The kite that got away
Kite day at Asbell Elementary School in Fayetteville. It was the spring of 1963 and I was in first grade. The day started out ordinary, but it certainly didn’t end that way.
The sky was slate gray with solid overcast. The wind was blowing from the northeast at a constant speed of 20 miles an hour, gusting to 25 or 30. It was cool, but not cold. And because of the continuous wind, it was a perfect day to fly kites, despite the clouds.
So about 20 first graders gathered on the playground, and we unhitched our kites and launched them into the sky. Usually, to make things fly, you had to run into the wind and get them to sail at high speed. This technique would be useless today. To fly the kites, all you had to do was turn your back to the wind and launch them into the sky. The strong breeze did the rest.
I had 100 feet of string wrapped around a one foot ruler. Very soon after, my kite was up the full length of my string, and I was only holding onto the ruler. It was beautiful to see the kite fly and spin so high in the sky. The fact that there was constant tension on my spindly freshman arms never even occurred to me.
It was about to.
Because there were two dozen children in a more or less confined space, there were bound to be conflicts. And very soon there were. My line got tangled with another boy’s line, and we both devised plans to untangle the lines. My plan was to go upwind until the lines clear naturally. His plan was to shake his line as hard as he could. And he did.
And my sovereign flew from my hands.
Within seconds my kite was up like a jet plane. Recovering the ruler was out of the question. There was no more strategy now. Only gaping at what my kite was doing. Every child on the playground, every teacher, watched the spectacle with a mixture of astonishment and dismay. How could he do that?
Within a minute my kite was hundreds of feet in the air and still climbing. In five minutes he was all but gone, a tiny speck in the sky en route to Farmington.
It’s kind of funny in retrospect, but I didn’t really feel any angst about losing my kite that day. Some children would have melted and cried for hours. All I did was watch in amazement as it disappeared into the southwest, with the realization that I would never fly a kite as high and as far as that day. I returned to the building as proud as any first grader could be and happy to have made history at Fayetteville Public School.
— Doug Chastain is a retired teacher and is currently the Large Vehicle Transportation Specialist for the Siloam Springs School District. (Okay, he drives a bus.) He’s also a turf technician at Camp Siloam. (Yeah, he mows the lawn.) You can contact him at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.