Not even a bucking bull can knock the smile off Ching's face
PATRICK CHING is a bullrider, a bullfighter, a rough and ready cowboy rodeo clown.
"I did break my leg almost 5 weeks ago and I consider myself healed already," he says. "Even though the bones might need to catch up with my mind."
Patrick Ching is a painter, an artist, a sensitive soul.
"When I take on art students, from the first time they meet with me, I hope their world will never look the same," he says. "I hope that they will always ask themselves those questions, why is the ocean that color, why the mountains are that color, why the sky at sunset turns that color."
Ching owns an art gallery in Waimanalo, he's authored books. He's created beautiful portraits of Hawaiian wilderness and wildlife.
He's also the guy who gets 1,000-plus-pounds snorting animals with horns to run toward him so others can run away.
"I have that kind of animal magnetism," he says.
He grew up in school restless and athletic and kolohe and bored. Pretty much the kind of kid you would expect to grow up to be a bullrider.
"I wanted to be good at something," he says, "better than all my friends at something."
He was. And so he ended up in "Outward Bound, because I was good at getting in trouble. I was really good at it. So good they gave me what they call a scholarship," he says.
"That was my choice," he says. "Either detention home or Outward Bound. That was a no brainer to me, I like camping."
But something happened, on that long-ago trip to Pololu Valley. He saw an io, a Hawaiian hawk, and it captivated him. He knew right then what he wanted to do. He wanted to share this moment with others. He would become a wildlife artist, "or die trying." It was a kid's promise, but it would guide him the rest of his life.
Later he became a ranger, "living a good part of my life on deserted islands with no people, just turtles and seals and birds on the Northwest Hawaiian atolls." And they inspired him, too.
When taking care of the Kilauea Lighthouse and National Wildlife Refuge he patrolled the park on horseback, worked with the ranchers who used the land. He discovered bulls.
"Whenever I get to spend time next to them, their energy comes into me and it lasts me for weeks," he says.
And he talks of that dance they do, when those horns come at him, when he's so close to the bull he can smell its forehead, when he knows they're in the moment together, and he's safe. And also of looking at something, seeing it so clearly his vision is better than a photograph, striving to capture the moment just like this.
It seems both of these things he'll do or die trying. But he is still alive. He is so, so alive.
He says, "We're in there for those beautiful moments when it all works out."