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  • As a journalist, some of the best ideas came from the oddest places: an obituary with an unanswered question, a phone call from a "whacko" needing to unload a secret, a misfiled court document. This story grew from a classified ad with only these words: "Found: wedding ring, with date, word and initials engraved inside. Call ..."

    A young couple had bought a home in Vergennes, VT, and decided to transform an overgrown gaggle of bushes beside the house into a rose garden. The husband had the task of preparing the bed, digging and digging and digging until he was able to get to the roots and pull out those giant shrubs. As he was working he noticed something odd: thousands of pieces of shattered glass and china, in a rainbow of colors scattered all over and at different depths in the dirt next to the foundation. So he used care, looking closely at the dirt as he worked it. Then he saw a glint of something gold. He reached down, brushed away the dirt and found a ring, a wedding band. Inside was a short inscription of love, 'Forever,' and someone's initials. And a date.

    He placed the advertisement and the same day, he received a phone call from a woman down the road who told him that it was her mother-in-law's ring, a woman who'd lived in the man's house when she was younger and who had recently died.

    Amazing. Great story. But a mystery. I asked the daughter-in-law: How in the world did the ring get there?

      She told me she lost it while she was gardening. She said it slipped off. She had kept it secret all these years. Her husband didn't even know. I was the only one she had ever told about it.


    Really?

      Yes. She said she didn't notice it was missing until later and she dug and dug and couldn't find it.


    I let that rattle around my brain for a while. It didn't quite make sense. Most people garden when the ground is dry; how could it slip off?

    I talked with the young man: What was with the glass and china chips?

      I don't know. They were everywhere. It was so difficult to clean out the bed and plant the roses. But if they hadn't been there, I would never have been so careful. I wouldn't have seen the ring.


    I went to the son: What was with the glass and china chips?

      Well, Mom apparently used to get pissed at Dad and would go into the shed where they had a bunch of old cups and glasses and she'd go outside and she'd wing one at the foundation. She told me it helped her feel better and after a while she'd come back in and whatever had made her pissed was done, over.


    How did you find out about that?

      When I was 12. I was outside around the other side of the barn and she hadn't seen me and I came around and saw her throwing a glass against the wall. Then she looked over and saw me. She was embarrassed. She told me why she did it but told me not to say anything.


    So do you think that maybe she might have done that one night and her ring flew off?

      Yah. That makes sense.


    So I wrote the story. It was funny and cute and sad all at the same time. It went on the front page. I had a lot of calls and notes about the story; people liked it. They marveled at the coincidences, at the way the people only knew parts of the story until they were all brought together.

    When I went home that night, I showed the story to my wife. But she did not have time to read it. She was busy cooking chickens for the church pot pie supper. The kitchen was a flurry. When she was all done, she cleaned up and put the chicken remains in the garbage can under the deck. It was October. It was a Friday night. The next day was dump day.

    Saturday morning, when I went down to get the garbage cans, I was overwhelmed by the mess. A raccoon had gotten into the can, tipped it over and everywhere you could see, in amongst the gravel, was garbage -- chicken bones and skins and fat and everything else one accumulates over a week. I got down to the cleanup. It took a better part of an hour and when I was done I stood up and looked around at the gravel to make sure I had gotten it all. A glint of metal caught my eye. I reached down, brushed away a stone, and there was my wife's wedding ring. I knew immediately what had happened. As she had been peeling away all that meat off the bones of all those chickens, her fingers had gotten greasy and the ring had slipped off without her knowing and got mixed up in the garbage. She hadn't noticed.

    My wife and I have matching rings and a few years later we both revealed to each other that the rings made our fingers itchy. Something in the metal had begun to react to our skin. So we took them off and hung them on a chain over the kitchen sink a reminder of our love. Two rings hanging out together. Found love.
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