Let's Go Fly a Kite

            The March wind blew briskly, forcing the Lancer brothers to hold onto their hats as they exited Baldomero’s store in Morro Coyo.  The dust swirled around in miniature cyclones while stray tumbleweeds and dried leaves skipped and rolled across the narrow streets of the sleepy little California village. 

            “Sure is windy, isn’t it?” Johnny commented. 

            “Sure is.  Back in Boston we’d be hovering by our fireplace if we weren’t out on the common playing.  It depends on how old you are.”   

            “What do you mean by that?” Johnny wanted to know. 

            “The adults, like grandfather and his friends, would rather huddle around a nice warm fire with a glass of wine and a good book.  The children would be out on the common playing tag, climbing trees or any number of other things.  This is good kite weather.” 

            “Kite weather?” 

            Scott’s blue-gray eyes sparkled.  “Yes, kite weather. Bright and sunny and breezy. Every year around this time my nanny and I, or my governess when I got older, would make a kite out of newspaper and take it out to the common to fly.  I remember one year when Grant, our butler, made me a kite that was all of six feet tall!  It was so big that he had to go with us to fly it – Miss Wilder couldn’t handle it – it was too big and too strong for her.” 

            Scott’s eyes shone as he remembered the fun of running through that wide-open space with the wind blowing through his hair and tugging at his kite.  Johnny eyed him in open amusement as Scott became lost in the memory for a moment. 

           “We’d better load those supplies we just bought and head for home,” Johnny said.  “Teresa will have our heads if we’re late.  She and Maria have a lot of baking planned for tomorrow and they need this stuff.  She also said she wanted to start on that new dress for the spring dance in Spanish Wells so we’d better make sure we get that material she picked out and all the – what did she call that other stuff?” 

           “Notions,” Scott said with a grin.  “Personally, I think the ladies are ‘notional’ but the notions are the buttons, lace and ribbon and such that they trim their dresses and blouses with.”

           “How’d you know that?”  Johnny wanted to know.  “Was that part of you Harvard education?” 

           “No, brother, Mrs. Talbot taught me that.”  Scott elbowed his brother.  “You’d be wise to pay more attention to her when she talks other than when she’s offering you cookies or cake.” 


           “Hey yourself!” a new voice spoke up. 

           Turning to look behind them Scott and Johnny saw Jim Talbot, husband of the woman they’d just been discussing. 

            “Good afternoon, Mr. Talbot,” Scott said with a smile as he held his hand out to shake the hand the older man was holding out. 

            “Good afternoon to you as well, Scott, Johnny,” Jim, a six-foot-one-inch blond, said with a smile of his own. 

            “What brings you to Morro Coyo?” Johnny asked.  “I thought Miz Talbot preferred shopping in Green River or Spanish Wells.” 

            “She does but I needed a few things for myself that they don’t carry in those places.  Besides, I still like to do as much business with Juan as I can – he and the missus did a lot for us when we first came out here.” 

            “I agree – about the other towns not always having what we need.  Seńor Baldomero has excellent jackets and work shoes,” Scott said.  “I’ve had more success getting decent jackets from him – and boots – than I have anywhere else in the immediate vicinity.” 

            “What were you two talking about when I came along?” Jim asked. 

            “Kites,” Scott answered.  “I was telling Johnny that this is excellent kite-flying weather.” 

            “It is that,” Jim agreed.  “I was thinking along those lines myself when I left the house this morning.”  He was quiet for a moment, lost in his own kite flying memories, then he said with enthusiasm, “Scott, Johnny, how would you like to help me run a kite-flying event at the orphanage?  It could be open to any child under the age of, say, fifteen?” 

            “That’s a marvelous idea,” Scott enthused.  “And the kites could be traditional diamond shaped or whatever anybody can come up with that will fly!  That’s a great idea Mr. Talbot!” 

            “Why only up to fifteen?” Johnny asked.  “If this kite flying is so much fun why can’t the adults get in on it too?” 

            “Does that mean you want to help?” Jim asked. 

            “Sure. I can help spread the word.  Scott, here, can make up posters and I can pass them around – see that they get put up where people can see them.” 

            “Handbills.  That’s what we need – handbills,” Scott was really getting into this. 

            “Tell you what boys,” Jim said to his young friends, “you come up with some wording and bring it on over to me by this weekend.  We’ll pick a date – say two weeks from Saturday.  Maura will recruit women to bake goodies and serve lunch.  We can have a ‘meeting of the minds’ with your father and create categories and find donors for prizes.  Any money we make can be divided between the school and the orphanage where it’s needed the most.” 

            The next day was Thursday.  After working on the range and eating dinner the boys put their heads together with their father and came up with what they thought was the right wording for their posters and handbills and decided on a fifty cent entry fee for each kite.  Some people might think it was a lot of money but this was to be a fundraiser and a competition both.



            “Murdoch!  Boys!”  Jim exclaimed, “You’re here quite early.  Boss give you the day off?”  He grinned at his friends. 

