I am passionate about many things in life. One thing is photography, one is Christmas, one is my wife, and another one is Kite Flying.
I starting holding a string with something in the air at the other end of it when I was, maybe six or seven years old? When did paper kites, with Texaco or Hi-Flier printed on them, first appear in a display at a drug store and could be bought for ten cents? I think it was around the same time as Paddle-Balls, Fizzes, and cap guns. In other words kites were an integral part of my child hood.
My brother and I learned to assemble paper, bamboo, tape, and string into a winged, wind catching craft, that made my heart soar as it left my hand with string spinning off its cardboard reel. We would take them to the beach or fly them on the golf course that we lived next to. The day came that we moved to a neighborhood with a large open treeless field next to our house. This was a great place to fly our kites.
I flew them for hours, by myself, or with my family and with friends. I would let my Strat-o-Flier, Little Boy, or American Beauty go up and away as far as it could go. I used to try and set a neighborhood record for having the most string, or cord as Hi-Flier called it, with the highest flying kite. The reels came in 225 ft lengths and I would use four or five of them, sometimes more. If the wind died, and my kite fell that was usually the end of it and there would be string draped across the power lines and the neighborhood trees for as far as you could see.
If my kite took a nose dive and ripped, I used masking tape and patched it up. If my string tangled, I cut out the knots and tied it back together. Sometimes my kite would dip for a bit and snag itself on a power pole. I would tie a rock to a string, throw it over the flying kite cord and pull it down. If I could not do that, I would open my bedroom window and listen to it fly at night until it flew itself to death or fell to the earth, somewhere.
Eventually I graduated to a plastic diamond shaped Hi-Flier Orbiteer. It would take a bit more wind and a harder crash when the wind died or knocked it down. I bought a plastic black and white delta wing kite that had so much pull and would fly so high that I begged my parents for a Hi-Flier professional Spin winder cord reel, “A must for kite fliers!”. I coveted one of them as much as a kid who wanted an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass and a sundial in the stock.
I got one and it was great. I would send the kite up into the clear blue sky, tied to a new reel of cord, attach three or four more, and then tie the cord to my Spinwinder. Hours later, I would wind in my kite by grabbing the yellow knob and turning!
My dad taught me how to make a kite out of wild broom straw that grew in our field, and plain ole school loose leaf notebook paper.
Use a hole punch and make a hole in each corner of the paper, cross the broom straw in the shape of an X, put the broom straw through the holes, leaving the long ends of the straw to act as two tails. Next, tape the straw down with as little tape as possible, make a hole in the paper where the straw intersects and makes the X. Tie the end of a spool of thread to the X. Go outside and fly it, but remember you need a moderate wind, not a strong breeze for the kite to take off.
It wasn’t a pretty kite but that didn’t matter. Sometimes there would be ten or more of us kids and adults out in our side yard flying these paper and broom straw kites with string so thin you could not see it.
I know I loved to fly kites, any kind of kite. I didn’t mind losing them or having them crash, not much anyway. Sometimes I would have to wait until my next allowance or two to buy more string, or a new kite to replace one that crashed, but I knew that was to be expected, it was part of being a true kite flier, you took risks with your “equipment” and sometimes you could lose it, all of it.
Some of us kids learned to do some special things with our kites. I would launch my kite, loop the string around the feather end of an arrow, fly the arrow over a target, jerk the string and the arrow would drop like a bomb. Our favorite target was a swimming pool under construction (for a long time) in a new apartment complex next to my house. I didn’t drop it if any of the neighborhood kids were in the pool, which wasn’t safe because they were trespassing, because I figured getting hit by an arrow dropping from a hundred or more feet in the air might hurt. This was just plain clean fun until one kid got the bright idea to drop a flaming arrow into a dumpster behind the shopping center near by. Fortunately the dumpster was empty.
We would cut a slit in half a page of notebook paper, put it over the flying kite string, tape it together and watch the wind catch it and sail up the line. We had a contest to see who could get the most pages to make it all the way to the kite. The record was large, twenty some pages, including notes from the kid’s teacher. (I am not going to say if I was the winner or not).
There was a patch of nice soft grass that grew in our kite field right next to our house. There were certain days when I knew the wind was just right. I would lay on the grass, look up the string to my kite and imagine that I was up there with it, looking at the clouds from a different angle, the clouds that looked like a rabbit or a lion or some other creature. I would just let my mind see what it wanted to see for hours.
