For years my wife and kids have been saying I should write down my childhood stories. Well, I finally started doing just that. As I’m doing so, I am also realizing some of these would make interesting blog posts to share with friends and family. And some of you may actually have your own memories stirred. Feel free to share some of your own stories in the comments. My first story involves kiting.
Our house had a vacant lot next to it that was great for playing football, softball, and flying kites. Few things were more relaxing than laying in the grass on a lazy Sunday afternoon in the fall, and flying a kite with my friends. Sometimes it wasn’t a lazy afternoon, though. War often broke out when a rival faction showed up – my sister and her friends.
She would come and brag about how pretty her sissy butterfly kite was and how ugly my eagle kite looked. We bantered this hostile gang-talk until it escalated into kites trying to ram each other. The battle was on. Time for a kite-fight.
Her frilly little butterfly had the audacity to attack my screaming eagle. I pulled my kite string hard, knowing the strong wind would cause it to nose dive. And it did so toward hers. Whack. Her friends screamed in horror at the nerve of a lowly warmonger attacking nobility. Her kite struck back. Her friends screamed with delight. My friends yelled, “Kill the butterfly.”
Not only were we locked in mortal kite-combat, but my sister and I found ourselves in the middle of a cultural war. The stakes had been raised. Losing not only meant hearing the other taunt their victory, but it also meant shame for the entire gender culture each of us represented. We stood side-by-side, yanking strings and trying to deliver a lethal blow to the other one’s kite.
Then our strings tangled. Her butterfly strained to escape, but it was useless. My eagle flapped fruitlessly in the opposite direction. She yanked her string hard, and the butterfly twitched angrily in the sky. I yanked my string and something wonderful happened. My kite soared upward with majestic victory. Her kite drifted back and forth as helpless as a leaf in the autumn breeze. Her string had been cut and the battle was over.
My friends cheered in victory. Her friends screeched in horror. My sister turned to me and said, “That doesn’t count!”
I smirked and pointed to my eagle soaring high above. Then I pointed at her butterfly in the last throws of life. That’s what she gets for using the free kite string that came with the purchase. I bought the good string. The kind that was hard to cut without scissors. It was K-mart verses the Great Outdoors. No match.
Another, less rivaled, competition was to see which kite could fly the highest. Friends would bring their rolls of string over, and I’d stack mine in the lot beside me. If it was too windy, this wouldn’t work because high winds always caused the kite to nosedive. With a short string, you could just walk forward a couple of steps and the kite would recover. But a long string was much harder to control. A consistent casual breeze was the best climate for flying high. And I mean really high.
Each string roll was around 1500 feet. We’d fly the kite and work out the string until it got to the cardboard tube. Then we’d tie the next roll to the first tube and start working out that string. The previous roll tubing would begin going skyward, which always looked odd. But by the time the next roll was extended, the previous tube was out of view. Then we’d tie off the next roll to the previous cardboard tube.
Once I got five complete rolls out and started on my sixth. The kite was a tiny dot in the sky – almost invisible. But the string was very hard to hold at this height. It was like playing tug of war with the wind. Occasionally, one of us would lose our grip and run for our fleeing roll of string. Sometimes we caught it; sometimes it disappeared from sight. Forever. That kite wasn’t coming down near our neighborhood. I lost many kites that way, but it never stopped me.
Our goal was to hit an airplane. Even after years of attempting a mid-air collision, it never happened. Strings broke, kites nosedived a mile away, but no jet-to-kite impacts. On rare occasions the kite would make it safely back to our lot and land beside a pile of 5,000 feet of string. The cost was a week’s allowance money, but it was a small price to pay for reaching for the sky. And reaching for a Delta airliner.
Eddie Snipes 2012
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