Issue 46: Empty Spaces – Al Hargus III

On December 10th, Al Hargus III passed away while in front of his computer, no doubt working his next historical contribution to the GWTW forum or some other area of kiting…

Only a couple days before, he had posted the following on his personal blog:

Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes…again

Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need…of some…stranger’s hand
In a…desperate land

Lost in a Roman…wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah

There’s danger on the edge of town
Ride the King’s highway, baby
Weird scenes inside the gold mine
Ride the highway west, baby

Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby
The snake is long, seven miles
Ride the snake…he’s old, and his skin is cold

The west is the best
The west is the best
Get here, and we’ll do the rest

The blue bus is callin’ us
The blue bus is callin’ us
Driver, where you taken’ us

C’mon baby, take a chance with us
C’mon baby, take a chance with us
C’mon baby, take a chance with us
And meet me at the back of the blue bus
Doin’ a blue rock
On a blue bus
Doin’ a blue rock
C’mon, yeah

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end

It hurts to set you free
But you’ll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die

This is the end

Anyway …..Hopefully……….. More Later

It would almost seem that our good friend Al sensed what was to come, and was leaving a farewell of sorts… And to dissuade any disconcerting rumors, this from a mutual friend…

We feel that his health has been bad and he just wouldn’t or couldn’t go and get whatever it was taken care of. He had no health insurance. In recent years he has made more of an effort to bond with his kids & grandkids. There were Christmas lists on his table, presents there, and plans to go to Chicago for Christmas on his calendars. More stuff arrived by UPS daily while we were helping Vicki & his son clean his apt. out. Al was definitely looking toward the future, not trying to end it.

“We think it had something to do with his bad teeth that he didn’t do something with for all those years. Tooth decay can lead to sepsis, so that might not be far from wrong. I do believe he knew he was dying or going to die. That much was obvious in what he chose to leave as his last words.”

For well over 20 years, Al was involved in kiting on many levels including work with Stunt Kite Quarterly (SKQ), the American Kitefliers Association, here at Kitelife Magazine as well as numerous other venues and committees… Here are a few of the contributions he made to our publication over the years:

In addition to his articles with us, Al also worked as the assistant editor with SKQ for the first four issues, and stayed on board as part of the Editorial staff for several issues thereafter writing a regular column called “Short Lines” which you can find archived on this site.

Another amazing contribution of Al’s was his chronicles of AKA Conventions on GWTW’s forum… His knack for detail and historical trivia sparked quite the ongoing discussion.

Some words sent in to us by a few of the people who knew Al, either by email or in person…

LAlo Loescher:

I’m very sad. I had not the chance to meet Al, but Al was the principal mentor of my team, El Fabuloso Team (Argentina).

He had sent us a box containing team videos, routines with explanations and he was the one that gave us constant and instant support in order to go to compete to the WSKC 2004.

His mails were always full of knowledge: that knowledge that he always wanted to share with everybody.

Nancy Lockwood:

Al has had me doing things on the sewing machine well beyond my own imaginings for a good long time. He’d call and say, “Nance, I want you to think about …” and he’d launch into an Idea. We’d hash it out, and I’d sew it. Among my favorites was the banners for Captain Eddy’s Flying Circus with the angled top supported by a short spar. They looked like airplane wings. His mind never stopped playing with ideas – for festivals, for teams, for kites, for competitions, and for encouraging everybody into the game. I’ll treasure forever the tiny vial of sand and water from Dieppe, France. He set a goal to get to World Cup with a brand new team, and by God, they did it! I was proud to know some kite bags and banners from my hands went along for the ride. He was like that. Everybody got to go wherever he swept us along into his dreams.

Tom Brailey:

I’m sure that we all have that gut wrenching feeling of sadness when we think of the loss of a friend like Al. Then we try to reflect back on the good times rather than sit in that sadness any longer than we can handle. I’m happy to know that only two weeks ago I was able to swap a few tales of the good old days with Al. While I may not have been as close to him as others, we still had a great history to talk about. Looking back at when Al was still flying with Chicago Fire, or the mention of a name from the past was always sure to spark a tale from a true insider in the world of modern kiting as we know it. I’ve made the decision to recall the smiles that came with those tall tales, or to reflect on one kiting’s greatest historian and that vast well of knowledge he shared with us all. Fly free my friend, Fly free.

Mike Delfar:

Seems like yesterday when I first met Al.

It was 1994, Grand Haven. As I entered the comp field for the VERY first time, nervous and excited, Al, (who I didn’t know), welcomed me with a big;”Hi Mike, I’m your Field Director”.”I really enjoyed watching you practice earlier, and I think you’re gonna do really WELL here today!”

As my feathers were getting all big and puffy, he put his arm on my shoulder, leaned in, and shared that, “Some of the other flyers are having a problem on the left side of the window……

(I only recently discovered, that Al offered similar “secret” advice to EVERY novice taking the field for the first time!)

Later that day, Al approached me from across the field and shook my hand and said “Wow Mike you really did a nice job today”. “I’m looking forward to watching you fly next time”…. I felt REALLY good!

(Again, I only recently discovered, that Al offered similar praise to EVERY novice.)

At some point during that weekend, someone told me Al was the SKC commissioner for our conference. Then someone else mentioned he did a lot of announcing at midwest events. I also figured out, he was the guy who “wrote the book” on flying trains, and more. Others admired his ability to interpret music with a FLEXIFOIL!, or Team flying. At that point, I still only knew Al as the “hippie” field director.

But, over the years, I came to appreciate Al in a way that had nothing to do with kites at all. The 30 seconds I spent with Al that first weekend, has inspired me for 11 years (It’s only now that I appreciate the real impact Al had on my life, and how much I will miss him).

Blue Skies Al, my friend.

I miss him too. I could share a number of stories myself, having met Al when I was only sixteen (14 years ago) and traveling the American Kite Magazine sport kite circuit… A truly good man, he had a nearly infallible positivity about him that definitely made an impact in my life.

Somehow I feel like I should say more, or share more, or something… But I’ll leave his own words to speak for themselves, and those of his friends above.

On the day he passed, I made a point of going to fly with him in mind.

Fly on my brother, fly on.

John Barresi