I think Gollum ended up with the cooler ring.
Leech brook is, for those of us in central Newfoundland, the best place in the world to play during the summer. There is water to swim in; cliffs to jump off, rocks to slide down, water falls to play under, and caves to dare. (Just be sure to care for your lips while doing so.) To us who grew up in its waters, there are very few places elsewhere like it.
It is a place of fun, relaxation, excitement, adventure and occasional nudity. But, there are times when it can be a place of danger, a place of pain, a place of bloodshed and a place of heartbreak. Still we swim there and hope we always will.
Heartbreak took place in this Brook during the summer of 1985 for one recent high school graduate from Botwood named Dave, but let’s begin this story of loss 19 years later.
The summer of 2004 I was lucky to swim in Leech Brook again. Working away for a number of years meant that I had to settle for sharing a pond, said to have three arms, with eels, or swimming in an outdoor pool with 70 youngsters, hoping none of them pee’d, during our brief weeks of summer. Even though on a hot summer day it was refreshing it wasn’t the same as immersing one’s self into the reinvigorating waters of Leech Brook and swimming with the trout.
I spent a lot of that summer swimming in what is known as the Landing. The first swimming hole you encounter when you walk in the trail. It was a hot summer and I was anxious to swim. After a number of laps (or more correctly, lap) I would make my way upstream to where several huge boulders blocked the brook forcing the water to pour over it creating a Jacuzzi effect: nature’s hot tub. I would relax, sitting in the bubbling water up to my neck, warmed by the sun and cooled by the water; breathing deep, it was impossible not to smile. Until, one day, after weeks of sunshine the water level had dropped so that when I sat in my usual spot there was very little water covering me. Heartbreak.
Nineteen years earlier, Dave had just graduated Grade 12 from F.G. Bursey Memorial Collegiate, and he told his Mom he was going swimming at Leech Brook. His mother felt uneasy about him going swimming that day and suggested a compromise that would ease her concerns, but he, now being a high school graduate thought he knew better then his mom and refused to heed the warning she gave him. He ended up swimming at Second Falls, a ten minute walk further upstream from the Landing, through the woods and over the hills. After an afternoon of fun in the water, Dave found himself on top of one of the thirty foot cliffs preparing to jump into the water below. His feet left the rock and he launched himself into the embrace of gravity.
I was unaware of this tale of tragedy as I tried to submerge myself at the Landing 19 years later. My mind was on how I can get more water where I was sitting. I knew I couldn’t raise the water, but I could move some of the rocks on the bottom and make it deeper. I could sink into the hole and cool off. So with my goggles on and lungs full of air I began engineering a place to relaxation, moving some of the rocks the sizes of bread loaves.
Nineteen years earlier, as Dave hit the water at Second Falls he had no idea that this jump would haunt him for two decades. When he hit the water, he felt the school ring that he picked up earlier that very day slip from his finger. His brand new four hundred dollar school ring. The brand new four hundred dollar school ring, his mother, fearing that he would lose swimming, had warned him not to wear while leaving home earlier that day. The brand new four hundred dollar school ring was gone, lost from his finger, and no amount of searching could find it.
Two hundred and twenty nine months later, at the Landing, beneath three feet of water, I scooped a handful of gravel and a glint of sunlight off a gem caught my eye. I surfaced holding a ring in my hand. My first thoughts was to slip it on and see if I would turn invisible. I know it was a silly thing to think. After all, how could I actually see if I was invisible if I did turn invisible? I didn’t vanish. I slipped the ring off my finger and learned it was a school ring for the class of 1985 and the name on the ring was David.
A year later we tracked down the David that lost the ring and learned the story of how he had lost it twenty years before. I wasn’t there when he got the ring back but I heard that when Dave held his ring in his hand, and slide it back on his finger a fifth of a century after last wearing it, he cried.
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