Somewhere out there – lost, maybe found, but surely far from home – is a beloved stuffed animal by the name of Joel.
When the little tiger was last seen, he was carefully packed inside a small, wooden trunk with a metal latch and handles on each side. The trunk was in the back of a truck bound for Colorado so Joel could be reunited with the person who loved him, 18-year-old Morgan Coughlin.
“Morgan had decided to move back to where we are from in Colorado, where my older son and extended family live,” said Morgan’s mom, Jeanne Coughlin, who lives on a farm in Camden. “She had been feeling very homesick so I wanted to send her some of her things from home.”
On Feb. 17, a family friend who was headed out west, put Morgan’s things in the back of his truck. But somewhere on I-20, unbeknownst to the driver and perhaps near the Fairfield Road and Highway 321 exit, most of those things flew out of the truck bed.
Including Joel, inside the small trunk.
Enter Snuffy Sharpe, who lives near Blythewood and owns a trucking company. “When I don’t have a driver,” he said, “sometimes I need to fill in. I do what I have to do…We see all kinds of stuff going down the road. Toolboxes. Tools. Lots of stuff flies out of boats. A bush hog. Bungee cords. Good tires. We call ’em treasures. ”
And on that cold February day, as Sharpe was pulling off I-20 at the Fairfield Road exit, the “treasure” was a brown, woven basket. “It was sitting right on the edge of the ramp. I didn’t have any idea what was in it.”
Sharpe found a receipt inside the basket with Jeanne Coughlin’s name and telephone number on it. So he called.
“I would hope somebody would do the same for me. I try to do what’s right. ”
“He’s a great guy,” Coughlin said.
So, with one wicker basket recovered from the side of the highway, the search continues for the rest of the treasures that blew out of the truck bed that day.
Coughlin said there were “four containers, two plastic totes with tops and two trunks. One of the plastic totes made it; one trunk was a new wicker type with a hinged top and latch (this is the one Snuffy found) … There were many small things of my daughter’s memorabilia along with art supplies like paints, brushes and sketchbooks. I put in knick-knacks and pictures from her dresser. There were clothes that I had bought her and boots she had left behind.”
And, there was Joel.
“We visited a zoo in France, and that’s where Morgan picked the tiger and named it after my husband’s brother, Joel. She carried that tiger around for years. He went everywhere. I put Joel in the small trunk so that he would pop up when it was opened.”
Oh dear. Dear, dear, dear.
Does anyone know where Joel is? If so, please email Coughlin at email@example.com because that little stuffed treasure sure can’t say so, but he belongs in Colorado.
Know of a story that needs to be told? Email Salley@hartcom.net.