Last updated: May 03. 2014 3:47PM - 2193 Views
Dan Pennington Special to the Democrat



Bruce Davis, left, and Steve Gatlin are shown with Gatlin's high school ring that he lost in 1983 and was found by Davis.
Bruce Davis, left, and Steve Gatlin are shown with Gatlin's high school ring that he lost in 1983 and was found by Davis.
Story Tools:

Font Size:

Social Media:

It’s senior skip day in 1983 and several Durant High School boys are headed to “Lakeside” or “TKE Beach,” as it was called back then for a play day while skipping school and preparing for graduation.  


The boys swim and enjoy a rowdy spring day on Lake Texoma. Steve Gatlin is a typical student who has his new senior ring. He’s a proud senior ready for his big day. He’s prepared for graduation when he’ll enter the world as an adult, free from school restraints.



When he gets home, no ring is on his finger. He assumes it slipped off his finger as he swam. Disappointment sets in as this symbolic badge of honor is lost to him, he assumes forever.


Boaters, swimmers and fisherman continue to enjoy the lake and all it has to offer. Life goes on and this ring stays underwater as the world passes it by.


It’s now 2011, and metal-detecting enthusiast Bruce Davis decides to take advantage of low-water levels and go out to see what treasures he can locate. Davis, like many “Diggers” as they are referred to, likes to find things and return them to the original owners when possible. Many times there is nothing on the item to show who originally owned it or clues to how to find the owner. He canvases this area, which is usually under water, until he hears the distinctive sound made by his machine telling him a treasure is just a few inches underground.


He begins to dig and sees the shine of silver. He’s found another treasure. It’s a class ring from Durant High School inscribed with the year 1983. He puts it in his pocket and continues his treasure hunt. Most items are coins or jewelry with no chance at ever finding a rightful owner. He puts most of these items away as trophies of his metal-detecting hobby. When he gets home, he brushes off years of sand accumulation and further sees the name Steve Gatlin inscribed inside.


Here is a chance to return an item, to a nearly 50-year old man. Davis sets out on a journey to find the owner. He wonders if this man is alive, still in the Durant area and if it’s possible to even locate him nearly 30 years later. He makes many calls and his efforts to locate Gatlin fail at every turn. Davis has returned many items to people via mail and usually doesn’t get an acknowledgement or even a “thank you” card in return. This doesn’t discourage him though because his duty as a metal-detecting enthusiast, his mission, is to return what he can.
 He does not believe the saying, “finders keepers, losers weepers.” He knows this boy, now a man, would love to be reunited with his lost souvenir of his high school days. He puts this ring in his bag of found treasures and continues in his hobby of treasure hunting, hoping someday to find the owner.


Two years later, in 2013, he decides to post to a Facebook group, “Durant Diggers and History.” This is a group started as a metal-detecting group to share finds and for people to post photos of found treasure buried just inches underground. There aren’t many metal-detecting enthusiasts in the Southeastern Oklahoma area, so this group morphed into a history group to share historical photos and memories of the area. It’s a long shot but he’s still hopeful. His posting tells of a class ring he has and that he has been unable to locate the original owner.


The posting is seen by a member who joins in Davis’s cause of finding the ring’s owner. Many more calls over several months are placed by this Facebook group member. A search is made for everyone with the name Gatlin. Most people called do not know who he is and they are not related. Many calls just ring and no one is home. It does not seem this elusive owner of a class ring lost nearly 31 years ago will be found. It’s now 2014. One last call to a Gatlin residence that has not answered the phone in the past is finally answered. It’s the Mother of Steve Gatlin, and all facts seem to line up. The age and year of graduation is correct. She gives the caller his cell phone number and a call is made to Gatlin.


When Gatlin answers, he’s asked, “Is this Steve Gatlin, DHS 1983 graduate”? His response, “Uh, yes.” Further he’s questioned, “Did you lose a class ring years ago?”  Gatlin, without thinking, quickly answers “yes,” never dreaming his class ring is soon to be returned to him.


He then begins to think back on that day in 1983 and skipping school with his buddies. Then he wonders why he’s being questioned about his long-lost class ring. He’s told, “I have a metal-detecting friend who found one with your name on it.”
The owner of this ring has finally been found.


At that moment, Gatlin is an 18-year-old boy again with the prospect of having a “new” senior class ring. A meeting is planned with Bruce Davis, at the Durant Library. Davis and Gatlin meet and are united for a moment, by this high school class ring. In a moment anticipated by both for so long, Davis gives Gatlin the ring and both men smile because this piece of cast metal has so much meaning to them both.
  Gatlin puts the ring back on his finger and is surprised it’s a perfect fit after age and so many years have passed. The smile radiates from his face as he thanks Davis for returning it to him. Davis is ecstatic that his treasure is finally home, where it belongs, on Gatlin’s finger. Gatlin’s age now has him closer to another type of senior. With his high school senior ring now back on his finger, he will be showing this ring off, just as any high school senior would, for years to come.


 

Comments
comments powered by Disqus


Featured Businesses


Poll



Mortgage Minute