Just about everything that a young boy does with his Dad will always be remembered and treasured in the later years of life. My dad was a hard worker. In fact, he didn't have much of a choice since he and mother had a house full of children by the time they were thirty. So, he had to do what he had to do and that was work most of the time. But, occasionally, he had some extra time and he would spend it with us. I was always eager to spend as much time with him as possible. Most boys treasure such times together with their dad.
Once when I was about five or six years old, he built a bird trap. I was fascinated with that thing. He built it out of thin slats of wood and it looked somewhat like a pyramid. It was about fifteen inches square and had a trigger system that would make the trap fall when a bird hopped up on the trigger to get a morsel of food placed there for that purpose. I remember eagerly watching that trap for long periods of time as birds would hop all around it but they wouldn't go under the trap very often. Occasionally though, a bird would see the food and try to get it off the trigger. I would watch with glee when the trap would fall and we would have a bird to study and watch for a time. Then we would release it. It was fun and my dad built it!
As I grew up, our times together were mostly spent fishing or hunting doves. I have many memories of such times together. But, one thing I will never forget is how he would build a kite. He was a master at it. The kites he made flew higher and farther than any store-bought kites ever could. In those days, commercial laundries would put a suit or other clothes in a big brown paper cover. It was made from strong brown paper that had many uses beyond protecting one's clothes. Dad would take one of those laundry bags and split it down the side. Then, he would open it up and have a wide piece of rugged brown paper. Next, he would get some good, strong, straight dog fennels that grow wild along the roadside and in the fields. From that paper and dog fennels, along with some twine and paste made from flour and water, he would construct a kite that had six sides. It was just a little taller than it was wide. It stood about forty five inches high and about thirty inches wide. It was a big kite! It was so big than we had to put a twenty foot tail on it to stabilize it. An old sheet would be torn is strips about five inches wide and then tied in sections to make the tail. Regular twine would not handle this behemoth of a kite. We had to buy some nylon twine with several twists in it. It was very strong. Then, in order to handle the kite we would wear a pair of work gloves to keep the twine from burning or cutting our hands as the kite struggled against us in a stiff breeze. It was quite a rig.
Later in life when I was about eighteen years old, a friend of mine, Troy Hampton and I would make such a kite and fly it out at my grandmother's house. As large as that kite was, we would fly it so far and high that it would almost be impossible to locate it up in the blue sky. Once, we flew it so far that we almost ran out of twine on a large spool. While Troy flew the kite, I got in my car and rode up Rainwater Road toward Highway 41 North. Now, it was one mile from my grandparent's house up Rainwater Road to Moore Highway. Then it was another half mile over to Highway 41 North. I found that the kite was hovering high in the sky about half way from Moore Highway to Highway 41 North. In other words, it was about one and one quarter miles from where we were flying it. And, we had to wind up all that twine in order to bring it down. One evening late, we tied the kite to a fence post behind the house and let the kite fly all night. The next morning I went outside to see if it was still flying and sure enough, there it was, fluttering in the wind with that twenty foot tail whipping back and forth. There were times when the kite would ride the wind and go right over our heads...straight up. The higher the velocity of the wind stream, the higher the kite would fly. It would go almost out of site straight up. Amazing.
There is a little game kite flyers used to play as they flew their kites. They would send "messages" to the kite. It was usually a piece of paper about four or five inches square. A slit was put in it and it was wrapped around the twine and pinched together on the other side. The wind would blow that little "message" up to the kite. On our kite we used aluminum pie plates. We would cut a slit in it, wallow out a central hole and then pinch the sides together so it would not fall off the twine. The wind would take our pie plate "messages" all the way to our giant kite. You could hear the plate sliding on the twine if you put the twine over the end of your index finger and then placed the tip of your finger in your ear. You could hear it scrub all the way to the kite and then hear a "clank" as it reached its goal about a mile away.
Troy and I became quite the kite flyers. No one wanted to believe us about how far and how high we flew our oversized kites. Neither did they want to accept the fact that we sent aluminum pie plates up to it as "messages." They had to see it to believe it and then they had no problem with what we had told them about the whole adventure. One time, instead of winding up all that ball of twine, we decided to just cut the string and let it go. I don't know where that kite wound up but it had to be a long way off because it was about a mile out from us and a long, long way up in the air. The wind took it completely out of site that day.
But, it was my Dad who showed me how to build those kites. It was my Dad who taught me how to fly them so far and high. When I think of flying a kite like that I am always reminded of how much fun I had with him with something as simple as a kite.
William F. Harrell