While browsing through some newspapers last week I happened upon a story about wild asparagus that grows in roadside ditches in north central Nebraska. Just so happens it grows in Iowa too.
The story said asparagus fans were scanning the ditches for the "springtime delicacy." It reminded me of a story. Several years ago, back when I was in high school, my mom and I decided to take a bike ride, something we loved doing together. Normally we just were out enjoying the nice weather rather than getting much exercise so we'd ride along slowly down the middle of the country road near where we lived. I didn't have a job at the time so I made a little cash picking up pop cans and getting the deposits for them. Sometimes I'd make several dollars doing it. So I had my plastic bag with cans and jumped off my bike when I found another can. However, underneath the dirty can was a worn looking $20 bill. I was rich! However, my heart sank when just a few feet away I noticed a man's wallet on the road too. I knew I'd have to return the wallet and figured the $20 probably belonged to it. We opened the wallet, it had at least a couple hundred dollars in it, it was obvious it had seen its share of outdoor elements. It belonged to a man who lived in Kansas.
Our thoughts began racing. What was a guy from Kansas doing on a rural Iowa gravel road and how did he lose his wallet? Did it somehow fall out of his car? We began thinking maybe there was a dead body somewhere. This all happened about the same time someone had been stabbed, a truck had been stolen and several churches had been burned down as a result of arson. There was some reward money being offered for those who had any information about the crimes. Maybe this guy had something to do with it?
We sped home on our bikes. Mom called the sheriff's office to turn the wallet in. A sheriff's deputy came over and told us he'd let us know what happened and would let us know if the wallet's owner was "missing." As he drove away we noticed he stopped in the location we had told him we'd found it, maybe he was looking for more clues. Several weeks went by and we heard nothing. Then one day we got a call.
The deputy told us he had returned the wallet to the owner and the owner was planning to give us a call because he was very grateful. The deputy told us the man had lost the wallet asparagus hunting... my mom just rolled her eyes. And you believed him? She thought.
It was August, wild asparagus doesn't grow in the ditches in August. A couple weeks went by and we were so disappointed but we weren't sure we had the whole story. Then one evening we got a call from the guy in Kansas. He had tried to call us earlier but we weren't home, in the meantime he had lost our phone number and had to wait until he got his phone bill. He told us the same thing. He was visiting a friend and must have lost his wallet when he was hunting for wild asparagus. We decided to play along. How long ago did you lose the wallet? we asked. One week? Two weeks?
Over a year ago, he said. He never thought he'd see it again. Apparently a road grader must have turned it over and it had finally resurfaced. The guy later sent us a card and some reward money and even stopped by for a visit. So much for my exciting crime story.
* Jennifer Nelson in a Pilot-Tribune news staff member.