Flying in the Beginning: A Low-Key Account of High Adventure in 1897

Hugh D. Wise
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"...Experimenting with large kites is not without its humorous phases, and a day or two after the experiment with the dummy 'Jimmy' and incident occurred which, though ridiculous, well nigh resulted seriously. The same kites that bore the dummy had been sent up about two hundred feet, when the two men who were assisting me went for another kite, leaving me alone at the windlass. Noticing that the rope was in danger of being cut by the cogs, I put on the brake, and passing around to the front, bore down on the rope, which did not appear to be under great strain. In order to readjust the rope on the drum it was necessary to relieve the tension. Near the windlass a piece of rope had been spliced to the main line as a leader for the cord of another kite. This I wrapped around my waist and tied with a bow; then, drawing my knife, I cut the main line from the windlass.

"I was not long in discovering my mistake, for as the rope parted the knife flew from my hand, I was jerked over on my back, and started for a sleigh-ride across the grass at a rapid pace. In my efforts to untie the bow, I pulled the wrong end and made a hard knot. Finally I managed to get to my feet; but this was little better, and in spite of my efforts I was rapidly approaching the sea-wall. Where it would all have ended I am unable to say; but I am inclined to believe that I should have needed no ferry ticket to Staten Island had not a friendly lamp-post happened to be directly in the line of travel. I approached it with outstretched arms, clasped it in a fond embrace, and there I hung until assistance arrived. With great difficulty three men led back this runaway team and harnessed it again to the windlass. Since then I have not been 'so attached' to large kites.

"Having successfully lifted the dummy, my next attempt was to lift a man." (Wise goes on to detail an attempt by him to make an ascension which came to grief when the unexpectedly tremendous power of the kites in the air caused the ropes to tighten on the windlass with such a powerful jerk the central truss of the lower kite was torn.) He continues: "The two upper kites, steadied by the weight of the helpless lower one, floated away. As they passed over the fort they were caught by some soldiers, and the tandem was saved, though the kites were broken against the neighboring walls in lowering them. So ended this experiment, and the work of weeks had been torn to pieces in a few moments."

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