Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Bottle's journey: Mo. to Ky.

Western Kentucky Energy employees find boy's letter

By Lori Burling
The Associated Press

        Ten-year-old DeMarco Kemp had no idea where his Pepsi bottle — which held a letter — would end up after he threw it into a creek behind his house in Missouri. But a year later and nearly 240 miles to the east, DeMarco has two new pen pals in Kentucky.

        Dick Johnson and Brent Pulliam found DeMarco's Pepsi bottle in the Green River while working this summer at a plant for Western Kentucky Energy, which generates electricity, in Island, Ky.

        “We were standing at the front of the barge and Dick looked down and saw the bottle in with some sticks and trash,” said Mr. Pulliam, of Daviess County. “I didn't think much of it until Dick told me there was a note inside the bottle.”

        The note was from DeMarco, a fourth-grader at Pershing Accelerated Elementary School in University City, Mo.

        “In the book The Secret Three, a boy goes to the beach and drops a bottle with a letter in the ocean and two other boys find it,” DeMarco said on Tuesday. “So I put a note in a bottle and dropped it in the creek by my house.”

        The book — written by Mildred Myrick — was part of DeMarco's reading curriculum planned by his third-grade teacher.

        “I always use the book as a motivator because it's such a fun book,” Cathy Fleming, DeMarco's teacher, said. “It's all about secret messages and decoding them.”

        Ms. Fleming said DeMarco's experiment has become a classroom story, but it was solely his idea.

        “Nobody knew I did it. I kept it a secret,” said DeMarco, now a fourth-grader.

        About this time last year, DeMarco dropped the bottle in the creek, which fed into the River Des Peres. It traveled to the Mississippi River, through the Ohio River and into the Green River.

        “The bottle had to have washed up on a barge because it was traveling upstream, it was just amazing and unexpected ... it had been in the water for almost a year,” Mr. Pulliam said.

        Part of DeMarco's message said, “I decided to write this letter and see how far it would travel. If you find this letter please write me back.”

        Mr. Pulliam and Mr. Johnson, who both operate heavy equipment at the plant, began to search for DeMarco. It took several months, but with help from the communications department at the plant they were able to locate DeMarco.

        “I immediately got on the computer and started trying to find his school,” said Mr. Pulliam, who has four children. “I was excited and my kids were excited, too.”

        Ms. Fleming said Mr. Johnson, of Knottsville, and Mr. Pulliam have began corresponding with DeMarco and Western Kentucky Energy — a subsidiary of LG&E Energy Corp., in Louisville — sent a package to the school.

        “We got pencils, rulers, T-shirts, coloring books, computer mats, a money bank and a book about electricity,” DeMarco said.


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