On a recent trip to the Hawaiian island of Maui, I discovered something one wouldn’t really expect there—a historic paniolo (cowboy) town named Makawao, which has a community of working cattle ranches, an arena that hosts an annual rodeo, and a general store plus western-wear boutique called Aloha Cowboy. And I was lucky enough to meet 79-year-old Hawaiian cowgirl, Rose Freitas.
I told Freitas that I was from Calgary, home of the world-famous Stampede, and that I had written a book about the wife of Stampede founder Guy Weadick. Her stage name was Flores LaDue; she was a world champion trick roper and a member of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Suddenly, Freitas and I found that we had lots to talk about—Freitas, affectionately known as “Auntie Rose,” was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2006.
Freitas grew up on a plantation, and her entire family used to go to the horse races every weekend. As a horse rider and calf-roper, she founded and competed in all-girl rodeos on the Hawaiian Islands and on the US mainland, and was an eight-time world qualifier in barrel racing.
Maintaining Western Values
Rose knew all about the world-famous Calgary Stampede. She once hosted a movie night during which she showed a film on the history of the Stampede.
“I think every generation of any ranching community anywhere should demonstrate that it remains fiercely connected to western values and traditions,” she said. Freitas is proud to know the four Hawaiian cowboys who competed at the Stampede: Harold Rice, in 1965; Peter Baldwin and Freddie Rice, in 1966; and Kimo Huddleston, who competed in boys steer riding in 1980.
Rose married Raymond Freitas, the son of a large Maui ranching family. Raymond’s mother liked Rose so much she gave her a special gift—a saddle.
“I’m still riding that saddle,” she says, “and it’s still going strong, like me.”
Surfboards and Saddles
Freitas is currently writing a book called Maui Cowgirl that will tell the story of her life in ranching and as a rodeo cowgirl in a place most people associate with surfboards over saddles.
Wendy Bryden is the author of bestseller The First Stampede of Flores LaDue: The True Love Story of Florence and Guy Weadick and the Beginning of the Calgary Stampede, published by Touchstone.