By , September 18, 2016

One of our chief pleasures of living on the ocean’s edge comes from beach combing. Over the years, we’ve received and appreciated myriad gifts thrown up by the tide. See, for example, The Homestead Acquires a Rubber Ducky, and especially Winter Beach Combing—take a look at the photo in this post, particularly, because it bears directly on today’s essay.

Most of the items we glean from the tideline bear their own mystery. How, we often ask ourselves, did this thing get here? Recently, that question has earned new urgency, because we have a repeater.

In the photo of the second post, you’ll see a red playground ball, a Gator Skin® Special-6.5(!). After we found it and took the photo, the ball ended up where all of our balls seem to gather, under the cabin. We didn’t have a lot of use for a small playground ball here on the homestead, so it languished under the house until Lettie’s last visit (see Dog on the Homestead).

Lettie loves to play fetch! On her first visit she wore out the sole tennis ball currently on the homestead. On the next visit, we rediscovered the playground ball, which we kicked repeatedly for her to chase. She loved grabbing it and bringing it back, even tossing it herself when she felt the situation merited a certain emphasis. By the end of her stay, the thing had lost some of its enthusiasm, as her teeth had punctured it fairly well.

Last Saturday, on the sunny day off the girls enjoyed (see Triage) we wandered our beach together, and, to our surprise, found a ball washed up by the tide. Another Gator Skin® Special-6.5. And, like the first one, it was red.

After our initial joy at finding a new toy for Lettie, who has returned to us this week for another stay, we began to realize the oddity here, of receiving another ball identical in every feature to the first one!

The Gator-Skin 6.5. Accept no substitutes, particularly when delivered free by the tide (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

The Gator-Skin Special-6.5. Accept no substitutes, particularly when delivered free by the tide! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger.)

Now, we’re stumped, and—well, mystified. They must have come from the same place. But where, exactly?

I have a theory: I think these balls may both have come from Harborview Elementary in Juneau. As its name suggests, Harborview lies across the highway from one of Juneau’s two downtown harbors. Its fenced playground borders Egan Drive. I think it possible that these balls might have escaped the playground, rolled across traffic to eventually fall into the harbor, where they then rode the currents here.

This is not at all impossible. I forget now, exactly how long it took for victims’ bodies from the ill-fated Princess Sophia to drift to Haines in 1918 (see Perhaps An Angel Flies Over These Waters) but I remember being appalled at the short time they took to do so. We have found several crab traps with Juneau addresses on the buoys. It would make sense that other flotsam came from Juneau, some 85 miles south.

The balls might also have come from Skagway. I don’t know where their school is located, or if it’s near the water, but that’s entirely possible.

We may never know the whole story. Like most of what we glean from the sea, these balls will likely keep their secrets forever.

Lettie doesn’t care, though. Lettie says, “Play ball!”

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