Earl Johnson is a detector.
Through the years, using his metal detecting equipment, he has found several thousand dollars worth of scrap gold and silver jewelry, hundreds of dollars worth of coins and, as you might expect, pounds and pounds of trash.
But the ring he found in four feet of water at Greers Ferry Lake sent him on a hunt of another kind.
The detecting trip had been a surprise getaway planned by his wife, Terri. They’d spend a night in Heber Springs, giving Earl a day of detecting.
"She always finds a way to support my addiction to the hobby," Johnson said.
When he found the class ring, he was determined to find the owner.
There were a few clues: It was a Class of 2014 ring from an unidentified school. There was the image of a pirate and a partial name engraved: Bailee Ann Mar… .
"I tried looking for any Bailee Ann without result.
"I found a website that has Arkansas High Schools listed by mascots. There were several pirates listed, but when I found the school at Concord… . I knew it was close to Heber Springs and had to be the right one.
"Being July, I didn’t expect anyone to answer the phone at the school, but Paula Partain, the school secretary answered. She was very cooperative, saying Martin was Bailee’s last name."
She provided the parents’ phone number, and soon Johnson and Bailee’s mother, Elisha, were in cahoots, making a plan to surprise Bailee with the return of her lost class ring.
Johnson’s wife, who works at Cato’s on Dave Ward Drive, arranged with the manager of the Cato’s on Highway 65 North to put the lost ring in a jewelry case, ready for Bailee to "discover."
It worked exactly as planned.
They drove into Conway, stopped in at Cato’s, and Elisha told Bailee she could buy a new ring.
"She looked through the case, stood in amazement for a few seconds and said ‘That’s my ring!’ She was very excited," Johnson said. "That made all the effort worthwhile.
"Bailee is a very sweet young lady and deserved to have a good deed come her way," Johnson said.
"Sometimes you meet someone in a fleeting moment, but they remain a good memory in your heart the rest of your life," Johnson said. "I hope I’ve done that."
The rest of the story? Over the phone, Bailee’s mom had told Johnson there was a $50 reward for the return of the ring. Johnson refused.
So as one good turn deserves another, Mrs. Martin presented Johnson with a huge peach cobbler.
(Staff writer Becky Harris can be reached at email@example.com and 505-1234.)