I bet you're wondering how Anna is doing?
Well, she is quite small and frail now, but that is not too surprising considering she celebrated her 9Oth birthday several years ago. She still lives in her beautiful white home in Waimea, surrounded by mementos of a long and exciting life. You must have seen that large watercolor painting of her house hanging in the fancy Bank of Hawaii in town, blazing with red salvia and practically an acre of agapanthus. (Did you know the agapanthus at Waimea School were donated by Anna to help beautify the campus?) Of course, her Charolais cattle still graze on the hillside above Anna Ranch. There isn't a prettier sight in Waimea than that herd at sunset, shining like ivory against the green pastures. You ask is she still as black-haired and bright-eyed as ever? Well, not quite, but she sure wishes she were. She has good days and then those days she is only too happy to forget. But, what a fighter. One in a million- that's Anna Lindsey Perry-Fiske!
1983 Grand finale with Sonny Miranda (foreground),
Waimea has been a lucky town to have Anna as its "First Lady" for so many years, a title the late Richard Smart would have agreed she richly deserves. When he honored her in 1977 by dedicating the July 4th rodeo and races to her, he called her, "our friend, our neighbor, a dear soul and a wonderful person." Anna, deeply moved by his kind words, graciously replied, "This is the greatest honor I have ever had." Draped in pikake and maile leis, she spoke of her love for Waimea - the birthplace of her parents, her home and the place she would choose to die.
Nearly 20 years have passed since that gusty summer morning, but time has not dimmed the sparkle of her reputation. In fact, Anna's colorful personality and generous spirit continue to make her name known throughout the entire state. A fascinating mix of contradictions, she has relished defying convention and doing it "her way." Not many women (and certainly no men) have successfully roped a wild steer at dawn, sat in the saddle all morning, prepared and hosted a society tea at four in the afternoon and then appeared as a fashion plate for dinner. But, Anna sure could and did, and she was proud of it.
Pudding L.assiter rode for many years and will be riding
Sitting at the Captain's table on a cruise ship, perched on the back of a Brahma bull, strutting her stuff at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel for charity, or outbidding the U.S. Government for the top bull at the annual Hawaii Cattleman's Association auction, Anna commanded attention, admiration and much affection. Chosen as Queen of the first Merrie Monarch Festival parade in Hilo and later honored as Hawaii's Queen in the 1972 Rose Bowl Parade in California, Anna's beauty and skill on horseback were well known. Whether the occasion called for velvet and pearls, rhinestones and white leather, or blue jeans and palaka, Anna loved to dress up and heads turned when she made her entrance.
At this very moment, volunteers at Waimea Main Street are working madly to recreate one of Anna's most memorable achievements, her colorful rendition of Hawaiian history named "Old Hawai'i On Horseback." First produced in 1964 on Anna's front lawn, the benefit pageant depicted the history of Hawai'i from the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1779 to the modern day. She designed all the costumes, wrote all the lines for the announcer, color-coordinated the leis, hand-picked each rider and took part in the production herself. Director, scriptwriter, costume designer, talent scout, casting director and producer, she showed us all she could have been a big success in Hollywood if Fate had cast her up on the California coast instead of on the Big Island.
Below: Thomas Weston Lindsey (4th Generation) riding for Captain Lindsey on his horse "Parade."
But Fate (or God, if Anna were writing this story) decided Anna should be born in Hawai'i, the daughter of William and Mary Lindsey. Their portraits hang in her living room, constant reminders of her happy childhood in Waimea, a childhood spent in the same house in which she lives today. As she has often said, "My mother made me the lady that I am, and my father made me the man I am today!"
Taught to ride at the age of three by her father, Anna grew up crazy about horses. Sent to O'ahu to be educated at a convent school, Anna developed a strong faith which sustained her through good times and bad. As a young bride, she enjoyed the social whirl of Hilo, but it was as owner and manager of her own riding stables that she made her mark. Hilo was in shock when Anna jumped into the saddle herself at the races. She proved to be a skilled jockey, gutsy and glamorous in her racing silks. (The silver trophies she won are displayed with pride next to all the blue ribbons her cattle have brought her at Anna Ranch.) When her first marriage ended in divorce, Anna stuck out her chin and walked forward into her life, confident that with or without a husband, she would survive.
Below: Allen "Uku" Lindsey riding as a Spanish cowboy.
