The power of a note in a bottle

Some years ago — at my pre-MPR job — I met an inspiring fourth-grade teacher, who helped kids understand the geography of the world by having her students write notes and put them in a bottle. She took them to Cape Cod (she was in the land-locked Berkshires) and tossed them in.

In Galicia, Spain, a young man found a bottle in the note inside, and the teacher and the boy who wrote the note became local celebrities, and were flown to Spain. We reciprocated by raising the money to fly the boy in Spain, his family and a newspaper reporter to our neck of the woods.

That’s the kind of education you can’t get studying for a standardized test, which is why I’ve been interested since in the power of the note in the bottle.

Today, the Duluth News Tribune reports Ruben Barrera of San Antonio, who was four years old when he tossed a note in a bottle while visiting his great grandmother, has, too, made contact with the exotic, faraway land of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Hey, give the kid a break! He only had Lake Superior to work with.

It took 10 years for someone to find the bottle.

“We watched it go out until we could no longer see it,” (great grandmother Kathy) Bennett said. “The wind happened to not be off the lake that day. It was blowing the other way. Usually the waves are coming in, but for some reason it worked.

“We normally don’t throw things in the lake, I explained to him, but this is kind of a special thing because maybe someone will find your name on it.”

Bennett and Ruben pondered the fate of their message in a bottle many times during the years immediately following their light-hearted venture, but as time passed, she eventually gave up hope that it would be found.

“Over the years he’d ask, ‘Did someone ever find that bottle?’ I’d say, ‘No. It probably washed up as beach glass.’ “

There wasn’t much left of the note when LuAnn Hayrynen found it on her property. Just the phone number was visible.

Related: Message in a bottle: 10 famous floating note discoveries