GO FLY A KITE
by Louis Barbier (BHS '57)
When I get up and the sun is shining
and there's a stiff breeze blowing that almost raises me off my feet, I think Kites and I
remember my kite flying days at the townsite of Cocoli. Flying kites is second only to
fishing. And in the olde Canal Zone we used to do a lot of both.
We were very creative in building our kites from old pillow cases, sheets of newspaper from the Panama-American, or some brown paper from those famous Panama Canal Commissary shopping bags. Any size would do the trick since we did a lot of cutting and gluing or taping. The frames were narrow strips of balsa or better yet some bamboo sticks. Everybody had their own favorite design, box, cube, diamond, and so on. Mine was always the diamond shape. Then we would corner the market on twine at the Panama Canal Commissary.
After the kites were finished we test fly them with the tail. The length of the tail caused the kite to be really stable or go out of control when flying. So, the test flight to determine the length was extremely important in the overall design of the kite. Some party-poopers would attached razor blades for kite fights so these would cut the other guys kite and have it crash in a heap sometimes way out in the jungle.
I loved Cocoli, not just because I lived there, but was a perfect place for flying kites and it was only a block from where I lived as a kid. The Cocoli grade school off Tamarind Avenue had a very sharp drop off by the gym. Well, one could take off running in the direction of the flag pole on the circle in front of the school with the kite streaming behind you. With a slight nudge the kite would soar up very nicely to where the buzzards and eagles frolicked hundreds of feet above the ground. The kite would stay up for hours. After we had played out enough line from Cocoli to Balboa, or it really seemed that way, we would tie the line down and it was time to celebrate. So, we would pull out our jelly & peanut butter sandwiches, have lunch, and wash it all down with an ice cold RC. Yes, those were the days!
We would lay back on the green grass, swap stories, and watch the kites soar for hours -- so high that sometimes we would need binoculars. I had an old Army pair that my Dad had picked up at Surplus in Corozal. Of course, sometimes the breeze and the lunch was too much so we would knock off for a few Zs. Then, we'd wake up with ground patterns imprinted on your cheeks. Plus, at times we'd be fighting off those awful Red Army Ants.
Yes, memories can be so much fun. Each of us has them. They can be good or they can be bad. Theyre better than dreams you've had since being there, and you did whatever it was ... images implanted in your minds eye to recall at will. Happy days or rainy days they all add up to who you are today. So, when the sun is out and we have a really good northeasterly blowing ... go fly a kite. You could do worse!
August 2, 1998