DREW Huskey was driving along a road in a snowstorm in Alberta, Canada last October with his wife and his in-laws, when Qian “Emily” Yang lost her diamond engagement ring.
They had been stuck for several hours behind a bus accident on Icefields Parkway near Jasper National Park. Yang got out of the car and mistakenly stepped into snow up to her waist. As she began to brush the snow off her clothes, her ring flew off.
“She was like, ‘My ring came off! It fell in the snow,’” recalled Huskey, 38, who works at a call center for Cabelas store and lives with his wife in Wildwood, Missouri, which is near St Louis.
Huskey, Yang and her parents stayed on the mountain for hours looking for the ring, but with no luck. Every time they made a dent in the snow using their hands or the car’s ice scraper, it quickly filled back up again with falling snow.
So they left, upset and frustrated. In addition to having great sentimental value, the ring cost about USD10,000, with a centre stone that was about three-quarter karat, and 72 smaller diamonds around it.
As they drove away from the mountain, Huskey’s mind began hatching a plan for a clandestine mission.
“From the minute we left, I knew I was coming back for it,” said Husky, adding that is why he took mental note of the exact spot she lost the ring (next to a speed limit sign) and its distance from a nearby trailhead marker.
But Husky wanted to surprise Yang, 27, an accountant and his wife of three years. Also, if it didn’t work out, he didn’t want to add to her disappointment. She was very attached to the ring, and the couple had mistakenly let their insurance rider on it lapse after a recent move.
Husky decided to return in June, once the snow thawed.
As the months passed, he went all in on his plan: He regularly checked the weather in Canada, he talked to friends about his mission, he bought a metal detector. He also came across a website for The Ring Finders, an international network of people for hire who use metal detectors to hunt for lost jewellery.
Through the site, Husky connected with Syd Kanten, who lived a couple hundred miles from where Yang lost the ring. After a bunch of back-and-forth emails asking for advice and talking baseball over several months, Kanten offered to meet Husky at the site of the lost ring, free of charge. He only asked Huskey pay for his gas for the 400 mile round trip.
“When he got a hold of me I said, ‘Well, gee whiz that sounds like an interesting story.’” Kanten, 64, said. “Once the snow melts, I’ll go out there.”
As June approached and the excitement mounted, Husky told his wife that he had to travel for work. He spent USD500 on plane ticket to Calgary and headed up to the mountain with plans to meet Kanten. He brought with him a gift, a jersey from Kanten’s favourite baseball player, Lou Brock, who had spent the majority of his career playing for the St Louis Cardinals. Husky also brought two of his old friends, who he was staying with for the night and who lived not far away.
When Husky and his friends arrived on June 1 at Parker’s Ridge trail head, Kanten was there as promised, and had brought along his son, Travis Kanten, 39. They all had metal detectors and got to work right away, painstakingly searching up and down the remote mountain in a line pattern. They tried to figure out how far the melting snow would have moved the ring. Hours passed.
Kanten, who lives in west central Alberta and works in his family’s feed store, said he gets about a call a month from someone who needs help with a lost cellphone or key or piece of jewelry. He likes to help people and only asks for gas money in return, but he says sometimes people will give him a fee if he finds their lost item.
He had told Huskey he was confident they’d find his wife’s ring. But after he arrived on the mountain, he wasn’t as sure. “I had second thoughts when I saw the ravens picking up things along the road,” Kanten said. “They’re attracted to shiny things.”
A couple hours in, Travis Kanten headed back to his car for new batteries for his metal detector and also for a cup of coffee. As he walked up to the road, Huskey saw him bend down and then say loudly: “Is this the ring we’re looking for?”
Huskey race over to see Kanten holding his wife’s engagement ring between his fingers. It was in the exact spot she’d lost it eight months earlier, sitting on top of the sand and gravel. It was almost as if it had been waiting for him.
Huskey screamed and jumped up and down. He yelped so much he became lightheaded in the thin mountain air and had to put his head between his knees.
His plan may have been crazy, but it worked.
“Drew totally lost all composure,” Syd Kanten said. “There were some people across the road. I said you better go over there and explain to them that somebody is not getting killed over here.”
Husky gave Kanten and his son several hundred dollars for their trouble. He said he wanted to give them more, but it was all he could afford. Kanten was grateful and put the money in the bank.
When Husky flew home the next day, he was exhausted. He told his wife he’d tell her all about his trip the following day. On June 3, they went out to dinner, and when they got back to their house he confessed what he’d been up to.
He gave her a letter describing the long and bizarre tale of how he recovered her ring. And he apologised for not being truthful about his trip back to the mountain.
He shot a video of the moment. She can be seen processing what he tells her. “No way,” she says as she reads his letter. “Did you find it? Oh you found it!”
Yang wails and hugs her husband. Husky, who was overwhelmed with excitement and relief his cockamamie plan somehow worked, laughs and hugs her back. The next day they got the ring re-sized.
Kanten said he was pleased he was part of Husky’s escapade, and also grateful his son, a schoolteacher, agreed to go along that day.
“It had a happy ending, that’s for sure,” Kanten said. – Photos and Text by The Washington Post