Knight teaches chivalry at Cape library

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Karl Kindt told children that chivalry means knowing the right thing to do and when to do it.

Karl Kindt grew up believing in knights. As far as he was concerned, his father -- killed in World War II while Kindt was in the womb -- had been one.

"He wrote me a letter before he died telling me to be chivalrous and to take care of my mother," Kindt said. "My stepfather encouraged me to think of him as a knight who had died fighting an evil empire."

So, to honor his father's memory, 10 years ago Kindt became what he describes as a "real-life knight," decking himself out in 82 pounds of $4,000 armor and a message of being kind to others and defending the weak.

The St. Louis resident brought that message -- along with his shield and sword -- to Cape Girardeau and Jackson Saturday, speaking to two groups of children and a gathering of adults Saturday night.

In the afternoon, a group of children who had finished a summer reading program entered the Cape Girardeau Public Library's community room to find a motionless knight in full armor standing in the corner.

When he moved, one child gasped.

He spoke to the children in a loud, booming voice, telling them that he had taken a knight's oath and decided to spread his message across the country. After the visit, Kindt admitted to charging a fee, estimating he made $400 for the three speaking engagements.

"Have armor, will travel," he said.

Kindt said he has visited about 40 libraries this summer, but added that he also does birthday parties and other celebrations.

Kindt told the children, who gathered on the floor near his feet, that chivalry meant knowing the right thing to do and when to do it. He said the knights of the old days traveled from town to town telling stories.

His first story to the children -- which he acted out -- was about a knight helping an armadillo. His second story was about being nice to new children at school.

He also told them that when they get mad, they should use their anger -- he called it mad energy -- in constructive ways.

"Like make your bed," he said, drawing a laugh from the parents in the room.

Sharon Anderson, the youth services coordinator at the Cape Girardeau library, said that knights follow the summer program's theme of dragons, dreams and daring deeds.

"It's something different," she said. "We liked the idea of the children learning about honor and doing what's right, no matter what others would challenge them to do."

After the talk, Kindt got a smattering of questions, such as:

* How much does the armor weigh? 82 pounds.

* Why does he wear a cape? To keep a knight warm at night and to cover a rear-end opening. Oh, and he thinks it's pretty.

* If you fall over, can you get up? "It's something that I don't even like to think about or talk about," he said.

Cody Little, an 11-year-old from Chaffee, said he thought Kindt was really entertaining.

"It was pretty interesting," he said. "Being a knight is about how you do good things."

When his mom looked away, Little chased down a reporter to tell him the most important thing about Kindt's visit.

"Mainly it was just cool seeing a knight," he said.

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