Story by Kathy Collins
Listen to this column read aloud in pidgin:
When Maui Pine went announce they was going shut down, I felt like one of my grandparents went ma-ke, went die. “King Pine” been part of my family so long, I get pineapple juice in my veins.
My Okinawan ba-chan—my grandma—had one pineapple field in Ha‘iku, small kine. Like odda families back in da fifties an’ sixties, we used to raise da pine an’ sell ‘em to Libby or Haserot Canneries. Me and my cousin was jus’ small kids, so we would play in da bed of da old pickup truck in da middo of da field while da grownups pick da pine by hand. Each time someone fill up his cloth sack, he come back to da truck, dump out da fruit, take one good-size swig from da canteen, an’ go back fo’ more. Us kids would stack up da pine in da back of da truck, see who can make da biggest pile. Was like giant Legos, except they nevah fit togedda so good, and they was real heavy and poky. We always had scratches on our arms an’ legs from making our pineapple pyramids, speshly when my cousin’s pile would get mo’ big than mine’s. ‘Cause that’s when I would yank out one of his pineapples from da middo, and da buggas all come rolling down on top us. Nevah take him too long fo’ figga out, was mo’ bettah fo’ let me win than get buried in pineapples.
We was one Maui Pine family, too. My maddah and my auntie worked almost all their lives for Maui Pine, like most of my friends’ parents. Hali‘imaile (we call ‘em Highly Miley) was my stomping grounds, small-kid time. Auntie’s house was next to da company dispensary, with da irra-gation ditch behind, and Hali‘imaile Store and post office liddo bit down da road. Sometimes Auntie let me walk with her fo’ get da mail an’ one five-cent vanilla Popsicle.
Summah-time, I would stand on our side of da ditch and watch da harvesters in da fields on da odda side. Had one six-inch pipe runnin’ along da top of da bank, and then one six-foot drop to da top of da watah. I used to wish I could jump in da ditch and go swim, but I was good girl, I nevah once put even one toe in da ditch. Nobody did, ‘cause we all heard from our parents about da poor t’ing paper boy who went drown in da ditch how many years ago, ‘cause da sides was too steep fo’ him climb out.
I came close one time, though. I was sittin’ on da pipe, jus’ mindin’ my own business, an’ I donno how, but my rubbah slippah went fall inside da ditch. Good t’ing da bugga went catch on one branch pokin’ out from da watah. I went hang on to one tree root an’ lower myself down da bank, jus’ like on da TV westerns, an’ I went grab my slippah without even getting wet. I thought about falling in accidentally on purpose, but like I tol’ you, I was good girl. Plus I guess maybe I was liddo bit scared.
When I heard about Hali‘imaile Pineapple Company starting up, I was so happy, I went go back to my favorite spot, fo’ da first time in forty years. No mo’ Auntie’s house now, only get “Keep Out, No Trespassing” signs (remembah when da signs used to say only Kapu?). But da ditch, da pipe, even da harvester machine was all in da same place. I went sit on my pipe an’ daydream about all da good fun times we had in Highly Miley. I took off my slippahs ‘cause I was t’inkin’ about climbing down da bank fo’ stick my toes in da watah . . . but I nevah. I guess, deep down to my pineapple-juice blood, I still yet one good girl.