As I slowly winded my way through the twists and turns of the Hamakua Coast, I relished the cool Hawaiian air. The air was soft; almost silk-like, and it overwhelmed my senses with the tropical smell of sweet grass, fruit, and salt. It was June 2, 2017 and I was on assignment with American Digger Magazine, in search of a story. The magazine arranged for me to meet brothers Brent and Blake Cousins at their home on the Big Island of Hawaii. My assignment was to come away with a story on their bottle hunting escapades.
Lives of Adventure
The brothers, lifelong residents of the island, grew up in and around the sugarcane fields of the Hamakua Coast. Their father, Tom Cousins, was a project manager for the Hamakua Sugar Company, where he developed a variety of syrups and foods from Hamakua’s sugarcane.
Like most boys growing up, the brothers lived for adventure―and to get dirty. Their explorations took them into the sugarcane fields, down into deep, jungle-like gulches, and to the coast beyond. They immersed themselves in the history of island, its inhabitants, and the stories of the old sugar plantations that once dotted the island.
Through those adventures, they uncovered the long forgotten camps that once housed thousands of migrant workers. Of greatest interest to the brothers, were the workers’ discarded items, carelessly tossed into the cavernous gulches below their elevated camps. It was in those ravines that the brothers would find old soda, beer, gin, and sake bottles, pipes, earthenware, and other odd-and-ends.
After a day of sightseeing, interviews, and yes, bottle hunting, I had my story. That story, entitled “Bottle Digging in Hawaii,” was published earlier this year in Volume 14, Issue 1, of American Digger Magazine. Since that time in June 2017, I’ve kept in close contact with Blake and Brent, trading emails, gifts, and the occasional bad joke. They’re great guys, and my life is richer for knowing them.
Earlier this week, they sent me a video depicting the fruits of their 5-year long search for the proverbial bottle-laden “honey hole”―the type of location that most bottle hunters tirelessly research and dream about, but rarely discover.
While many of us will never find such a cache of glass, stoneware, and porcelain treasures, thanks to the Cousins brothers, we can live vicariously through their adventures—the type that still gets them dirty!