The Life & Times of Paul Walker: Go Fly a Kite!

It is that time of the year.

Soon the wind will be increasing its speed, the weather will turn warmer and the will to do something out side will increase. Seriously, I can’t think of a better way to get in touch with nature than kite flying. To fly a kite you must be aware of the wind velocity, your surroundings and the capability of your kite to perform. Kite flying is a fun activity that requires coordination and skill as well as an awareness of the elements of nature. When I was a young boy we spent a considerable amount of our summer time building and flying kites. We had a school organized kite flying contest; the challenge was to have a kite or kites for all seasons.

You could get a kite kit free with the purchase of Ovaltine or you could build your own. Since I had three brothers and each of us wanted our own kite and mother wouldn’t buy four jars of Ovaltine, that led us into the kite building business. When kite season approached we would convince mother that the best way to drink milk waswith Ovaltine added to give us the vitamins we needed. That usually worked for one kite and with that kite it was first one grab it, first one get it. This usually led to the overuse of the kite and we would soon decide that the Ovaltine kite wasn’t really that good, and that we could really build a better kite.

Our kite building days occurred during the great depression of the 1930’s. Even if you had money you would not spend it on buying material for kites. Our job was to look around and find the necessary pieces for a kite. The best material for kite making was orange crates or apple boxes. An alert youth could spot one in a grocery store and talk the store owner into giving you the box or even slats of wood from an old broken box. There was competition for the boxes because adults liked to use them as kindling to start the fires in the stove.

When we secured a box we would cut narrow slats of wood for the kite structure. When boxes were not available for material we searched forstraight wooden sticks. These sticks worked well if you found just the right ones. This could sometimes take hours and led to some unorganized field trips. Building a kite required more than just the right sticks for the frame, we also needed twine string. String was usually readily available around the house because it was used for many things. The grocery store provided free string and we would save it. They would wrap produce in paper and tie a string around the paper and this provided the necessary string for a string ball in every home. It was our scotch tape for packages and provided the support for our kite. We needed paper to cover the structure.

For the usual kite, an old Galveston Daily News was adequate. The more deluxe kites required us to find some saved cellophane paper. Cellophane was the forerunner to clear plastic wrap, This was used for gift wrapping and we always kept our eyes open for used pieces that we could use for a kite. Paste was needed to secure that paper to the frame. Our limited resources led to our making our own paste, this was my first remembered chemical experiment. We took some flour from the kitchen and water from the well and mixed them together for a paste.

The kite tail was made of used clothing when available or tow sacks. We would cut the material in small strips of about twenty four inches in length. This would enable us to add to the length of the tail as needed according to the wind velocity. Making the bridle was important because it determined the kite’s height and distance. We would make an adjustable bridle so that we could adjust these factors without redoing the kite. Flying the kite was usually an all day activity and often extended into the next day. We would tie the kite to a post for meals and at night if we wanted to continue flying the next day. A well made kite could fly all night but might be sagging the next morning until the string dried. A skilled kite flyer can make a kite perform stunts and avoid being taken down by other kites.

There were times when we would have kite fights. The winner was easy to identify. It would be the last kite flying. It took skill to take down a kite while yours still remained. I forget most of the techniques we used but I remember using some of dads old razor blades attached to the edge of the kite and being able to pass the kite close enough to the string of a kite to cut the string. We also were able to bump the other kite and bring them down. We would also make parachutes and send them up the string and when they were at the desired distance we would bump them off by causing the string to bounce.

Kite contests were community or school activities. Prizes were given for various reasons such as the most unusual kite, the best looking kite, and the kite that flew the farthest. I remember losing out as first place winner when I flew my kite up so far that the judges were not able to see it anymore. They just wouldn’t accept that there was a kite at the end of my string. Kite flying time is here and I hope that you will find time to get in touch with yourself, your surroundings and to make new friends. If you don’t want to take the time to build a kite, then buy one. You can get a real nice fancy kite at a local store or order one from the internet. I encourage you to Go Fly a Kite, it will make you healthy and happy. I think you will like it, I did.

Tags: Highlights, Kites, Paul Walker

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