Jumpin' Jack the kite runner

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
My kite runner is pooped after an evening of chasing kites.

I've been fascinated with kites ever since I was a little girl. Back in the days of gas wars, service stations tried to drum up more business than their competitors across the street by offering premiums for every full tank of gas.

After filling up our old Plymouth, my dad returned to the car and handed my sisters and I three rolled up kites bearing the Zephyr logo. After inserting the flimsy balsa spine and cross spar into the strings on the four corners of the paper diamond-shaped kite, we begged mom for fabric scraps to fashion a tail and wheedled some string from dad to attach to the bridle.

We ran back and forth across the neighbor's farm field, pleading for our kites to take to the sky. Finally a gust of wind sent the small kite upwards for a few moments, until it began spiraling downward, only to crash, ripping the paper.

I graduated to a plastic Delta-type kite years later and would often stand in the same field, staring upward as the kite bobbed and danced in the wind far above me. What freedom to fly like a kite!

What child wouldn't want a kite? Every Easter basket that I ever prepared for my children contained the same three staples: bubbles, pinwheels and a kite (of course!) Over time we also learned the importance of investing in sturdy kite string after my son's kite broke loose while flying it at his school one Sunday afternoon. It took awhile before we found it in a backyard two blocks away.

Over time I've expanded my inventory of kites to include parafoils, deltas, cellulars, diamonds, box kites and novelties including those shaped like airplanes, ships and a sparrow. I've got my eye on an octopus kite but that will have to wait until next year's tax refund check arrives.

My latest addition is a clothesline kite that has seven small diamond kites linked together like shirts on a washline. Amazingly they've only tangled once.

My favorite kite is long gone thanks to my border collie Jack also known as the kite killer. He is the most intelligent dog I've ever had the pleasuring of having in my life and is able to learn tasks and follow commands like a trooper. That is until a chipmunk or a kite enters the picture. Nothing you can say will deter him from his quarry.

This particular kite at a kite shop in Two Rivers. This delta kite appeared to have a small boy attached. This configuration looked so realistic that cars would often slow down on the road to take a second look to be sure there really wasn't an airborne child hanging on for dear life.

While my kite with "Pedro" were riding the air currents high in the sky, Jack ran back and forth below, barking nonstop and jumping up and down...scheming in his keen little mind how he could reach the soaring duo.

Jack intently watches my box kite, hoping it falls out of the sky so he can nab it.

As I pulled my kite downward, Jack grew more determined. While Pedro dangled about 6 feet from the ground and moments from safety, Jack bounded upward and grabbed hold of Pedro's leg and took off, ripping the form from the kite. Pedro's flying days were over. And while the kite wasn't expensive, I've never been able to find another like it.

Although my kite runner (aka destroyer) is now a senior citizen and can no longer leap from the ground, the sight of a kite still gives him renewed boost of energy. And I still have to be three steps ahead of him when bringing a kite in.

Over the years I've shared my love of kites (and my kites) with my children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces, cousins and neighbors. But my favorite kite flying partner will always be Jack. Even though he keeps me on my toes and has destroyed a kite or two, his passion for the flying objects matches my own. And that's a compromise I'm willing to live with.

Colleen Kottke

Kottke is the editor of the Wisconsin State Farmer