The Cowboy and the Hula Dancer: Cody Faber and Casey Koi
Casey Koi and Cody Faber
"When the Cowboy Met the Hula Dancer" is their love story
Casey Koi and Cody Faber do know the difference between fact and legend. He, a park ranger at the Fort Smith National Historic Site, and she, a college student also training at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, actually had jobs explaining the distinction to visitors.
Red-headed, lanky Cody is a familiar figure in Fort Smith for his decade of service at the National Historic Site, where visitors may encounter him dressed as a present-day park ranger, a Civil War soldier or as a crusty, tough U.S. Marshal of the late 19th century. When possible, he acts out historic interpretation roles on horseback. He identifies, in real life, as a cowboy and a native of this colorfully storied border.
The two met “in the middle” as it were – at the Grand Canyon. They were both assigned to attend park service training there when Cody spotted a beautiful, dark-tressed woman across the classroom. He immediately schemed to meet her. When the class gave their biographies, he learned she worked in a museum at Volcanoes National Park.
“Right then, I started thinking of a reason to talk to her. I made up this line that I had to get volunteers in my museum and I needed help," he admitted. “So, I’m walking to my room after class and I hear these cowboy boots coming up behind me,” Casey said. “It worked perfectly!” said Cody. “To this day, we still haven’t talked any about getting volunteers.”
While at the Grand Canyon, she realized he was someone special. They continued to converse by text after each flew home. It turned into long phone calls, every day - Arkansas to the Big Island, Hawaii.
Cody didn’t know how it could work out. But then, more fairy tale stuff.
“I sold my best horse, the most beautiful horse I’ve ever owned, to buy a plane ticket to go see her,” the cowboy said. It had been only three months.
“I had never been farther away than the Grand Canyon. I went to see her – and that was it. I was done,” he said. When his return flight was postponed, he just couldn’t take another goodbye.
“I asked her, ‘Why don’t you just marry me and let’s go home?’ Then I asked her every day after that – and she kept saying yes.” They racked up the air miles flying back and forth for several more visits.
“I sold more horses. She gave up all her savings. I said, ‘We’ve got to get married and stop this because I am running out of horses!’”
“What was awesome about being separated – I mean, we were sad – was since we weren’t together to hug and kiss, we talked. We became absolute best friends from just talking, which is nice,” Cody said. “I didn’t know how her family was going to take it, or mine, but they could see we were doing everything to be together.”
It turns out both families approved, although Cody did have to get past Casey’s dad’s traditional intimidation. “He’s a large man, a retired police sergeant of their whole district. He gave me the whole mirrored sunglasses, tough guy thing,” Cody laughed. “But we broke the ice by talking about guns and now we’re good buddies.” Even so, her dad kept a bit of the old upper hand. “I was going to ask his permission when we went out on a boat, fishing. After I threw up three times, I decided that didn’t look too manly.” But Cody won his blessing. Her father built the wooden pergola under which they would be married.
Their Aug. 26 wedding was held at her grandfather’s rainforest coffee farm, Cloud Rest. It’s named because the clouds literally sit on the green, volcanic slopes above it. Cody’s family, minus one sister, took the longest flight of their lives to be there. All the relatives liked one another. “They stayed under one roof, they all hit it off,” Casey said.
In an exotic experience for the mainlanders, they witnessed the sunshiny ceremony, decorated with beautiful tropical flowers, in a coffee tree grove on a typical and incredibly gorgeous Hawaiian day.
Casey’s home is a small town where everyone knows one another. It isn’t much different than Hackett, Ark. where Cody’s parents live. As they prepared for their reception in a small community hall, Cody and his family saw the genuine Aloha spirit.
“I met everyone in town! Everyone brought food, helped set things up, I couldn’t believe it!” he exclaimed. It was a full luau, with roasted wild pig, traditional poi and luscious fruits. Relatives brought many dishes and decorated. The Faber wedding guests enjoyed dancing, toasts and a very inclusive welcome.
The couple returned to Arkansas, then her family flew in for a reception in Hackett with roast pig, as well, in the form of barbecue. Both sides had fun being tour guides for the other. Coming here was just as exotic to her family.
Cody continues as a ranger at Judge Parker’s Courthouse, the “Hell on the Border” jail, the First Fort Smith, telling the rich history of our National Historic Site. Casey is finishing her degree and learning to ride a horse on a small ranch they’ve bought in Muldrow, Okla.
Somewhere near their first anniversary, the Fabers expect a daughter who is already named Evelyn Frances Annieomalia. She’ll be both a hula dancer and a cowgirl, they say.
But the cowboy is no fool. Cody says he could happily learn to be a coffee farmer someday!
This article appears in the July 2018 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith magazine.