Bottle message found 25 years later
When she was 12 years old in the summer of 1987, Carmelita Haynes would wait until the creek came up.
She and her girl friends like Susan Duty would write out notes, roll them up, shove them in a two-liter bottle, toss it into the fast-moving muddy creek by her house in McCarr, Ky., and wait for someone in a far away land to magically find the bottle and write back.
No one ever did.
But a week and a half ago, Haynes, who still lives in her childhood home which is across from Matewan, W.Va., got a message on Facebook that started with the phrase "I know this is going to sound weird."
Indeed, because on Jan. 13, Brian Dingus, 47, who was cleaning the Ohio River bank near his home in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, with his 14-year-old grandson Darian Lisath, found her message in a bottle from June 25, 1987.
In 25-and-a-half years, the muddy two-liter bottle floated more than 120 miles northwest from Peter Fork in Kentucky down to the Tug Fork River down to the Big Sandy at Louisa, on down the Ohio River to Holiday Point Marina in Franklin Furnace, located between Ironton and Wheelersburg, Ohio.
Dingus, whose front porch overlooks the river, said his grandson needed some money for a school trip, so he had him come over and earn it, helping him clean the riverbank.
They were on about their fifth bag of trash when his grandson found the bottle and told his grandpa there was a note in it.
Having found "tons of little nothings" from the river before and everything from freezer doors to propane tanks and basketballs, Dingus said he didn't even pay attention to his grandson at first.
"I thought he was playing with me, but he opened it right there and was pulling out the note and I wasn't paying attention then he started reading it and I thought, 'Well that actually sounds like he's reading a real note,'" Dingus said. "I turned around and he found the date on it. And it was the real thing. We brought it up to the house and they had to go to church that evening and I had to go to work, so we started searching the next day and found Carmelita."
Dingus sent her a Facebook message and they talked by phone.
"I know there's so many scams and crazy things out there so I sent her a message and said I know this is going to sound crazy but ...," Dingus said. "Just in a day or two she responded then we talked by phone. It was really neat. I think it had to sink in with her, and then she saw the pictures. You can imagine if something popped up from your past when you were 12 years old."
Haynes said it's pretty amazing he found her. A private person, she did not have her hometown listed on Facebook until two days before Dingus contacted her.
"It's sort of a story within a story because two days before they sent me that message that they had found it I had my hometown and city made public," Haynes said. "All of a sudden there was this little message in there so that was really neat."
The messages from Haynes and her friend Duty were simple -- their names, addresses, phone numbers and how old they were.
"My first thought was that I probably put on their something like I am shipwrecked and come rescue me," Haynes said laughing. "I had sent out one of them that had that on it. My imagination took me all over the place."
The muddy bottle has already worked some magic of a childhood revisited.
Haynes called her long, lost friend Susan Duty, who also had a message in the bottle.
After Duty moved away to Kermit, Haynes said they lost touch.
"I hadn't talked to her in maybe 13 years now and until this happened," Haynes said. "I got her phone number and called her. We had so many memories and it was so good to talk to her."
And the story continues.
Dingus and friends are heading down to the Rascal Flatts concert in Pikeville, Ky., (about 25 minutes away) and are bringing her back the bottle.
Haynes, who lives in the heart of the Hatfields and McCoys feuding country, offered to show them some of the famous nearby sites highlighted in the recent History Channel documentary and miniseries.
In the meantime, Haynes has a story her kids, ages 22, 14 and 9, can hardly believe.
"My daughter told her teacher and she said no way," Haynes said. "I think it is quite an awesome story of how it got up there from a little creek. It's just amazing for them to find it."
Follow H-D reporter Dave Lavender on Facebook or Twitter @DaveLavenderHD.