When he pulls his own string, Roy Myatt turns into a high flyer.
Over the past three years the nurse, who works at UMC Rehab Center at McFarland in Lebanon, has turned into a full-blown kite fanatic.
“I fly kites all year long,” says Myatt, 64, who loves the outdoors. “This is kind of like people who use fishing as an excuse to be out. A bad day of kite flying is still a good day if it’s good weather.”
It all started when he plotted to get several youngsters at his church out beneath the clear blue skies and away from their addiction to iPads, video games and high-tech toys.
“I thought they needed to get out of the house and away from video games and electronic stuff, but none of them were interested. None whatsoever,” he said. “But I caught the bug, and I been flying since then.”
Myatt figures he now owns 30 kites. He’s got a butterfly kite, owl kite, eagle kite, sea turtle kite and kites that look like the Navy’s Blue Angels jet and the Red Baron’s WWI fighter plane. Also in his hanger are three prism kites and a zero G kite.
“Different kites fly differently. Some will fly vertically, some will fly horizontally,” he said of the aircraft that were invented by the Chinese about 1,500 years ago.
“I had seven up at the same time a few months ago. There are days when I’ll get five kites up, and they all came down at the same time, but the lines are taut. The wind will come back, and I’ll walk out and just pick ’em up, and they’ll start flying again.”
When he flies multiple kites simultaneously, he anchors them to the ground with a bungee cord tied to a dumbbell.
This late March afternoon the sun shines brightly down on the winter hay field across the two-lane blacktop from his farmhouse sitting between the villages of Liberty in DeKalb County and Gassaway in Cannon County. The wind proves tricky with down gusts foiling his squadron of kites from soaring more than 40 or 50 feet above the ground.
One kite that Myatt had up in the air for a few minutes comes cascading to the earth about 70 yards away from where he stands.
“The wind’s just too fickle,” he says. “Unless you play with it, and even if you do, you can’t keep them up. If you get a sustained wind of 5 miles per hour, most of these kits will fly.”
About his Red Baron kite, Myatt says, “It’s got to be 8 to 10 miles per hour just to get it up. But 15 miles per hour is too much. There’s a window there.
“This is a Wal-Mart special,” he says of his owl-shaped kite. “Buddy, I’ll tell you it flies. Owls really fly well because they have a good wingspan. I have hawks and eagles, but they don’t fly as well.”
Besides the dozen kites atop, in or beside his truck, the serious kite man keeps a weather radio handy, plenty of spools of twine and extra kite tails. He wears a brown, wool glove on his right hand.
“You’ve got to have gloves or you’re gonna tear your hands up. I’ve worn so many gloves out,” he noted.
He purchases his kites at Wal-Mart, stores in Nashville and the Kitty Hawk Kite shop in North Carolina, near where the Wright Brothers made their historic airplane flight.
“I’ve even been a kite,” said the Kite Man of Gassaway of the time he parasailed. “It was wonderful, like you’re a kite.”
Besides not enough wind or too strong a wind, there is another factor that can foil those mesmerized by kites.
“I’ve only lost one kite to an electrical wire,” Myatt recollected with remorse. “I had one kite in each hand. They had rolled over each other. I dropped one of the spools and chased after it. Before I could catch up to it, the telephone line caught it, and it’s still there.”
Even though that was more than four months back, a wisp of the kite remains dangling from the wire just across the road from his house, a teasing reminder from the wind about just who’s the boss.
Myatt minds the wind, but the time of day does not matter to him when he gets a yearning to go kiting.
“I came home from work one night a couple of months ago when the moon was so bright. I changed clothes and I flew kites for about five hours. I had Jimi Hendrix blasting [from his truck’s tape deck]. I was in the middle of a hay field in winter. It was gorgeous,” he said.
Raised in Columbia, Tenn., Myatt served in the Navy in the early 1970s as a hospital corpsman in Vietnam. After his discharge, he hitchhiked across the South for couple of years. He was working as a carpenter when he and his late wife moved to this area in 1977.
“I found a little house back here that had not been lived in for many years. I liked it. My wife looked at it and then sat on the porch and cried, ‘You’re not gonna make me live here are you?’
It didn’t have an indoor bathroom, but after three years, I got that built. We lived there for 20 years without a phone or TV set,” he said.
“We were part of maybe 30 or more families of back-to-the-earth hippies that settled this part of the [southwest DeKalb] county. There are probably about five of us left. Most of the back-to-the-earth hippies turned into yuppies.
“Those of us who are left were talking about it recently. Those who left became upwardly mobile, but we were downwardly mobile and didn’t care. We dubbed ourselves ‘duppies,’” he laughed.
At the age of 43, Myatt went back to school to become a registered nurse. He worked at a Smithville nursing home for a year and a half, and has been at McFarland Rehab for the past 15 years.
He plans to retire in two years, open a wood shop and make and sell wooden pull toys and rocking horses.
After his wife Mary died three years ago, Myatt, who always enjoyed adventure on the open road, began solitary camping trips, often visiting the Atlantic coast in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, where he flies his kites on the beaches. He’s become especially fond of Nags Head and the Outer Banks.
He plans to head that way this summer for a two-week vacation and lots of serious hang time with his kites, and he may fly a kite or two along the way.
“On the road, if the wind’s going, I’ll just pull over. I gravitate toward church yards. No one bothers me there, and I figure the good Lord doesn’t mind me using his property,” says the Kite Man of Gassaway, who plays with toys that nearly touch heaven.