Lawrence Webb has found messages in bottles before. Usually they’re from not too long ago, or not too far away, a child’s memento dropped in the water during a weekend trip to Bolivar Peninsula.
The bottle Webb found two weeks ago was different. It was more like a time capsule from a different world.
Two weeks ago, Webb and his wife, Tammy, were driving on the beach to the post office, when he noticed a glass bottle — a returnable Coca-Cola bottle, like the kind you saw in the 1970s — sitting in a pile of sargassum seaweed.
An avid collector of beach junk, Webb, a retired locomotive engineer, stopped and tossed the bottle in his back seat.
“My wife, she likes to collect shark teeth,” he said. “If I see a bottle, I’m going to pick it up.”
It wasn’t until a few days later that Webb actually retrieved the bottle and looked at what was inside. The message was written on a Strutters Fried Chicken napkin.
It read, in part, “We are stranded on a sand bar. We are running out of food. Please send us beer and reefer. We are desperate.” It included names of the hungry, and apparently sober, people who were looking for some help.
The bottle came from “Dunes Falls,” and was sent March 13, 1977, according to the note.
While no Dunes Falls could be found, Dunn’s Falls is a park on the Chunky River just south of Meridian, Mississippi.
The message inspired Webb to try to find its authors. He tracked down a Facebook page in Meridian, and thinks that he may have found two of them.
“Their daughter in Mississippi said that two of the people were her mom and dad,” he said. “This was a pretty popular spot back in the day.”
For the bottle to eventually make it to Crystal Beach, it had to have taken a 40-year winding cruise through the South and into the Gulf of Mexico.
Presumably the bottle went down the Chunky River, then down the Chickasawhay River and then down the Pascagoula River, before floating into the Gulf. It didn’t sink through hurricanes and tropical storms, and drifted, for 42 years, to the end of O’Neil Road, where the Webbs found it.
“It has so much history to it,” Webb said. “Where has it been, that’s the main question. All the storms. It’s been through Ike, it’s been through Katrina, all the major storms.”
Lawrence Webb is a romantic about the peninsula. He calls it paradise, and some recent news about wild beach parties and bad behavior by visitors don’t give the right impression of the place he loves, he said.
The bottle, he said, was an example of the type of treasure anyone can find in the place he calls home.
“You never know what you’ll find on the beach,” he said.