Black wings flutter in the night. Bloodshot eyes peer down from above. A wispy body strains against the dark winds. It is the most fearsome creature to ever haunt the skies of southern Ohio. It is the Gayla Bat kite!
Kites were an overnight sensation sometime in my prehistory, the early years of my life before my family settled in Columbus. One day, we were just playing on the swings. The next day, all the neighborhood kids had kites. And the best of them all was the sinister Gayla Bat. Or, more accurately, bats. There were several Gayla Bat kites: the original Bat, the Baby Bat, and the Super Bat. All had black bodies and large, evil eyes. But while the Bat had a black centerpiece, the Baby Bat had a white centerpiece, which gave it a kinder look, and the Super Bat had a white centerpiece as well as elongated horns. There was also a similar model called the Sky Spy. It was white instead of black, which is presumably why it was called “Spy” and not “Bat”.
I did eventually get a Bat. I got mine long after everyone else, as usual, but I got one. After a little trial and error, I got it into the air and it began to soar. That’s when I learned the most important lesson of kite flying: the spools of string do not come pre-tied. When I reached the end of the string, it came off the cardboard spool and the kite began sailing away. But then, just as my little heart was about to break, one of the older kids did one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen in my life. He leapt forward and just before the string was pulled out of reach, he grabbed it, saving the kite for me. We hauled in some slack, threaded the string through the tube, and tied it off. And so I kept the Bat for another day.
There were several other interesting kites from Gayla: kites that looked like owls, kites that were painted like airplanes and fighter jets, kites with superheroes. But it was the Bat that sparked my life-long love of kites. It was the Bat that made me want to go fly a kite.