Did he just say what I think he said…

There are many different versions of Old Country Strong. And while a lot of them fall under different names, the idea behind it is all the same. One I’ll touch on today comes from personal experience. Many of us from the Northwest probably recognize the term Island Strength. In the Seattle area and the Pacific Northwest, Island Strength runs wild.

What is Island Strength? It usually describes the natural strength and burly work ethic of people from Hawaii, Samoa, and Tonga. When I was growing up, I had a lot of friends who fell into this category.

In elementary school, my friend Nepo would often eat a pack – a whole PACK of oreos – with his lunch. Nepo went on to be one hell of a nose tackle – he had to have two jerseys sewn together to fit his massive size! He was shy but you knew he always would be behind you if you needed him – even in first grade.

While in middle school, my best friend Moses (who my Ma hates to hear me mention) taught me how to fight and stick up for myself. Moses was notorious for breaking stuff with his head. It never phased him. Not many people messed with Moses.

When I reached high school, my strength coach Eddie Oleoga (whose brother played linebacker for the Saints) helped shape my weight room ethic.  Eddie was so diesel that he would have to hang a 35 pound plate behind his head to get a decent stretch. Then he’d ask me spot him while he repped out 315 on the incline bench like it was nothing. The show would really go down when his other brother would come in. They’d slam in mouth guards to squat, yeah they were intense. He taught me to always go beyond what I thought I could do.

But the work ethic I got from my island friends really was instilled after I graduated when I did seasonal work for a large moving company. I wanted to make a good impression so I made the mistake of being a really hard worker and this caught the eye of Louie. Louie was the head driver for the Island crew in the company and they got all the big jobs.

Louie was a beast, but then so was Vinnie, and so was Vili. To sum these guys up, they were large and stocky, but didn’t look fat. I always imagined punching Louie’s gut would be like punching a boulder. They had huge cut-up arms and calves that looked like cantalopes.

Everyday I’d get to work, sit in the assignment area, and try and keep my head down. But pretty soon I’d hear it –
“Aye Zach!” This was always followed by a large slap on the back and “Aye, Bruta, you ready to work?” A long sigh would escape my lips  – “Yeah, Boss, I’m ready”

We’d load the truck with what ever we needed, then like clockwork, Louie would hand me a coke. “Here’s a coke – let’s go, Boss”. What I didn’t know was “Here’s a coke” was Samoan for “This is your lunch – we’ll take one ten minute break in the next ten to twelve hours.” Awesome.

Did I mention how strong the crew was? Island Strong –that’s how strong. Louie and I would walk up to a cabinet that’d weigh like 500 hundred pounds or more and he’d just say, “You get that side, Bruta”.  I’d look at it and say “How you wanna go about this?”  “1,2,3” – and he’d easily lift up his end then ask “You got that, Boss?”

The time I spent with Louie’s crew instilled a great work drive in me that I still carry to this day. Get it done. Don’t bitch. Smile the whole time (well they always smiled). Then we’d drive home, and they’d ask me about my family, and tell me about church and all kinds of other random stuff. I even got a nickname “We like you, Zach, you just like us, you our little Howli Boy.”

Yes, I know Howli isn’t exactly a term of endearment, so “Howli Boy” didnt sound so great at first. But they told me it was all about love. Vinnie had a son who was half-white and that was his nickname for him, so I guess I was his work son. I wouldn’t trade the life lessons I learned working countless hours in the summer heat and winter cold with those guys for anything. Islanders are not just strong – they are fiercely loyal to their friends, and in general, some of the nicest people I have every had the pleasure to work beside, grow up with, and call my friends. Now that’s Island Strength.

So this was kind of a random post, it actually came across from this video I found on YouTube. Anyone who knows me should get a kick out of it.

Posted by: Z

2 Responses to “Did he just say what I think he said…”

  1. A boy born to Samoan parents is 56 times more likely to get into the NFL than any other kid in America.

    Great post Bruda Z.

  2. NoBullBodacious Says:

    Awesome, awesome post, Z!
    I love when you tell stories about Louie & co.
    Always serves up a good laugh, but good lessons too!
    – Hapa Howli Girl

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