Deb's Big Backyard

  Deb's Big Backyard

The Bauble that Bubbled Up


by Deb Quantock McCarey


The strangest stuff can turn up in your backyard after you have been digging around in it, especially after a storm.


From the mud can bubble up small “archeological” finds.  At least that is what happened to us when we were recently out gardening.  It was strange and unusual, and in the end, almost magical.


Well, come on...let's dig in to learn where, how and  why.


On the Saturday after the latest big rain event in the Oak Park area, my spouse Kevin was with me in our backyard spilling out bags and bags of compost and soil into a series of grow bags and a new raised garden bed because this year we are getting rid of more grass and replacing it with a larger, edible garden.


Anyway, when all the soil was in that container, a couple of feet from it he saw something round and shiny sitting in the grass.  It was a men's 1970 Baylor University Class ring, to be exact.  With the gold and a smallish diamond setting still gleaming and intact.  Inside the circle of it was engraved the initials, SCS.


He mumbled out  “why is my class ring out in the yard,” …and then he picked it up, and sure enough it wasn’t his.   


Our imaginations ran wild.  Whose ring was it?  How in the hell did it get here, and most importantly:  was this the opening of a CSI episode…or was Rod Serling waiting in the wings to talk about how we had entered the Twilight Zone?  You know, the one about a greedy guy who puts on a pair of dead guys shoes.


I kept gardening, while Kevin carried the ring inside.  Later I found out that he was trolling the internet to see if there was a lost and found class ring site.


Sooner than later, he bagged that idea.  They wanted too much personal information from someone who was just trying to do something good.


After that, the ring sat next to a circa 70s Nestle’s crunch bar (in its original wrapper) my youngest son had found somewhere last year.




A couple of days later, as Kevin perused a Wednesday Journal news update, he spotted a report on a robbery that took place on the 600 block of South Lyman involving 2 con men and a 65 year old man.  It was five blocks north from where we have lived for the last 28 years


He was positive that this was this guy‘s ring, which was a much better end-story than us finding the ring because the poor schmuck who had lost it had found his way into a compost pile, and didn’t make it out.


Yes, that was one of my theories.  AND yes, I do watch way too much TV.  Crime Shows, to be exact. CSI. Bones. Reruns of Monk, and  of course Castle, the  one where a "cuddly" rich mystery  writer, who is also a conscientious Dad, teams up with a gorgeous, and extremely smart, female detective to solve murders in New York City.


Yeah, I really like that one.  Ask Kevin.


Jumping back into reality now, down the street in Oak Park, the robbery included $15,000 of jewels, rings and credit cards.


That got him thinking, because the man’s age was in line with someone who would have graduated from college in 1970. 


Kev later explained to me that he “thought since they were on Lyman, the thieves probably continued down our alley and when they figured the class ring was worthless, they tossed it out the window, over the garage and into our back yard,” he recalls.  “So thinking I had evidence from the crime, I called the police.”


Five minutes later, Officer John Duggan from the Oak Park Police Department arrived.  After a quick debriefing, I handed over the ring to him, with my spouse absolutely sure the mystery was solved. 


Within ten minutes, though, Officer Duggan informed me that the ring was not part of that investigation.


At this point, I was really annoyed with Kevin for so easily letting go of the ring.


So, I told the officer that I wanted it back so we could find its owner.  He told me that that wasn’t possible, even though the ring was not part of a crime.  It now was police property, and if it was not claimed, he speculated  that “SCS’s” ring would probably be sold at a future police auction or melted down.


Here  are the mug shots of the ring  taken while it was in police custody.







What?  That was unacceptable, and somehow I did convince him that he should do the investigatory work, that now that I didn’t have the ring, I couldn’t. 


It wasn’t hard to get him to buy in.  He, like me, wanted to know the end of this story.  That’s when we became a so-called “do-gooding” team, and the universe put things in place one after the other after that.


When I continued to convey my dismay of not being able to return the ring to its rightful owner, on his own time, Officer Duggan made a few calls for me.


The first one was to Baylor University where he discovered the ring’s owner was Stephen C. Skidmore, 64.  The last known address was in St. Charles, but with further investigation, he found an e-mail and phone number of a man with that name who was living in Oregon.



photo courtesy of Stephen C. SKidmore


Officer Duggan also discovered that indeed, it was this man’s class ring, and that he and his young family had lived in our house between 1978 and 1981.


Furthermore, at the time Skidmore was a librarian at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and he had developed the habit of removing his class ring when he washed his hands.  So, he thought he had lost it at work.


In retrospect, and upon learning where it was found, now Skidmore, a Library Director in Florence, Oregon, knows otherwise and he is tickled pink, so to speak.


After a bit of nostalgic tongue wagging, talking about our house, and his former abode, which BTW, he still has fond memories of, he said that the only thing he could surmise is that while he was planting some berry bushes,  along the fence, he put the ring on one of the posts, it fell, and he forgot he had ever had it on.  


So, without a doubt, this time it’s true: you don't have to look further than your own backyard to make someone else happy.  Especially when it comes to a treasured keepsake that went underground for 30 years until it was time for a new homeowner to smell some roses.


Well, about 21 years ago I actually  lost a very  cool looking dangle earring back there.  It looked sort of like a cat on a string.  Since then, it's probably been down there with the worms.




Damn.  About a year ago, I finally threw its partner away. Now, I know it will show up.  Cat’s always come back, don’t they? 

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