Saturday, April 01, 2000

147 miles upriver, letter-in-bottle is found

Boy's message delights stranger

Enquirer Contributor

        UNION TOWNSHIP — When T.J. Hortsmann wrote a letter to “Dear Whomever” two years ago and put it in an empty 2-liter pop bottle to be thrown in the Ohio River, the third-grader thought that was the end of the class project.

        Until last week, that is, when the bottle was found — 147 miles upriver from Cincinnati.

        Lynn Towler, who lives just outside Ashland, Ky., found T.J.'s laminated letter one morning last week after she had fed some birds from the Ashland city boat ramp.

        “The first thing that caught my eye was that it was going the wrong way — upriver,” Mrs. Towler said. She pulled the bottle from the water after it got caught in the wake of a passing barge and was pushed to shore.

        “I just loved his letter. I framed it and put it on my wall at work,” she said.

        She called T.J.'s former teacher at Hopewell Elementary School, Anna Flaig. Mrs. Flaig had arranged the message-in-a-bottle project for her third-grade students, who had just finished reading More Stories Julian Tells, by Ann Cameron. In the story, a little boy writes a letter, puts it in a bottle and throws it in a river, wondering where it might go.

        “We don't know how it got upriver,” Mrs. Flaig said.

        “We didn't do the project last year but we're doing it again this year.”

        T.J. was surprised when Mrs. Flaig told him Mrs. Towler had found the note.

        “It feels kind of weird. I totally forgot about it,” said T.J., now 11 and in fifth grade.

        Mrs. Towler said she particularly liked T.J.'s introduction, as did her co-workers at the Ashland Area Board of Realtors: “I am 9 years old and a boy. What are you?”

        She plans to send T.J. a letter.

        “My only regret is I didn't get to see his face,” she said.


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