Thursday, April 26, 2012

Don’t mess with a kite-eating tree

By Meg Hibbert

I should have known there would be a kite-eating tree.

I was flying a kite in the parking lot of Salem Montessori School the day before the big Kite Festival, since I was going to be sitting inside in meetings at the Virginia Press Association annual meeting while the festival was going on in Green Hill Park.

My small, diamond-shaped kite was an original: When a visiting kite maker at the school asked if I wanted to make a kite along with the upper elementary students, I spent about five minutes using markers to draw a quick likeness of our office cat mascot, Tinkerbell.

“I’ll bet this kite is going to a grandchild,” said Cliff Quinn from Coopersburg, Pa. Hah! Little did he know I’m my own grandchild.

I keep telling people I’m only 9 years old. (That tends to confuse little children, but you understand, don’t you?)
Anyway, while the Salem Montessori kids were testing their kites in the lower field, I was testing the wind in the parking lot.

With the wind to my back, I let out the string. Kite flier Adrianne Balmer of Prince George, Va., showed me how to rock the handle on the kite string so the string would let out by itself as the kite started to rise.

The cat kite caught the wind and flew high above me for several minutes. I was starting to reel it in when a parent I knew pulled up in his vehicle to talk. I dropped my guard and the kite-eating tree took the opportunity to snack on my kite.

It was a young maple, about 12 feet high and not very big around. I figured I could outsmart a tree as small as that. So I gently shook its trunk. Then I shook it more vigorously from the other side. The kite’s tail was firmly wrapped around a branch higher than I could reach.

Finally, I resorted to calling the tree’s bluff: “You don’t want my kite, do you?” I said, all the while shaking the tree.

It did. After all, it was lunchtime and the tree was hungry.

Local kite enthusiast Donald Jacobs of Copper Hill came to my rescue. From his packed kites and equipment in his hatch back, he pulled out a telescoping pole used for flying banners. Donald tickled the kite out of the maw of the maple, and deposited it safely in my arms.

It turns out flying kites is what Donald and Serena Jacobs, and their son, Devin, who is a Cave Spring Middle School seventh grader, do for fun. Besides helping out the visiting kite maker and his helper at the school, most weekends Donald, Serena and Devin are traveling to a kite festival. They live with lots of trees, so Donald goes over to Rt. 221 and the Blue Ridge Parkway to fly when they’re not at festivals, he explained
Green Hill Park generally has good wind, he added.

I always wanted to fly kites when I was a kid, but we lived in South Georgia with lots of pine and pecan trees. We didn’t have those bat-wing triangular kites that fly with just a little breeze. I remember cajoling my daddy to buy me a box kite one time. It takes a lot of wind to keep a box kite up, so my early kite-flying attempts weren’t that successful. When I was in college, I talked a friend into driving out to the country to fly kites in some farmer’s field. We were lucky there was no bull in that same field.

Donald said he didn’t fly kites as a boy. He started at age 46. Now the trunk of his hatch back is stacked with sport kites. Devin started flying big kites about two years ago. And Serena? She doesn’t fly kites. “I’m Donald’s pit crew,” she explained.

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