Kite1 May 26 07-L

Funeral in Abilene

The wind swept across the Permian Basin occasionally interrupted by a nodding donkey, lone leaveless tree or outcropping of elephant-ear cactus.  The landscape was cold and flat as far as the eye could see.  Sighting one hovering bird about 50 feet off the ground along the way, I did not know what it was.  It dove into a thicket of naked tree branches before it could be positively identified.

The freight-laden trucks kept barreling along, exceeding the marked speed limit and buffeting my small rental car with hydraulic shoves as they zoomed by.  Headed to a funeral that would be held in Abilene, the land knew of the grief and played its part.  With gloves and scarf in my brief case, the forecast had warned travelers to be prepared for the bluster and chill of the basin winds.

Arriving at supper time, the Moore family welcomed me as the lone representative of our Men of Wednesday (MOW). We meet at each other’s homes in Portland, Oregon most Wednesday nights for prayer, reflection, and support. It is a solid fellowship of five pilgrims.  I had not met Wilford Moore, but knew his son. It was right for one of us from MOW to be there. We soon forgot the cold as the occasion was a celebration of life. The Moore family is very intentional that way: life is a daily gift. So do the right thing. That Friday night allowed me to ask myself some existential questions: What is the best way to live life?  Should we be in constant motion? Should we struggle against the approaching storms?  Should we flutter through various jobs and volunteer positions with little down time?  Or should we slow it down?  Should we sail on the surface? Or, perhaps, leave the surface all together as if in mid-air?

13027399Wilford Harve Moore

Wilford Moore was married to his sweetheart, Marian Vaughter, for 56 years.  They raised four children to be remarkable citizens, who dedicated their careers to teaching, coaching and philanthropy.  Earlier in his life, Wilford had been a man of service. In World War II he enlisted in the Army after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and took to flying.  As a flight training instructor, he knew more about deftly staying aloft than most others in the Army.  Wilford flew with the 323rd Bombers Group in the European Theatre as squadron leader and received numerous decorations for his service to our country and others.

As a school boy, Wilford had been a gifted athlete playing many sports, but especially football. After the war, he joined the football coaching staff at McMurry University.  As many former players reported, Wilford Moore’s hallmark was his philosophy of living. He held his players to the highest standards of excellence both on and off the field. He went on to coach at the high school and collegiate levels for decades. And Wilford Moore was voted Texas football “Coach of the Year” many times. Both McMurry University and Hardin Simmons University celebrated having Moore as their highly successful coach. To this day, the winner of the McMurry vs. Hardin Simmons game is awarded the Moore Trophy.

During his career Wilford Moore held various other positions.  In addition to coaching he was also a successful stock broker and teacher. He was a man for all seasons of life.

After the death of Wilford’s wife, Marian, he was blessed to reconnected with a high school friend, Bernice Armistead. Before long they decided to make the relationship permanent. In all they were married for 14 years, making it 70 years of marriage for this remarkable man.

Wilford Moore Stadium

Wilford Moore Stadium, McMurry University, Abilene, TX

Many people in Texas, Kentucky, Scotland, and the Pacific Northwest know and highly esteem one Moore son, Steve, who lives with his wife, Thanne, in Portland, Oregon. As the Executive Director of the Murdock Trust he continues the family tradition of service and philanthropy to the nth degree.

The funeral in Abilene brought together families, neighbors, friends, and hundreds of former football players, whose lives had been shaped and honed by Wilford Moore. The family has deep Texas roots and adjustable light wings.  We all were touched and blessed to be there to mark the memorial for Wilford Moore and the joyous celebration of his life and peace in heaven.


Wilford Moore with son, Steve, in background

On the drive back to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, the weather turned colder.  The temperature had dropped by 20 degrees overnight and the gloves and scarf came in handy.  The sun was out, and so were the trucks again. My attention went back to Oregon and the activities there. I drifted mentally with the winds and the occasional birds spied along the drive.

Flying Lessons

Returning to Dallas, upon entering Eastland County, Texas, I spotted that fluttering bird again.  This time it was hovering, wings flapping rapidly, as its torso remained stationary in one place.  Its tail feathers appeared banded brown and white, like those of a Cooper’s Hawk, but Cooper’s Hawks don’t normally hover. Hummingbirds are the best hovering birds followed by Kites.  Driving further, I saw another and another of these birds as there was a collection of them.  It looked like a Kite, but I could not identify it for sure. It had stripes on its tail, which were unmistakable.



Returning home and looking through my bird books I found the bird; it was a Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis). The birds I had seen several times in Texas were immature Kites, as the stripes on their tails indicated.  Fully mature Kites lose the stripes and have solid dark colored tail feathers and an unusual red eye.  Mississippi Kite has a large range across central US from New Mexico to the Carolinas.  In winter it migrates among these states and to Mexico and South America, as far south as Argentina.  It is a prolific flier that seems totally at home while in the air. Flocks of these Kites start aloft in the morning before the mist has dissipated, and they wait for the warming air to carry them skyward. They weave through the treetops, sometimes soaring on outstretched wings, their tails fully fanned. At other times they glide, drawing in their tails and wings. When the mood strikes, the Mississippi Kite can fly like a bird possessed, twisting and turning, parry each gust of wind, then snaring the unsuspecting dragonfly right in mid-air. [1]

Taking notes from the Mississippi Kite, there may be some life lessons worth considering.  The Mississippi Kite is prolific; it is not endangered.  The species has learned to live in urban areas (fewer predators there), and it is a beautiful flier. It is very protective of its nests and will dive bomb anything that gets close, even humans.  A hat and bright coat can protect a human from getting hurt, but those protections will not stop the dive bombing, so beware.  Only half of it’s clutch of eggs will survive to adulthood, so it has to be extra protective of its nests.


Mississippi Kite

According to bird books, their diet consists mostly of insects which they capture in mid-flight. They eat cicada, grasshoppers, and other crop-damaging insects, making them economically important.  They are omnivores having been known to eat small vertebrates, including amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and occasionally other birds. Their call is a high-pitched squeak, which sounds like someone squeezing a squeaky dog toy.[2]

Mississippi Kites also have their nests in treetops, perhaps 100 feet above the ground.  They seem loathe to touch the ground.  “Only two powers of nature can defeat the wings of the Mississippi Kite: one is rain, the other is darkness.  As for landing on the ground, a star would be more likely to fall to earth than a Mississippi Kite.” [3]


What do Wilford Moore and Mississippi Kites have in common?  The ability to defy gravity.

Imagine the striking image of Wilford Moore in his plane in mid-air. He is floating, darting, diving, and being thrilled to be of service to his fellow men.  He is a gatherer of boys, warriors, women and families.  He is a leader who elevates those around him.  He lifts them off the ground. We can glean many simple lessons from Wilford Moore and those whose lives were centered on service.

Many of us have long journeys ahead with lots demands for hovering, diving, banking, and darting.  May we have the skill and practice to fly into adversity with the grace and aplomb of Wilford Harve Moore. In the chapters ahead, may we found our way like a confident kite, modeling aerodynamic balance, floating in mid-air.

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 Mature Mississippi Kites


[1] Cassidy, James – Editor. Book of North American Birds. Reader’s Digest, Pleasanton, New York, 1990, page 15.

[2] http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/mississippi_kite/id

[3] Cassidy, James – Editor.  Ob sit.