One man and his island

Published 10:43 pm Monday, November 16, 2009

Jeff Hunter once had a best seller, “No Man Is An Island.” An excellent point, but I wonder what Mr. Hunter would think about the man that I know that lives on an island—a big island on Lake Mitchell.

In fact, he owns that island. All of it, or at least all that he cares to own. But before you paint the picture of a hermit, know this is a highly respected surgeon—a surgeon who reports to work every day via airplane! It’s one of at least three that he owns.

We know the island as Ware Island, below Lay Dam, and the doctor is Dr. Richard Myer. Talk about “low-key,” this cat is about as “laid-back” as one can be. In fact, if you have been in a boat on Lake Mitchell, you probably have been “strafed” by a low flying, green bi-plane firing a CO2-powered machine gun. You know the type: Snoopy and the Red Barron. One morning, I was cruising up the lake still not good awake, and he came in behind me and “opened up.” I almost wet my pants.

Airplanes are just one of his hobbies. Several times, he has hosted a “fly-in” of vintage aircraft on his island. He has held paintball tournaments and probably other tournaments that I didn’t get invited to. All this was as low-key as possible, but private is not exactly a word that best describes him. He is very close to those in his “community,” which is another story. His community has a Clanton address, a Sylacauga telephone exchange—and pays taxes in Coosa County! He wouldn’t have it any other way.

You would think that we would clash, but not really. We had a few confrontations. Some ended in a couple of citations. We were not real close friends but close enough that we had a mutual respect for each other’s existence and profession.

One day, he and I were discussing a problem that I was having with another plane owner. We talked of regulations for boats/sea planes, as to whether Boating Safety Laws applied. He wanted me to check out his old seaplane, proudly showing off his life preservers, paddle, etc. He was a very interesting conversationalist. I kept looking at the ancient, bright yellow plane bobbing in the water—with a bucket tied to the engine to catch leaking oil! It was originally a snow plane from Alaska, and he replaced the skis with pontoons!

“How old is this thing?” I asked. A 1942 model! I couldn’t resist crawling into that piece of junk, afraid to push or pull on anything because it might break. “Not much room in here.”About that time, folks, he fired that old baby up. “Wait a minute—I don’t think I have time—I have got to work.”

He taxied her out and headed into the wind. She was still sputtering, not even warmed up, and the faster it got, the more the poor plane would vibrate. Finally we lifted off, but I couldn’t enjoy the scenery for worrying about landing. We lined up with the airstrip, and he sat her down—but we were above the dam on Lay Lake! Here we went again, and finally getting back to my boat, it never felt so secure.

A few months later, I got word that he had “dropped” his “go-to- town plane” off the end of the runway and into the lake. He swam free as it sank. Just another day for Richard.