Over time something happened to my passion for kite flying. I moved on to bigger and what I thought were better things to do with my time. Maybe I preferred to skate board or ride my new racing bike. I also started working after school.
I needed to make money to pay for gas, or new clothes, new shoes, and movie tickets. You know, the kind of things you want in order to have a successful date with a girl. Whatever it was, at some point I quit looking up at the sky or taking my tight kite string, holding it against my ear, and listening to the wind blowing high above me.
I grew up, went to school, got married, had three kids. I don’t think I once thought of buying them a kite, and I don’t remember the girls asking for one. We lived in the city with very little open space so where would I have flown one anyway? We didn’t go to the beach and we camped in the mountains where we hiked in the woods. Someone did give Joel an old delta kite with a broken horizontal spar and a cloth box kite made in Poland that weighed so much it wouldn’t fly. I think we had it up once and dropped it on a passing car, which scared the driver almost as much as it scared Joel and myself.
I didn’t give kites any thought. Until about fourteen years ago. During a holiday weekend, Labor day I believe, we had a family reunion of sorts at the Outer Banks Beach Club in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. My Mom and Dad were staying in a time share there and wanted all of us to come down for a visit. We did and we found out after arriving that someone had come up with the idea of flying kites. Some of the family members brought a kite with them. I didn’t have one but I found the idea appealing so my brother Rod and I made a short trip to the nearest Kitty Hawk Kites store.
I was surprised at what I saw there. The store had stunt kites, box kites, all kind of kites, made out of rip stop nylon or polyester. They had surprising price tags as well. They were not all that cheap. I looked for awhile and then something caught my eye. It was a red cat. The tag said Cheshire Cat, designed by the Hespeler Brothers, as part of the Premier Kite collection. I looked at the price, a bit more than ten cents, but it seemed worth the thirty five dollars on the sticker, so I bought it.
Rod bought some kind of kite, I don’t remember what it was (I think I will ask him) and we took our purchases back to the condo. The wind was great, the Cat flew great and after that, if my job took me to the Outer Banks, my new kite went with me. I would park my truck at Jockey Ridge and fly it.
That is how and when my kite flying passion rekindled.
Not too many years later, Diane and I purchased our motor home and while on a trip to the Outer Banks I bought a couple more kites. First one was some kind of collapsible lamp shade kite, on sale. Not so good. The second one was an HQ white ghost kite, which I still have. It is a great flier.
I have added quite a few single line kites to my kite collection, including cell kites, box kites, delta wings, and other types, both large and small. They all fit in a laundry bag that I keep in the basement of our motorhome. I have an eight meter long, eight tailed or should I say eight armed, black octopus para-sail kite, that when flying weaves back and forth like a dementer from a Harry Potter movie. It is amazing to look at and gets a lot of attention. It can be a bit hard to fly and I have stuck it in a tree where it lived for two weeks until a tree service graciously rescued it for me.
When I am feeling depressed or when I just need a few minutes of joy, and there is wind at the same time, if I can, I am flying one or more of my kites. The amount of wind usually determines which one, or two that I will put into the air.
Kite flying is such a simple thing, and keeps me feeling young. Its a quiet activity, it’s easy on the eyes and it makes me look up. One time one of my kites, the white ghost, flew into a cloud and I could not see it.
I put the string to my ear and I could hear the wind blowing around it.
I have made friends flying kites. I am a member of a Kite Fliers Facebook group. I chat with people around the world including Jim Nicholls, who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. Jim has a huge collection of kites and a huge You Tube channel where he posts videos of the members of his kite collection and does reviews for kite makers. I am Facebook friends with Peter Hespeler in Germany, who, along with his brother, was the designer of my oldest and dearest kite, The Cheshire Cat.
Here at Deer Creek Motorcoach resort, where Diane and I presently live, the wind can be a bit challenging. I describe it as a swirling drain. The wind can blow up, then down, and all around. I don’t mind it. There is a large patch of nice green grass just outside my door where I can fly my kites.
When I was a kid and I lay in the grass, I looked up and saw the elephant or the horse or the big rabbit, that my kite was flying in front of.
When I catch some wind now, I still see them. If you go fly a kite, and catch some wind, you will too.