Box Kite Disaster

by Tom Campbell

When I was around 10 years old, I received a box kite kit as a present. This was in the early 1960s, when kits like this required a certain amount of exacting manual work, glue, and patience while the glue joints set.

I worked hard on this thing for a couple of days, and was really proud of it. Getting the bracing straight and even was a challenge, but I did it. When it was finished it was a tautly structured thing of beauty - two red paper squares joined by dowels. I'd made diamond-shaped kites before, but never a box kite! This was a dream come true.

I couldn't wait to run down the street to the vacant church parking lot to give the kite a whirl. I went over there by myself. There was a light breeze, just a few clouds floating in a sunny blue sky, and I could see in my mind's eye what the box kite would look like as it soared gracefully aloft. After a successful test flight I'd proudly show it off to my family and friends, and we'd have hours of fun with my creation.

I carefully set the kite on the pavement, and walked backwards as I unwound the string. I got about 15 feet away from the kite and pulled some more string, holding it slack so I'd be ready to quickly let it out and send the kite higher as soon as I got it up in the air. I pinched the string between my fingers, holding the slack loop at the ready. I turned around and ran.

Behind me, I heard "Bam! Bam! Bam!" and felt the sickening vibrations on the line. Then, even more sickeningly, I felt the line relax in my hand. As I turned around, I saw the tangle of paper and sticks flutter to the ground. I immediately realized what I'd done -- I'd set the kite down upside down! All my hard work, my beautiful dream kite - dashed in an instant. I felt so stupid and mad at myself! I was enraged, heart-broken, humiliated.

I gathered up the red bundle of trash and walked home with it under my arm, the ball of string in my hand, not looking up. I went straight through the front door, through the dining room, and into the kitchen. I threw the crumpled kite into the garbage can as hard as I could. My mother was there and started trying to console me, but I would have none of it. I just wanted to be alone in my anger and sorrow.

I went to my room, slammed the door, and fell onto the bed, sobbing.

I had pored over the directions for hours, perfectly executing every step - which was way beyond my customary level of skill as a not-too-mechanical kid. How could I have overlooked the basic information about how to position the kite for take-off? When I looked at the instructions again, there it was - clear as day: the drawing showing the string attached to the top of the kite as it sat on the ground.

It still pains me to recall this event. Although I'm in my 50s now and I have had many successes (and a few mistakes) in my life, I still feel the sting of failure and disappointment over this kite.

I've decided to forgive that kid for being so stupid in his excitement. I've decided that this year, I will get and build another box kite. I will do it right this time. This spring I will fly that kite, and as it flies I will show it to my family and friends.

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Follow up
by: Gary Crenshaw

After a story like that, I'm waiting on the follow up story with pictures.

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Wonderful!
by: Liz Wood

I think now with your "new" kite that you will build, the victory of flying her will be sweeter, as you now can share the joy with your family and friends! I understand how things gone wrong can linger in the mind for decades until they are "fixed." Happy flying to you, Tom.

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Tear Jerker
by: Tim Parish

Hang on, while I push the tissue box to one side...

(Actually, I'm not a crier, but gee - there's going to be a few weeping kite fliers at their PCs over the next couple of days!)

Your application to that carefully constructed box kite is matched by your carefully polished post. I only changed a few double hyphens to single ones and that was it! Great post, thank you.

As an adult, there should be no problem in taking a little care (and keeping the kite in view!) during the launch phase. I hope your Box kite project goes really well.

For a quick intro to making such kites, you could even try my Dowel Box. Despite being a Box, you need to treat it like a light-to-moderate wind kite, since it is quite lightly constructed.

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Wind Speeds


Light air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2    

Gentle breeze
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3    

Moderate breeze
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4    

Fresh breeze
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5    

Strong breeze
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7