Few American women in the late 1930s were professional jockeys or licensed butchers. Anna Leialoha Lindsey Perry-Fiske (1900-1995) of Kamuela, Waimea, Hawaii, was, but then Anna grew up riding horses, roping cattle and studying at Honolulu’s exclusive Sacred Heart Academy. By the time Barbara Stanwyck’s fictional Victoria Barkley was holding sway over Big Valley, Anna was already a fifth generation big island rancher. Anna introduced prize winning brahma bulls and charolais cattle to the Hawaiian big island, branded, butchered and drove beef into Hilo, maintained a hotel suite on Waikiki Beach and represented Pā'ū riding at the Rose Bowl Parade.
Anna’s English great-great-grandfather and Hawaiian great-great-grandmother had been among the earliest ranchers in the Kohala Mountain region on the big island of Hawaii in the late 1820s. At a time when the king was encouraging settlers to herd wild cattle roaming the land, the Lindsey ranch was founded. The Kohala Mountain region became legendary for its premium grass fed beef. Four generations later, in the 1930s, Anna single-handedly saved and reinvigorated the family enterprise, renamed Anna Ranch, through deft financial negotiations and doing much of the hands on work herself.
Anna’s a legend in Hawaii for both her accomplishments and her philanthropy. One of the movers behind Kamuela’s Hawaii Preparatory Academy, she created its annual art auction, both a major fund raiser and a significant island wide event in the fine arts world. The school’s Isaacs Art Center is open daily.
Before her passing in 1995, Anna arranged for the ranch to be preserved as an educational facility. Tours of the 1910 ranch house are conducted daily. The open concept is a fine example of a comfortable space designed for a large family to gather and entertain. The furnishings are a mixture of European and Hawaiian. Of particular significance is an original Clef Bench, a koa wood settee first designed and made by Henry Weeks, Jr. for Queen Liliuokalani. That first settee is still in Iolani Palace in Honolulu, and Anna’s is one of the rare original copies.
A profusion of flowering plants surrounds the house and the outbuildings. An interpretive trail wanders through the garden explaining the history of Hawaiian ranching. Her sequined Nudie cowgirl outfit is next to the desk she worked at managing the ranch, and the room containing her well worn saddles is just down the hall. The tour of Anna Ranch is an insight into the fascinating life of a great woman and a way of life few associate with the islands.
Beef is still king on Hawaii’s big island. Just down the road from Anna Ranch, in the Parker Ranch Center, the Village Burger sells some of the island’s best. Created by award winning chef Edwin Goto, Village Burger celebrates farm-to-table between a bun. Ahi tuna, veal, mushrooms and taro can be main ingredients besides delectable beef. Extras from avocado to goat cheese to tomato marmalade are locally sourced. Hand cut fries and Hawaiian Dreams ice cream milk shakes frequently round out a meal at the Village Burger.
Lush green grass, the deep blue of the ocean, dry rock wall fences and plump black cattle are as much a part of Hawaiian tradition as spear fishing and canoe racing. A drive around Waimea ranch country adds a new layer of understanding to island life. A juicy, hormone and antibiotic free Hawaiian beef burger attests to the island’s quality of life.
Anna Ranch Historic Home and Heritage Center, 65-1480 Kawaihae Road, Kamuela HI 808-885-4426
Village Burger, 67-1185 Mamalahoa Highway, Kamuela, Waimea, HI 808-885-7319