In February of this year, a news story about finding a message in a bottle in the Missouri River caught my eye.

“Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” – Norman Maclean, professor and author



In February of this year, a news story about finding a message in a bottle in the Missouri River caught my eye.

It was published in my hometown newspaper, the Mound City News, a northwest Missouri weekly. I saved it, figuring one day I would try to find out more about this intriguing story. This week, I finally did.

I spoke with Adam Johnson, publisher of the Mound City News, who related how the story touched a lot of folks in the area, bringing a small measure of joy to a county hit hard by the ravaging flood of the previous year. The message in the bottle made folks smile nearly two decades after it was written, and what happened as a result of finding it did, too.

The original news story, written by Lisa Yocum, explained how a man who was cleaning up debris along Weber’s Levee in Holt County, Mo., found a bottle with a message inside, written by two little girls who left their names and addresses on their note nearly 18 years ago.

As it turns out, the bottle traveled 250 miles before Levi Acton of Forest City, Mo., found it.

Local speculation is that the Missouri River flood of 2011 deposited the bottle with its message, still dry and safe inside, in a pile of mud and flood debris that eventually made its way to Weber’s Levee.

Perhaps, the bottle lodged in the river bottom for years before raging floodwaters carried it away. No one will ever know.

However, as Lisa Yocum concluded in her story: “How the floodwaters impacted its travels will remain a mystery, but one thing is sure – an 18-year-old message in a bottle found in the middle of flood-ravaged land in Holt County served to brighten spirits and rekindle the simplest of childlike ideals (such as putting a message in a bottle and hoping someone finds it).”

Read the delightful message below that was composed by two little girls many years ago on now brown and wrinkled paper but still intact. Can’t you just see those giggling little girls?

“Hi, my name is Kays. I’ve got lots of cats and one dog. If you find this note, put it back in the bottle and send it down the river. My pen is running out of ink.”

The little girl’s cousin, Becky, took over the task and included more information about their pets as well as their names and addresses.

We can only assume that Becky found another pen with sufficient ink left to finish the letter.

As cute as this is, it is not the end of the narrative. As Paul Harvey used to say, “Here is the rest of the story.”

Turns out over the years, Doyal Acton, Levi’s father, put a message in a bottle himself from time to time and sent it down river. Understandably, his son’s tale intrigued him.

According to Lisa Yocum, “Doyal then composed his own letter, added it to their letter, and then dropped them both into one of his own wine bottles, corked it, and placed it back in the Missouri River at Payne’s Landing.”

Further, Doyal decided to write to the girls at the address they included in their note and tell them his son found their bottle. Although, neither of the girls lived anymore at the address given on their note, Doyal’s letter somehow reached Becky’s mom at a different address, no doubt a blessing of living in a small town.

The Mound City News reported that Becky’s mom wrote Doyal the following letter that supplied more details of the mystery of the message in the bottle.

“Dear Doyal and son: You made my day with your letter! The girls put the bottle in the water while camping with their grandpa. They were west of Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River. As to when it was put in the water, I’m guessing Becky was probably around 6 or 7, she is now 25. The floods this summer must have helped it go through the dam and on down the river. They were camping on the Nebraska side of the river. I guess we’ll see if someone else finds it again! – Becky’s Mom

And thus as we speak, Becky and Kays’ original letter, now accompanied by a letter from Doyal, is making its way downstream in one of Doyal’s old wine bottles, somewhere in the Missouri River waiting to be found once more.

And as Norman Maclean once said so prophetically, eventually all things do indeed merge into one, and a river runs through it.