Anna's father died in 1939 after a long illness and she took over her parents' ranch in Waimea. What a shock to discover her father's business affairs were a mess. "I started with $150 in the bank," said Anna. She threw herself into the cattle work, riding through Kohala's infamous wind and rain, learning how to give orders and driving steers to be slaughtered to the market in Hilo herself. She fought tooth and nail to keep the family business out of the grasp of other ranchers who thought an inexperienced female could never manage a ranch.
"Women's liberation" was not exactly a hot topic in Hawai'i during World War II. Anna shattered stereotypes of "proper female behavior" by jumping into the driver's seat of her cattle truck, learning how to butcher cattle with her own hands and riding spirited horses with undisputed skill. Her nothing-can-stop-me attitude was not confined to ranch work; she could out-dress, out-dance and out-dazzle any Honolulu fashion plate when she put her mind to it.
With her ranch secure, Anna turned her energy to raising money for charity. Her mother's death of a heart attack in 1940 gave her a personal reason for wanting to help other patients through the Hawai'i Heart Fund. She began hosting "coffee fests" in her home, offering fancy pastries (probably flown in from Honolulu) along with tea and coffee for the local ladies. These benefits were fine, but Anna wanted something bigger, better and more profitable for the Heart Fund. That is when she dreamed up "Old Hawai'i On Horseback."
Below: The late Elaine Flores and her son William Williama Akima.
Anna certainly knew how to ride. As a pa'u rider, she had already participated in numerous festive parades. She loved the magic combination of good horseflesh, lavish costumes, flowers galore and smiling faces. Plus, she knew it was a whole lot more fun than baking cakes and sipping punch.
Anna put on a total of nine performances of her popular mounted pageant from 1964 to 1983. Before long, off-island visitors planned their trips to coincide with her show. Busloads of spectators would arrive from around the island. The music, the celebrity announcer, the beauty of Anna Ranch, all combined to make it a day of excitement. But, no one doubted that Anna was the heart and soul of the entire production. What a thrill when Anna made one of her always exciting entrances. Never one to ride a safe old plug, she would canter into the arena on a magnificent young horse, who, snorting and prancing past cheering spectators, would froth and paw the air as Anna waved serenely to the crowd. Sometimes she would jump barefooted astride a little donkey and dash across her manicured lawn. Unforgettable is probably as good a word as any to describe those moments of drama which Anna - and her audience - so dearly loved.
In 1977, the Hawaiian Heart Association honored her tremendous fund raising efforts with a gala banquet at the Naniloa Surf Hotel in Hilo. Called "A Night With Anna," the evening's guests included the Governor, the mayor, numerous dignitaries and special friends. Not being a believer in getting things done by committee, Anna could truthfully say, "I did it all by myself!"
Anna's success for charity drew the attention of her neighbor down the road, Hawaii Preparatory Academy. Active on the governing board since its founding, Anna accepted the challenge to raise money for the scholarship fund. Her first auction held at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in 1974 raised $29,000, a huge sum unheard of on the Big Island. In 1986, nearly $200,000 was raised, thanks to Anna. In 1994, the tradition of bigger and better continued and the phenomenal amount of over a quarter of a million dollars was raised, poor economy and all. As Anna likes to say, "No one can say 'no' to Anna." How right she is.
Her life has been full of battles. She fought to keep deer off the island, vowing that no fence on earth could keep the nibbling beasts on a hunting reserve and off Hawai'i's ranch lands. She won. She fought to keep our town's true Hawaiian name-Waimea. When you drive by the Waimea-Kohala Airport, you can thank Anna that someone in Honolulu did not get to call it Kamuela International (or something else equally awful). When people complained about Waimea's red water, Anna told them their color prejudice was nonsense. "It's champagne colored water," she insisted. In her middle years, she won the happiness of a secure marriage to Lyman Perry-Fiske, but lost him in 1977 to heart disease.
In 1987, Anna still drove herself everywhere, took frequent cruises, rode horseback, arranged flowers, cleaned her house herself and enjoyed the company of a wide circle of friends. At that time she said, "Honey, I've got no time to be thinking I'm getting old," and she meant it. Thrilled by the publication of her biography, "Hawaii's Incredible Anna," by Ruth Tabrah, this spunky Waimea gal was determined to live life to the fullest. She zipped across the state to book signings, adoring the attention and the opportunity to meet old and new friends. In recent years, broken bones and ill health have slowed her pace, but Anna hasn't decided to call it quits yet.
This May, Waimea will be proud and happy to honor one of its leading citizens by bringing back to life a grand tradition -Anna Lindsey Perry-Fiske's "Old Hawaii On Horseback." You will not want to miss it.
Thank you, Anna, and happy trails!
Aunty Nancy Kerr (with her late husband John) will be returning
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