            Murdoch gave Jim a mock scowl and then shook hands with his longtime friend.  “We finished up a bit early and thought we’d get over here with the drafts for the posters and handbills for this joint kite flying venture.  The sooner we finalize the plans the better off we’ll be.  Then we can run them in to the print shop and get copies made and distributed.”  Looking at his eager sons he added, “The boys have volunteered to visit all the ranches and farms in the area while I take care of the stores. That leaves you to arrange with the good father for the use of the grounds at the orphanage.” 

            “Already done.  I explained to him that whatever we take in from entrance fees, and the meals that the ladies sell, will be split between the school and the orphanage.”  Jim led the men into the house. 

            “What’s this about meals?”  Murdoch asked.  “That’s kind of short notice, isn’t it?” 

            “It is not!”  Maura Talbot’s voice was heard as she entered the living room.  “The day I can’t organize the ladies of this area into putting on a meal for a fundraiser is the day you put me in my grave!” 

            The three Lancer men laughed.  They should have known that it was Maura who had come up with the idea and had it organized to boot.  They were just surprised that Maria and Teresa hadn’t said anything to them about it. 

            “And I’ve already spoken to some of the merchants in the area about donating items to be used as prizes.  Baldomero is donating a new canteen and a boy’s hat, Mayor Higgs – who was a tough nut to crack – is donating several pairs of new hair ribbons for the girls who enter.”  Jim went on to explain that he’d even convinced the owner of the print shop to print up certificates of participation for each of the youngest entrants up to the age of twelve. 

           “You’re certainly one jump ahead of us, Jim,” Murdoch remarked.  

           “Well, it was a spur of the moment idea and I did talk your boys into helping me with it,” Jim said sheepishly, “so I thought I’d better do a lot of the legwork on this.” 

           “And it’s a fine job you’ve done too, Alex,” his wife said loyally. 

           “Thank you, dear,” Jim said with a kiss to his wife’s cheek. 

           “Well, shall we get started?” Murdoch asked.  “We need to choose some categories perhaps and make up the entry form – or did you already do that, too?” he teased his friend. 

           “Nope.  I’m leaving that up to Scott and I want Johnny to choose who should be the judges.” 

           “Me?”  Johnny yelped. 

           “Yes, you.”  Jim was firm on the matter, “You have a very good sense of who can be trusted to be completely impartial – fair and honest,” he said on seeing Johnny’s look of confusion.  “We need someone who has nothing to gain by judging these kites and kite fliers.” 

           “You mean like Reverend Hawk?” Johnny asked. 

           "Yes,” Scott said.  “He would be a good one.  Maybe Mr. Mays or would his youngsters want to be in the contest?”

           “Probably,” Johnny said. “Why not Gabe?  He ain’t got no kids or anything.”

           “That’s an excellent idea, son,” Murdoch agreed.  “Gabe is as honest as the day is long and he’s single, has no family in the area and would probably be honored to be asked to judge this contest.

           The Lancers and the Talbots talked for a couple of hours.  By the time they were through they had the final draft of the posters, handbills and entry forms ready to be delivered to the print shop.

           Scott took the final drafts of the forms etc. with him and headed into Green River while Johnny went to Spanish Wells to speak to Gabe.  The sheriff of Spanish Wells was, as Murdoch had said, pleased to be asked.  He truly was a community minded man and an honest one as well.  He went so far as to suggest a couple of other men to be judges at the contest.  Johnny spoke to them and soon had a panel of three lined up for the event.

           Scott’s trip to the print shop went well.  The owner promised to have everything ready by noon the next day so that they could get the posters and such distributed quickly.  While he was in Green River he smoothly convinced Mayor Higgs to donate a dress length of yellow and white polka dotted cotton as well as the hair ribbons.  The man never knew what hit him until it was too late and Scott had his word on it in front of witnesses.  Mayor Higgs was not noted for being an overly generous man.



           The day of the contest dawned clear, cool and breezy – in other words perfect for a kite-flying contest.  Scott was thrilled, for in the week that they’d collected entries they’d had more than 100 children and young adults – including Johnny’s pals Kevin Millar, Rico Portillo and Willie Mays – sign up.

           The kites were a colorful lot.  Some of the more ambitious entrants had tried to make their kites look like dolls or animals with a little success – the Pittman children among them. 

           The Pittmans were farmer neighbors who had a small place close to Green River.  Their oldest son, Tim, had been the recipient of one of the first two scholarships ever issued in memory of the Talbots three son.  Tim was now away at Harvard, Scott’s alma mater, studying for a law degree.  The children left at home were Andy, now fourteen; Judith, twelve; Holly, eleven; twins Billy and Bobby who were now nine; Ricky aged seven and Dan, the baby, who was now six.

           Andy had built himself a large box kite and painted it green and yellow while Judith had made a traditional diamond shaped kite but with a doll painted on it with blonde, curly  hair, a red dress and black shoes.  Holly had a smaller box kite and had painted it blue and white.  The twins had collaborated on a box kite almost as big as their brothers.  They hadn’t painted theirs though because they didn’t think it was necessary - as long as the kite flew that’s all they cared about.  Ricky and Dan weren’t participating as they couldn’t do one on their own and parents weren’t allowed to help.

