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Gold Rings

Timothy C. Furgeson
(St. Croix, USVI, 1995)

Ring One

Jahbo , Julio and I packed up and headed out. We were going to survey a thirty acre or so plot, part of which was a long since abandoned hotel and golf course, and the remainder of which was cow pastures and untouched woods, I would say approaching "jungle." I recall an odd feeling that morning, partially because of the gray sky weather -- very unusual for the Caribbean -- but mostly it just felt funny.

           I recall some miscellaneous comment about "Yeah, it's an eerie feeling this morning" (the West Indians are more superstitious than even, say, people from Georgia) being mentioned when we first got there. It's a curious memory to identify that feeling given the events, which panned out that morning.

           When surveying land, the procedure is such that a path of measured points is established, then secondary measurements are taken from the baseline points. This time, we started at the ruined hotel, worked through the cow pastures, went around the property through an adjacent neighborhood, and swooped a crescent-shaped line through the golf course, all before tackling the woods. We were measuring topography, mostly concerned with water flow paths, the trees and structures were secondary. The wooded area was perhaps fifteen acres, and while some of it was fairly light grassland, the balance was truly dense. I've been through the rain forest and many gullies -- "guts" they call them (where the land is unusable and therefore never cleared), and this was the most dense growth I was in in my entire Caribbean experience; some of the time we were simply on top of vegetation, sometimes crawling on it, under and through where we could. The striking thing about this sort of flora is how dark it is when you're in there -- very much like going into a building, a separate environment. A machete is the constant companion for this aspect of the job, both to help get from one place to another, and to clear lines of sight between survey points.

           After an hour or so of this level of travail, Jahbo called on the radio: "Tim, we fin' a dead deer up here."

           They were maybe seventy feet in front of me -- which is a long way in the undergrowth, and more out of curiosity than anything, I went ahead to see what was going on. When I got there, just off from where we were going to establish another point, there was a young doe, quite freshly dead, still supple and healthy looking, no sign of injury; she looked peaceful, and was lying as if asleep, except for her outstretched head, as if she gasped her last breath, reaching out, and then expired.

           So, stack that on top of the already decided on weirdness of the day, and the darkness of the jungle (this area I would call jungle), and my guys were fairly spooked. After checking out the scene, and taking a break with the deer, I decided our next survey point would be just some feet from there, and began clearing the area. The survey points are steel spikes with a yellow plastic cap identifying them as "survey point" as opposed to "boundary marker."

           In order to set them properly, the vegetation has to be cleared to the ground then a circle cleared in the dirt where the point is to be set. I was doing this clearing, Julio was scouting a little ahead, and Jahbo was beginning to clear the next line of sight when, boink, this ring fell from the surrounding plants right into the circle of dirt I was working on. It is a signet-type ring, nothing fancy, though a definite Afro-West Indian style, no insignia or other marks, though graceful enough for what it is.

           I said something like "Hey, I found a ring!" and the guys were kind of "oh, yeah, right," until I showed it to them, then this pleasant phenomenon occurred -- a sudden change in the way we looked at the day -- and we were all full of energy and joking, finishing our day with that one intense quality which is more play than work. We talked about, and I've often (still) thought, how'd it get there?

           After all, this was one place that, by all appearances, no one ever came before and we were well far enough into the trees that it couldn't have been thrown there. It's a mystery, and even more astounding to me is the notion of finding it at all, regardless of how it came to be there in the first place. Casually comparing it to similar items in a jewelry store, it's a twenty to thirty dollar ring, again, nothing special.

           After getting back to the office, and telling our story to the boss, I was branded the White Man Who Found the Gold Ring by the crew, and this reputation followed me around from then on -- especially after finding the second one.

           I had, several times, strangers come up to me, while I might be in the store, walking down the street, or ordering concrete block at the concrete block plane, and ask to see the ring, talk about it, that sort of thing.

Ring Two

Maybe five months later, we were headed for a hurricane destroyed house on a lot being considered for purchase. Our job was to map the road leading to the house, as well as measure the boundary, the house, and other structures on the property. I had been training Jahbo to run the electronic distance measurement machine, which he never really got the hang of.

           This time I was in the lead, which I preferred because I'd be better able to make decisions and figure out which way to go, etcetera instead of walking back and for the from the lead to the machine. Julio was off that day and Jahbo's cousin Popo was filling in.

           I met several people with similar sounding names, which I'll spell phonetically: po-po, boh-po, bah-po, and, of course, bo-bo. One might think these names are interchangeab, not so, however; any number of times I had these guys carefully look me in the eye and correct me such that I could simply never make this gross mistake again. After all, these were their names.

           So, we were maybe halfway up the road to the house -- the road being a well-overgrown dirt road with sapling trees, now growing where cars used to drive -- and I came to a sunny patch, trying to find a spot where I could see back to the previous point and, oops!

           A little glint in the dirt caught the sun just so, an unmistakably gold sparkle in the road; I walked to it, poked at it with my machete, and when I saw the little round profile of , yes! a ring. I picked it up on the tip of my machete.

           Popo said: "Thaas GOOLD!"

           Jahbo was perhaps a hundred yards away, looking through the scope of the measurement machine, and when I realized the event of picking this gold up into the sunlight, I looked to see if he saw, as he was witness to the first finding as well. I knew I had something when his head popped out from behind the gun, he, like me, smiled and came running up to see.

           This one was a real find -- a custom nugget style twenty-four carat gold ring with a third carat diamond in the middle. I've had it appraised at approximately thirty-five-hundred dollars. This, in a place where there are no import duties to consider. Feeling shy about keeping this little treasure, I looked into the rental history of the destroyed house to see if I could trace the owner. The land had been sold four times since Hurricane Hugo in 1989, and the owner at the time of destruction had since died, so, hey, at that point I decided, It's mine.

           I'll repeat the fact that I achieved some little celebrity due to this double discovery; the West Indians have a special honor (for lack of a better term) about gold, valuing it as a sort of luck charm as much as the shiny value of it. I had a couple of things like the gangsta boys call to me "hey, I'm going to come get that ring from you" and a drug dealer who kept offering to buy the first one, for awhile. After the second, I'd say, "no, I want to keep it." The dealer'd sit there in a pout, then he'd up his offer, I'd say no, and he would come around the next week to see if I had changed my mind.

           I wear the two of them regularly, mainly because of the romantic notion involved, though the second one is quite gaudy, thereby sometimes too much for some situations. I think, Hey, I found these things while off in the Caribbean, how could it happen that I went to the Caribbean for an adventure, had it, and came away with two gold rings?

           Then there's the idea that whoever had them before, lost them because they weren't wearing them. Anyway, I'm not a jewelry guy, but I do have two nice rings with nice stories behind them.

About the Author (click here) © 2004 Timothy C. Furgeson, all rights reserved
 appears here by permission

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