Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

May 24th, 2008:

The D-Stix Kite Flies Again!

As we concluded our first date back on July 31, 1969, I somewhat apprehensively asked Carol if she would go out flying a kite with me on the following Saturday. I was building a tetrahedral kite out of my D-Stix set, and although my intuition was that this was not the way to impress girls, I gave it a shot, and she accepted. And so it was that we piled into my mom's '65 Biscayne and took my D-Stix tetra out to the huge Forest Preserve field at Irving Park Road and Cumberland.

The kite didn't fly well, if I recall correctly (and in truth, most of what I remember about that Saturday afternoon was Carol) but we both had a great time. An hour or so in, the kite smashed into the ground and broke a couple of sticks, but I salvaged the yellow connector pieces—and when I recently pulled down the butter dish that the D-Stix connectors had been in since who knew when, begorrah, they were still in there, including one with some kite string still tied through the hole.

It was a natural. I took the same damned D-Stix pieces, bought some 1/8″ dowels, and I made us another tetrahedral kite. At some point I will create a Web page describing its construction in detail, but I'll just insert a few photos here. A typical joint is at right. The yellow connector originally had eight “ears,” but I snipped two off with a dykes to make the requisite six. (The four outer vertices were six-bangers from which I snipped three.) The paper was ordinary Hobby Lobby artsencrafts tissue, which I glued with Elmer's glue. Mucilage would be better—or at least more historically accurate—but they don't sell that at Hobby Lobby anymore.

Building the kite didn't take much doing. I assembled the D-Stix frame, cut out some conjoined equilateral triangles of tissue, and glued the tissue to the frame. There were a couple of tricky glue joints, but nothing that a protruding corner of a chunk of plywood didn't finesse. All in all, it took maybe an hour.

And it flew. Sorta. Carol and I got it into the air down at the park along Highway 115, but the wind was strong and erratic and I had to hang some tail on it to keep it aimed skyward. It had a tendency to lean left, and after a few minutes of tearing around the great blue sky like a puppy suddenly released from its kennel, it did The Dive, and mashed itself against the grass just like its previous incarnation had, almost 39 years earlier. Two sticks popped out of their sockets, and the tissue ripped in two places, but it's nothing a clever geek can't fix.

It was beautiful. (And weird.) Just like Carol (and me.) We laughed, and laid back in the grass, and reflected that life can be good on a brisk Saturday, with a kite and some string and a willingness to let all the rest of it just blow away for awhile.