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Musings from Moyieboy ...
Fishing for kites
June 1, 2017
By Ken Carpenter

The old Peanuts comic makes occasional use of a kite-eating tree, a sinister creature that seemed to lurk around waiting for Charlie Brown’s kite to get far enough off the ground so it could hopelessly entangle it within its limbs. The tree never failed.

My own kite flying experiences were not quite as predictable as Charlie Brown’s, but they were even less successful. I did not need a tree to gobble up my kite, though a few did, because a kite under my power would rarely fly high enough to get caught in a tree.

The strongest memory I have about kite flying is doing a whole lot of running with the kite bouncing and dragging behind me. I would sprint until I was exhausted, then fall on the ground next to the traitorous kite wondering why I even tried in the first place.

“I don’t need no stinking kite flying around with the birds,” I would mutter to myself. “Kites are stupid anyway.”

The cheapo kite would then disappear in my closet until the next time I felt like experiencing failure, and I would run off in search of a more fruitful way to pass the time. Smashing bugs with a rock comes to mind.

I recently saw a couple kids successfully flying their hoity, toity kites and I flashed back in time to 2005. I had never thought of kites being murderous, but 13 people were killed and 500 injured at a kite-flying festival in Pakistan. This was dumfounding to me. Except for the ‘duh Ralph’ kite string in a high-wire method of suicide, how could kites be so dangerous?

Two dudes fell off of a roof, two were hit by a car, one was hit by a stray bullet, one ‘duh Ralphed’ it, and the other seven expired due to unexplained head injuries.

The Mid and Far East take their kite festivals serious. There were 60,000 people celebrating the start of spring at the gathering in Pakistan, most of them flying kites, and many of them flying them from rooftops.

The first documentation of kites taking to the air was around 1000 B.C. in China, but it is believed that South Sea islanders may have used them before that. Kites are still used for fishing on the South Sea Islands.

Kites are associated with gods in the Polynesian Islands, and their patron saint of kites is called Rongo. He sounds more like the patron saint of drunkenness to me with that name, but I admit it has a ring to it.

There have been hundreds of uses for kites through the centuries, many of them of a warlike or scientific nature. Benjamin Franklin was the most famous kite-flyer ever for his renowned lightning-down-the-kitestring trick.

In Asia the most popular form of kiting is a kite-fighting competition that has both contestants trying to cut the other’s line. This is done by coating the line with glue and powdered glass, then getting it into position to saw their opponent’s line in half.

Must be nice on the fingers too.

Every year Ahmedabad, India, has a kite festival free-for-all that can see as many as 100,000 kites in the air at once, all tying to cut each other down. I don’t know how many casualties they normally have, but it was the ancestor of the deadly Pakistan festival.

Some kites in Japan are so big it takes 50 men to control them. They obviously have more luck than me, or they would end up in a big, gasping pile connected to a hopelessly battered kite.

One of the memorable visions of my life was The Kite Fisherman, a legend from 1978. Two good friends and I were cruising around Napa, California checking out the scenery when we looked into a field and spied a perplexing thing. An elderly couple was sitting on lawn chairs in the middle of about five acres of grass, and the man was vigorously working his fishing pole.

“There’s no water out there,” one of us said stupidly.

“Maybe he’s trolling for gophers,” said another, only marginally less stupid.

“Hot damn, he’s fishing for kites, and he’s caught one too!” said the third, gaping into the sky where a kite was flying far overhead.

I never did find out what the limit was on kites.
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