About 42 years ago, a high school buddy of mine in Connecticut and I loaded up my Chevy Blazer and hit the road. Our destination was Stillwater, Okla., where we were to start classes at Oklahoma State University as sophomores.
This trip, to us, was quite an adventure. Two 18-year-old kids leaving home for an extended period for the first time and going halfway across the country — by ourselves.
A few months earlier, we had made this very same trip for a two-day visit of the campus and to register for classes. But that trip was on a Greyhound bus and took us 45 hours — one way — mostly because we stopped 257 times along the route, which took us from Hartford, Conn., through New York City’s Grand Central Station and into every small town there was on our way to Stillwater.
Now, however, we would decide where we stopped and for how long.
On our second day, we stopped at a gas station somewhere along Interstate 40 in Tennessee to do the usual thing folks do at a gas station while on a trip — got gas, used the facilities and bought a few snacks and drinks. Within moments, we were back on the road, tooling along I-40 at a good clip and loving life.
Two hours later, my heart sank to my ankles.
My Bloomfield (Conn.) High School ring, which I had only put on my finger for the very first time about six months earlier, was now not on my finger. I pulled over and sat there, staring out the window at the Tennessee countryside as my mind raced.
I wanted to think I had left it at the motel we’d stayed at the night before, but I soon realized I had put it on that morning. What I also realized was that I had taken it off to wash my hands at the gas station — about 125 miles back.
Going back seemed entirely out of the question.
Calling them was impossible, since we didn’t even remember what town we’d stopped in and had no receipt.
Panic turned into devastation.
The ring was … (gulp) gone.
I haven’t thought about that ring in quite a few years, until a story appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal about a couple in Yadkinville who went through a similar situation.
Vonnie and Troy Wood married more than six decades ago, but just a handful of years into that marriage, Vonnie’s engagement ring went missing while she was digging in the flower garden of her home. The couple sifted through every inch of dirt they could, but did not find the ring.
According to the story, the couple sold their house some years later … the lost ring barely more than a fading memory.
Troy, who had recently celebrated his 90th birthday, ended up buying his wife another engagement ring — one with a much-bigger diamond — but Vonnie, who was then 83, always regretted losing her first engagement ring.
A short time later, one of the couple’s daughters asked if it would be OK if the family returned to the church they had grown up in for Easter services. Troy and Vonnie that it was a good idea, but when they arrived at the church a little early, they decided to drive by the old house where the ring had been lost.
Then they decided to stop.
The woman who had purchased the house from Vonnie and Troy was there, and the trio had a nice visit before the couple left.
But the woman had a nagging thought and decide to call Vonnie and Troy to ask … “When you were living here, did you lose an engagement ring?” It seems she had come across the lost ring when she and her husband dug up a few bushes to make room for an addition to the house.
Incredible story, really. After so very many years, a bride and her engagement ring are reunited in a bizarre twist of circumstances. Rarely do stories like this ever come full circle like this one did.
During my years at Oklahoma State, I traveled the same route back and forth at least three times a year. It’s possible, though I don’t know, that I even stopped at the very same gas station I left my high school ring at in the summer of 1975.
But in 1978, I got another ring — this one an Oklahoma State University ring. I was just as proud of that ring as I was of my high school ring — and in the years since, I know right where my college ring is at any moment.
But there will always be something about that very first ring that I miss. It wasn’t the amber-colored stone, the letters spelling BLOOMFIELD HIGH circling the top or the flying Warhawk on the side. I guess it was the fact that it was my high school ring — and even had my name on it.
Maybe someday, when I’m old and feeble, I’ll be surprised by a former Tennessee gas station attendant who somehow manages to track me down so he can return my high school ring.
Nah. It’s gone.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-506-3023 or [email protected]