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From BAMBOO RIDGE Issue Number 20, Fall 1983, Last Quarter: Kaua`i Issue

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 8:41 AM




A Visitor from Alaska
                     by Ben Asakura


     The first time I saw it was on a very warm Saturday afternoon in September, perhaps in 1974. Our foursome was walking single file on the path leading from the first green to the distant second tee at the Wailua Golf Course, pulling our golf carts behind us, when one of the fellows in the group called our attention to it, "Hey, look at him -- just one leg!"
     Standing on its single leg, a plover eyed us warily as we moved along. Someone idly speculated on how the bird lost its other leg, but, perhaps because it was so warm, the subject elicited no further comment. The plover in turn hopped forward on its one leg in its ceaseless search for food under and around the stunted ironwood trees growing at the boundary of the golf course and the sandy beach. I saw it several more times, always around the second tee, as the hot dry days of autumn gave way to the rainy season, which is called winter in the regions of sleet and snow. And it is from such regions that they come, the middle-aged and elderly tourists, who descend upon Wailua to play their daily rounds of golf. They do this in little groups, skittering around on golf buggies, from early January through February and March and finally into April, when their ranks begin thinning, and as the month draws to its close we discover one day they've all flown home. And at approximately the same time our koleas, the Pacific golden plovers, take off from here on their long flight over the ocean to their breeding grounds in Alaska. For a brief interlude following the sudden out-migration, the golf course becomes almost the exclusive purlieu of local residents. On a Saturday afternoon in May, while walking along with another foursome, it dawned on me that our one-legged and solitary friend was no longer to be seen. It must have risen into the air above its little beachside kuleana when the mystic hour came to join a flock of fellow plovers in their long flight home.
     It reappeared in late August. We saw it again hopping on its one foot as it looked for worms in the sod of the wondrously long teeing area of the number-two hole. It lived there in the scrub growth of the ironwood trees through another fall and winter tourist season and was gone again when May rolled around. It came back once more in the late summer and flew away for the third time in the spring of the following year.
     Then, when it was September once more and plovers could be seen again plucking worms from the greens and fairways all over the golf course, I began keeping an eye open for our one-legged wanderer whenever I passed by its old haunts near the ocean. When October came and it still did not show up I gave up the vigil, for then I knew it would not be returning to Wailua anymore.


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Bio: "A white-haired grandfather who lives with his wife in Lihue, Ben Asakura confesses he hasn't done any fishing since he grew out of short pants, about the time airplanes began flying in our Hawaiian skies."



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