke: “That guy is absolutely nuts. He does that every single time I go by there.”

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