           The Mays children had built a box kite that was all of six feet tall.  Jimmy, twelve, was the main architect and would be the one to control the kite while his younger sister, Cecelia, ten, would be the one to launch it.  She was quite tall for her age, as was Jimmy, but not quite strong enough to manage a kite in the stiff breeze that was blowing.  On two panels the children had made a sketch of some sort of animal but no one was quite sure what it was.  Johnny was the one to approach the children and ask.

            “Jimmy, Cece, what’s that you’ve drawn on your kite?”

           “It’s a horse, Johnny,” Cecelia told him.  “Can’t you see that?”

           “To be specific,” Willie said with a grin on his face as he approached his siblings and friend, “It’s a picture of that nag that you ride.”

           “Nag!”  Johnny was indignant.  “Barranca’s no nag and he’s a lot better than that piece of crowbait you’ve been riding for the last two years!”

           “Crowbait!  Moe ain’t crowbait!”

           “Is to!”

           “Is not!”

           “What’s going on here?” Scott’s voice interrupted the argument as he approached.

           “Nothin’ but a slight disagreement among friends,” Willie said.  “I told Johnny that that horse of his is a nag and he says mine is crowbait.”

           “What?”  Scott was bemused.

           “Yeah, only Barranca ain’t no nag!”

           “And Moe ain’t crowbait!”

           “Enough, you two!” Scott exclaimed in exasperation.  “That’s a silly argument and you both know it.  Stop it here and now or I’ll treat you like the children you’re arguing in front of.” 

           Jimmy and Cecelia laughed.  They were as fond of Scott as they were Johnny and they knew that he would at least give it a good try if he started to carry out his threat.  They weren’t so sure Johnny could handle their big brother but they sure would have been amused to see him try it.

           Turning his attention to the children Scott said, “Sheriff Gabe and the other judges are waiting for you.  You’d best be getting over there with your entry or they’ll disqualify you for being late.”

           The two Negro children scampered over toward the field where the rest of the kite flyers were already gathering.  Scott gave Johnny and Willie one last exasperated look before walking over to watch the kites being launched.  “Children!” he muttered as he walked away.

           His brother and Willie just laughed and followed along after him.  If it wasn’t one thing it was another with them although, usually, it was them, Kevin Millar and Rico Portillo, pulling something on somebody else as they had continually at Halloween until they were exposed.  Their penchant for practical jokes had led Scott to dub them the “Prankster Posse” – a name that suited them quite well.

           Out in the field behind the orphanage there were a lot of kites flying.  The judges – Gabe and a couple of local businessmen – were looking for the kites that were the most colorful, unique, flew the best and best decorated.

           One kite, in particular caught Johnny’s attention.  He was wearing his brown pants with the conchos on the side of the legs and his blue flowered shirt with his bolero jacket over the shirt as a concession to the brisk weather they were experiencing.  The kite that had his attention was a large diamond-shaped one the color of his favorite salmon colored shirt.  If he didn’t know that his shirt was at home in the laundry waiting to be washed he would have sworn that was his shirt.

           “Quite the colorful kite isn’t it, Johnny?”  Kevin Millar, a sun bleached blond just a year younger than Johnny commented.

           “Looks a bit like one of your shirts, doesn’t it?” Rico Portillo, a young Mexican the same age, said with a grin and an elbow to Kevin’s ribs.  “I wonder where Kelly got the material to make it?”

           Kelly was Kevin’s younger sister, a strawberry blonde just nine years old and the youngest of the five Millar children.  She smiled at Johnny whom she adored as did virtually every other female he came in contact with.

           “Where’d you get the material for your kite, Kelly, honey?” he asked the little girl.

           “Kevin got it for me,” she told him.  “He said he got it from Miss O’Brien.”

           “That’s right!”  Kevin said with a grin.  “I went to Teresa and she gave me your old shirt – said it was getting far too beat up for you to wear any more and she didn’t want to waste any more time mending it.”

           The howl that Johnny let out could be heard, so Scott would say, clear to the state line – of Oregon.  The last anyone saw of Kevin, Rico and Willie that day they were being chased by an irate Johnny Madrid Lancer who wouldn’t find out until much later that what Teresa had actually given the boys was some leftover material just a shade or two lighter than Johnny’s shirt – not his actual shirt. 

The End

Let’s Go Fly A Kite

Music and Lyrics by Richard and Robert Sherman

From the Walt Disney Movie Mary Poppins

With tuppence for paper and strings,
you can have your own set of wings!
With your feet on the ground, you're a bird in flight
with your fist holding tight
to the string of your kite!

Ohhhh, let's go fly a kite
up to the highest height!
Let's go fly a kite and send it soaring
up through the atmosphere,
up where the air is clear!
Oh, let's go fly a kite!

When you send it flyin' up there,
all at once you're lighter than air!
You can dance on the breeze
over Alpses and trees
with your fist holdin' tight
to the string of your kite!

Ohhhh, let's go fly a kite
up to the highest height!
Let's go fly a kite and send it soaring
up through the atmosphere,
up where the air is clear!
Oh, let's go fly a kite!




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