THE GREAT KAPA’A FIRE

Did Kat O’Leery’s goats really start the Great Kapa’a fire?

It’s possible. it was the beginning of the ‘bad times’ not only on Kauai but on the mainland and around the world. Some attribute these times to air and water quality. Others insist it had more to do with the economy. When people no longer had the funds to buy tin hats, their brains went numb. Also, of course, as fewer and fewer had enough money to buy power, more and more of them, if they wanted light and heat for cooking,  had to resort to an older source of energy.

Since Kauai-like most of the world-had gone green, a euphemism, unfortunately, for back in time-fallen branches and limbs littered the seldom used roads and highways. Automobiles, which had died a messy death, rusted in parking lots and malls. They were  potential fire hazards and unsafe and unsanitary dwellings.  Suburban peasants gathered  firewood by hand and built their fire pits close to  these shelters.

A few others, like  Kat O’Leary, a rich peasant, had a small house lot, a kukui nut-tree, and a small trip of  goats. Three to be exact, named Hester, Eliza and George. More acceptable to the landed gentry than the junk auto trash, his life style, for the most part, was left undisturbed. Law abiding, sober, single, and a semi-devout Christian-his attendance left something to be desired-he pretty much kept to himself. Milked his pet nannies and shared. And  sometimes made the stinky cheese he walked around smelling like. People left him alone, which suited him. A former journalist he collected scraps of paper on which he could scribble with the charcoal tipped pencil sticks he created. He also generously, but sadly,  offered a sacrificial kid to the thumpers when they came calling.

He’d built a shelter big enough to keep himself and the goats warm and dry during the rainy season. It also harbored the small collection of precious books he stashed in secret under the floor boards. Books and reading and writing had been banned for years. The stinky smell of goat cheese and dung protected his abode from snoops, too.

The Great Fire, of course, occurred during the dry season. An exceptionally long, drawn out and vicious one. Water was scarce. Food was scarce. His beloved family of nannies produced little milk. Kids were born but few survived. In fact in the Year of the Great Fire only one precious little billy lived. His sweet gentle daddy was not long for this world but he had two loving mothers to feed and care for him. Kat called him George Junior and loved him like a son.

Therefor when the thumpers came thumping, coveting his plump little body, Kat, for the first time in years objected.  “Thou shalt not covet,” he said.

“For everything there is a season,” they responded.

Knowing how senseless it was to argue, he promised to deliver.

What happened next no one can be sure of. The fire did indeed begin in his dwelling. It spread. It was the devil’s work, the preachers preached. Nothing was left but charcoal. No sign of bones or books or bottles.  Kat and his family of books and kids and notes had disappeared. Although rumor had it, sometimes he and his family were spotted in greener pasture higher up the mountains they were too weak to climb. Maybe, they bowed their heads,  he’d gone to heaven.

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