In the mountains of Hawaii, one finance professional volunteers as a paniolo (“Hawaiian cowboy”) on weekends.  

Keith Ridley has been chased by bulls, cows, and angry calves in the name of friendship. 

On weekends when two of his friends, who run a cattle ranch, prepare to round up 100 to 150 cattle to be inoculated, tagged, evaluated, or branded, Ridley takes a plane from the island of Oahu, Hawaii, where he lives, to the big island. Early the next morning, he throws on his riding gear and rides a truck high into the mountains where the cattle graze. 

There, he’ll ride on horseback throughout the 300-acre pasture, helping to bring in the herd to the corral where the day’s hard work will take place. Then, he’ll shift to a hands-on role. “We make sure that the calves are in good health and apply ear tags that can help in identifying the calves, even from a distance,” Ridley says. “As the calves get older, we brand them to identify them as belonging to their ranch, so that if they wander away, others will know where to return them. And when they’re a little older, our work involves castrating the bull calves.” 

The hardest part of his work? Dealing with cows who do not want to be separated from their calves. “They can chase you,” says Ridley, chief, Office of Healthcare Assurance, Honolulu, and a member of HFMA’s Hawaii Chapter. 

“I’ve been chased more than once by a mama cow that is protective of her calf and even by an adolescent steer that has been worked on,” he says. “The cattle are let out of the chute after they’ve been inoculated or tagged or branded, and if they’re not happy about the work that has been done, there’s enough room in the enclosure that they can turn around and come after you. Generally, the calves are OK afterward, but every now and then there will be one or two that will let you know how they feel about what just took place, absolutely. You have to be on your toes.” 

Although Ridley had grown up around horses with his grandfather, he had never participated in a round up before volunteering to help his friends, who work full time in addition to operating the ranch. “The best part is always the camaraderie I share with the people I’m doing this with—not only my friends, but everyone who is part of the round up,” he says. “When I get a call from one of my friends saying, ‘It’s round-up time; can you come help?,’ my answer is always, ‘Sure.’ It’s hard work, but it’s very satisfying to share in that work with such a great group of people.” 

The setting itself also provides its own rewards. “The ambiance of the countryside is breathtaking,” he says. “Obviously, it’s cattle country, so there is lots of wide open space and domestic grass for the cattle to eat, but there also are beautiful views of the mountains of Hawaii. The ranch is located in an area at 2,000- to 3,000-foot elevation, so it’s nice and cool and crisp, even for Hawaii, and on a clear day, you can look down and see the ocean. The view is magnificent.”

When the work is done, the trucks are repacked, and the long drive back to the house is over, Ridley looks forward to time spent relaxing with friends. “Everyone is very tired, very dirty, and very hungry by the time we reach the house,” he says. “While we’re at the ranch, we might stop our work to eat one short meal during the day; otherwise, the entire day is spent working. Celebrating, for us, is opening a few beers, firing up the barbeque, and enjoying a big dinner together. And taking a shower. Definitely a shower.”



Publication Date: Tuesday, January 01, 2013

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