The Star-Herald

A story about a ring

There’s a scene in the movie “The Lord of The Rings” where the character Deagol  is dragged into the water by a salmon and finds the ‘Precious’; the eponymous gold ring taken by Smeagol/Gollum that forms a large part of the story. Finding and carrying the ring is the impetus for the tale, though it has some relevance to me as well.

When I was about 10 or so swimming at Birch Point, I found a gold wedding band on the bottom while underwater. I wasn’t pulled under by a fish, but the scene is eerily familiar to me; discovering a starkly shiny object on the gravel bottom and bringing it to my parents to say “Look what I found.”

Inscribed on the inside of the plain yellow gold band were the initials ‘FL’. One can only presume that it was the previous owner’s initials (the ring was obviously sized for a male). It was either inadvertently lost or deliberately tossed into Long Lake. I prefer the latter explanation for the drama it suggests; the disgruntled husband hurling the offending object into the water in a fit of jealous rage or after some tempestuous scene, and thereby figuratively ending a marriage. The writer in me always veers toward the melodramatic.

My father put a lost-and-found advertisement in the local paper to determine the owner of said wedding band. He required that the prospective owner could claim the ring if he (or she) could correctly identify the initials or bore the same initials as his or her name.

He even telephoned some people with the initials FL, asking the simple question; ‘Did you lose something?’ without saying what was lost. The answers were either ‘lose what?’ or a straightforward no. I would love to have personally heard the responses.

Nobody stepped forward to claim the ring. My father merely slipped it on the ring finger of his other hand. He asked me, of course, if I wanted it. No, what use would I have for a wedding ring at the age of 10 or 11?

My father wore two wedding bands for the rest of his life, and that caused a wee bit of bewilderment after he died. Back in the day when Romeo Daigle ran the funeral home here in Madawaska, he approached my mother with the question;

“Was Austin married twice? He’s wearing two wedding rings.”

That must have elicited a laugh from my mother, because before my parents married, my grandmother took my mother aside to say very seriously,

“I think Austin’s been married before.”

This is part of a longer more wayward story about my father that’s seldom told. To me, it makes him more of the man he was. Before he married my mother, my father was what the old timers call a ‘no bottom drunk’. That form of alcoholism suggests that one drink is one drink too many and all the liquor in the world isn’t enough after the first drink. My grandmother simply presumed that a wandering alcoholic with my father’s movie star good looks would probably have gotten himself hitched along the way. He quit drinking well before meeting my mother.

My mother told me she discreetly raised the issue with Dad, and ‘No, certainly not’ was his very emphatic answer. She would explain much later to Mr. Daigle that the second ring was a find, but both rings would be interred with my father.

The fate of the second ring is the fate of the first; no ‘Precious’ for me. Nor do I care. I seem to have inherited a Viking’s predilection for silver anyway.

For some, a gold ring is too heavy a burden to carry.

Dave Wylie’s life and work experience runs the gamut from newspaper editor to carpenter to grant writer to boat builder with lots of other work wedged in-between. Wylie currently is president of a management company that oversees an elderly housing complex and president of the local historical society. He resides in Madawaska.

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