Hundreds of years ago, Hawaiian kings would hand out to subordinate rulers thin slivers of land that stretched from volcano to sea.
The system of rule via these plots, called ahupua'a, was abolished in the 19th century, and much of the land was split up and sold as the value of Hawaiian real estate skyrocketed.
(Hana Ranch, also on Maui, has oceanfront access but is in a more isolated location, is currently on the market for $65 million.) The Rices say they will never sell what's left.
Ranch life is fast disappearing from Hawaii, and the family has employed the same native Hawaiian cowboys, called paniolos, for decades. Rice says he now spends his days roping cattle and fixing fences.
"My family said I'd been playing around long enough," said Mr.
Rice, 71, trudging through the kitchen in heavy boots and a belt buckle bearing the insignia he brands upon his cows.
There are roughly a dozen houses on the ranch for cowboys and guests. Rice and his wife live in a wood shingled five-bedroom, four-bathroom Cape Cod-style home. Rice's grandfather in 1917, it has been immaculately preserved, as have many of the furnishings.
A grandfather clock still ticks in the dining room, old-fashioned telephones have long cords, claw-foot bathtubs have been repainted sage and forest green, and on the bar there's a bottle of rare Hawaiian moonshine (production fizzled after World War II) and a buzzer that Mr.
Rice's grandfather used to ring for the servants to fix him a drink.
Outside, horses graze in a corral at the top of the driveway, and there's a small tack barn full of saddles dating back to Mr. Finback—the submarine that fished former president George H. Bush out of the water off the coast of Japan in 1944—lies on the lanai.
Rice's grandfather's days, when Hawaii's cattle industry was booming. Photographs taken on the ranch of baseball players who stopped by on their calls of duty, including Babe Ruth and Bill Dickey, hang in a glass cabinet along with a handful of autographed baseballs. Rice, who was about 5 years old when military visitors filled the guest rooms.
(Cattle arrived on the islands in 1793.) The house is also littered with artifacts from World War II, when many locals opened their homes to entertain soldiers. Historians say local chiefs created ahupua'a (pronounced a-hoo-pooh-a-ha) to ensure that the island's natural resources, including forests, arable land and shoreline access, were evenly divided. Rice learned the ins and outs of cattle ranching early on from his grandfather, a "big man who yelled a lot" and could "make you cry in the cattle pen if you weren't roping right." After studying animal husbandry at Colorado State University, where he met his wife, Mr.
The Maui towns of Lahaina and Ka'anapali inherited their names from their ahupua'a. Rice says this ahupua'a was first handed to a Hawaiian, who sold it to a Chinese potato farmer, who sold it to a sugar magnate, who sold it to his grandfather, Maui senator Harold W. Rice took a five-year job running a ranch on the island of Molokai, but then moved to Oahu seeking a good education for his two children and to get a better handle on the financial aspects of the cattle business. Obama's late grandmother, was one of his most beloved mentors.