I spent a few summers flying kites when I was young, under the age of 13. I even flew a kite a couple of years later when it wasn’t summer, in a different place. Flying a kite wasn’t rocket science, but it did require some ingenuity, especially when money was tight. My brothers (all four of them) and I were at the mercy of our mother when it came to finances.
Except for a box kite that one of my older brothers flew once before destroying it, we always used the traditional quadrilateral kites that were popular in the 1960s and early 1970s. They still exist, of course, but I doubt they’re as cheaply made as the ones we used. Ours were made of paper, with lightweight wood for the cross frames. The wood wasn’t as light as balsa, but I can’t tell you what kind of wood was actually used.
Kites required tails to keep them stable. We made our tails with rags of old clothing. The string we used was made of cotton. They had string made of other materials, but string made with anything other than cotton didn’t seem to work as well as cotton. With sufficient wind, the string didn’t weigh down the kites enough to matter. We had kites attached to more than a thousand feet of string.
Where we lived, we had to avoid the power lines. Strangely, we never got kites stuck in trees like Charlie Brown. Ours always got caught, the string that is, on power lines. If a string broke while a kite was high in the air, being physically fit was definitely an advantage because someone was going to have to chase the line and retrieve the kite. Usually the line got stuck somewhere between us and the kite.
Near our home was a small tract of land, surrounded by barbed wire fence, where horses were kept. Someone kept grapes growing along all four sides of that fence, of which we frequently partook. The kite string got caught on that fence more often than I can remember.
Once, while I was living on the island of Kauai, my mother saw fit to buy me a plastic kite in the same geometric shape as the paper ones. Maybe it was my birthday or something. It’s almost always windy on that side of the island, so I had no problem keeping the kite in the air for hours at a time. Unfortunately, due to wind shifts, it eventually landed beyond our backyard fence. The other side of the fence was a cattle ranch.
I don’t know where the idea that cattle are attracted to the color red came from. This kite was yellow and the cattle ran to it and trampled it in short order. I think that kite lasted me a week. I was depressed about it for a couple of days, but I got over it like everything else that depressed me back in the 1970s.
If you’re under the age of 30, you probably can’t believe how difficult it was to stay occupied as a teenager in the 1970s. We didn’t have cell phones, video games or the internet to contend with. I got in trouble more than a few times simply because I didn’t have enough things to keep me busy.
Nowadays, I can’t seem to find enough time to not be busy. The surrounding people, regardless of where I am, seem to demand my attention all the time. I’ll never fly a kite of any kind ever again, unless one of my grandsons takes an interest in it and wants me to show him how.