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Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Kids go to knight class

By Phyllis Coulter

BLOOMINGTON -- Students at Brigham Elementary School buzzed with excitement as they looked at a suit of armor.

Then it moved.

Karl Kindt III, a real knight in shining armor, flipped up his helmet to squeals from the children and talked to them about chivalry and good character.

He told stories with lessons, let the children touch his armor, and even halved a watermelon with his sword during his visit Tuesday. He will bring his presentation to Hudson Elementary School today.

"He's cool," said fourth-grader Nicholas Baize. "He told us you should be brave and think about other people."

Kindt, whose 82-pound suit of armor weighs more than many of the 360 children listening to him, said a professional armorer in Idaho measured him in 256 places for his custom-made suit.

"Armor does rust," Kindt said. Although the secret to making the oil used in Medieval times has been forgotten, WD-40 oil of today works fine, he said.

In explaining the crest on his shield, the 59-year-old St. Louis man said the blue and white stripes honor his father because such stripes represent soldiers. Fleurs-de-lis represent the cities where mayors have dubbed him a knight, including his hometown.

His father, Karl Kindt II, was a gunner in World War II whose wife was expecting a child when he went off to war. "That unborn child was me," said Kindt.

His father was killed in the service, but he had given a friend money to buy his wife red roses and a letter for his unborn child.

Letter was inspiring

When he was old enough, Kindt read the letter. His father said it was a great honor to give his life for others and encouraged his son to live a life of chivalry.

"That letter inspired me to do what I do today," Kindt said.

"The freedom that we have today is not free," he said. It comes on the shoulders of Kindt's father and others like him, he said.

His shield also contains a cross, signifying knighthood's Christian roots.

Kindt is training two squires, one 17 years old and one 9 years old, to be future knights. He said he is one of six knights in the United States.

Among the stories he told was one of a little boy and a watermelon. A rolling watermelon knocked the boy over, pushing his face into the mud. The angry boy then wasted most of his life traveling through the land, chopping up watermelons.

"Often when we get mad we do bad things," he said.

He also told his audience that people can get extra strength when they get mad, but they should use that strength for good.

"If you believe in God, ask him what to do with your mad strength," he said. God might say, " 'Clean your room,'" he said.

Students laughed when he demonstrated how quickly a room could be cleaned with "mad strength."

First-grade teacher Tracey Renn, the student council sponsor who helped arrange his visit, said she is going to use some of the knight's phrases in the classroom to help children remember lessons about character.

Kindt, who said portraying a knight is his full-time job, also dresses in his armor and rides a horse while working as a security guard in parks. He appears at schools, libraries and other events almost daily.

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