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Flying with Stasch
People can not fly. That is the truth. True, there are parachutes and hang gliders, but there is also the story. it is a very old story, and when you learn it in sixth grade ancient history, the teacher will tell you that it is a myth, but I think it is true.
Long ago, in ancient Greece, there lived a man named Deadalus, a talented architect and engineer. An evil king kept him a prisoner, so he decided to escape by flying over the ocean. He made wings for him and for his son, Icarus. They flew or at least tried to fly, but Icarus forgot that people can't fly. He flew too close to the sun. The wax on his wings melted, and he fell in to the ocean and drowned.
Since then people haven't really tried flying too much, maybe because they know they will start believing they really can do it as Icarus did and find themselves hurt or worse. Even Deadelus did not use his wings a second time.
The closest people come to flying is at the end of a kite. Last winter, I built a kite for my brother, Stasch. Actually, it was for both of us, but Stasch wasn't taking his medication. That meant he bounced off the walls and his kindergarten teacher threatened to put him in special education. Stasch is too smart for that. He just has attention deficit and has to take medication to help him sit still and concentrate.
I told Stasch that if he took his pills, he could be in the kite flying contest at County Park with me. That meant I needed to learn to build a kite. I wanted to make a kite from scratch, and besides a bought kite was over a hundred dollars. My parents, my stepmother and my father, were not going to give me that kind of money.
I got on kite flying lists and talked with grown men, engineers, who made kites. They said my idea was ambitious. I wanted a ring kite, but a flat design. There is company that builds a flexring and I figured out that I could simplify that design and scale it down and make something that would fly.
My dad was helpful, he gave me the carbon piping for the frame and we cut it to size. I glued it together. He also gave me red nylon that he uses in banners for the kite itself. I taped the ends of the frame with red electrical tape. Kites land rough, and you need to shield the ends or they break. No one wants a broken kite, and this one took too much work not to last.
The problem was getting the ring kite to fly. The kite was eighte sided with an eight sided open center. It had a complex frame which meant not that much "sail area." That meant it was heavy and needed a good wind. We have a weather station on our roof. It is not hard to measure wind with a wind sock and rain with a rain can and a ruler. We have some crystals that turn pink when it is humid and blue when it is dry.
Stasch and I started out flying "Red Kite with a Hole for a Face" on the windiest of days. We practiced runnng the kite on a short lead which is how kids launch kites solo. Only the grown up kite makers stand a long distance away and have a partner hold the kite. We had to do a two person launch for the contest so we ran together to get the kite airborne. After that it flew nicely in a strong wind if I was careful not to let the string run slack and if I ran a lot first. I hate running, but I hate kites that don't fly far more.
Finally, the day of the contest arrived. Stasch and I registered in the Junior Home Made Division. About half the contestants were girls whose fathers and brothers made their kites for them. I felt proud that Stasch and I had our own kite.
At long last, it was our turn. I told Stasch not to let go until I said so and to run behind me. That was our secret. We had a good wind and we ran in to it headlong so the Red Kite with a Hole for a Face caught the gusts in its small sails. "Go!" I screamed as I felt the string jerk as the kite nearly pulled out of Stasch' hands.
I ran hard. I ran until my lungs hurt, and all the while the string staid taught. I loosened it letting some out as I ran and I kept running to keep the string taught. And then I did nto have to run any more. I was flying. I flew through my fingers and the palms of my hands. I felt the wind as I carefully let out cord and when I looked up the Red Kite with a Hold for a Face was high in a pale blue sky, higher than those fancy box kites and three dimmensional kites and keel kites that fathers made for their little girls. Also more than half my string was gone.
I had a hard time landing Red Kite with a Hole for a Face. I had to bring it down just as I got her up, only this time I let the string get loose and reeled it in. The landing was soft, but it was good that Stasch and I had protected Red Kite's points. We wanted Red Kite to keep flying again and again.
That afternoon Stasch and I won the Home Made Junior Division's Best Flight Award. The Committee gave us a hundred dollars. I gave fifty dollars to Stasch and one dollar to each of my parents. I also taped one dollar to my wall. My dad has his dollar taped to the shop wall and Aunt Aliza, my stepmother, has one dollar taped to the kitchen wall.
Stasch and I still go flying with Red Kite with a Hole for a Face. Stasch will be in first grade in regular classes next fall too. I still think about that afternoon when I felt flying on the palm of my hands. I also still talk to the engineers on the mailnig list. Mostly I repair bikes and toys rather than design kites, but I'd like to be like the engineers when I am older. Some people never stop dreaming about flying even though people can't fly.