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Growing up on Muddy Creek

| March 2002

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    Kite flying

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Kites have been around for thousands of years, according to the big 1897 reference book that supplied most of the advanced information for Spring Hill School students. Those who sought more knowledge on most any subject than the $60-a-month teacher could offer always turned to it.

That encyclopedia had a full page on the many uses that the Chinese and Japanese had made of the kite. Did you know Koreans were once led to believe that a certain chieftain was super human because he flew a huge kite?

I am sure you know the story of how old Ben Franklin proved that lightning was a form of electricity by risking himself to fly a silk-covered kite with a steel wire attached in a thunderstorm. Old Ben might have had the right idea about electricity but certainly it was not a smart lesson in personal safety.

Now my experience with kites is not nearly so dramatic. When those gentle southern breezes began to whiff the smell of cherry blossoms and dogwood down the slopes of Red Hill, our stiff, squeaky shoes came off and it was kite flying time.

Bud Fearheiley was the champion kite maker of Spring Hill School. His specialty was two-stick, tissue paper-covered jobs that could out-fly and out-maneuver both the box kites that Joe Sumner built, and the three-stick models that Dee Griggs fashioned. I guess you could call Bud's kite the 'sport' model and Dee's the 'freightliner,' for although Dee's was a bit slower getting into the air, it could carry a lot bigger load of water than Bud's.

Water? Yeah, water. You see, we'd take a coffee sack and fill it with water and tie the filled sack in a bow knot to the kite string. When the kite got well up in the wild blue yonder, we'd give it a quick jerk, and plop, down would come an aerial 'bomb' - just like the ones Eddie Rickenbacker and those other aces were dropping on the Huns over in France. Well, almost like them.


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