Billie C. Pinckney was a senior at Grimsley High in 1971 when she took off her class ring in the school restroom and placed it aside so she could wash her hands.
That was the last time she saw it.
“My mother, I thought, was going to kill me,” Pinckney said. “She made me promise that I would not lose the ring and I would not give it away to anybody and that I would keep it forever and ever.”
When she went to school the next day, the ring was gone. Whoever found the ring did not turn it in.
Pinckney figured she would never see it again.
Flash forward nearly 50 years and 50 miles to the south on an old farm in Moore County.
Craig Rogers was walking around the farm with his Mind Lab Equinox 800 metal detector looking for buried objects. Metal detecting is a hobby for the retired staff sergeant who lives in Carthage. He goes out hunting for a couple of hours two or three times a week.
It was a hot afternoon Aug. 21, and he was about to call it a day when his detector went off near a tree. He figured it was just another bullet shell, which he often finds on the site. He pulled the object from the ground.
“When I first dug it up, I thought it was just a button,” said Rogers, who has found antique coins and even a Revolutionary War-era boot spur.
After cleaning it off, he discovered that it was a class ring.
“Once I realized it was a ring, I couldn’t figure out how it got there unless some hunter may have dropped it,” Rogers said.
The ring was engraved with Grimsley High School 1971 and the initials BCP: Billie C. Pinckney.
At this point, some people would have just pawned a 10-karat gold ring.
But Rogers is not one of those people.
“Sometimes the hunt is just as fun as the prizes,” he said. “Making someone’s day by returning a piece of family history or personal treasure is a prize for me.”
Connecting the ring to its owner proved more difficult than finding it.
“It was from Grimsley. That was the easy part,” Rogers said.
He eventually connected with someone through Grimsley’s alumni association website and was able to track down Pinckney, who now lives in a suburb of Atlanta. It helped that there was only one BCP in Grimsley’s Class of 1971.
Pinckney was beside herself when she heard the news.
“I cannot express how thrilled I was and how utterly happy I am to get it back,” she said.
When Pinckney spoke to Rogers by phone, she offered for him to keep the ring.
“I told him how amazing it was that he had found the ring and how doubly amazing it was that he wanted to return the ring to me,” Pinckney said.
Her son, Wesley Pinckney, who lives in Kernersville, was skeptical. He arranged to meet Rogers in Asheboro to get the ring.
“I was like, ‘Is this a scam or what?’ I had my doubts. I never heard the story that she even lost her class ring,” he said.
Doubts dissolved when he met Rogers.
“He handed it over to me. It was a nice gesture,” Wesley Pinckney said. “I was very emotional.”
What are the odds that Pinckney’s ring would ever be found after being buried for years on an obscure farm in Moore County?
“It’s a miracle that a man could find it 5 or 6 inches under the dirt,” Billie Pinckney said.
“The whole thing is a miracle that the land hadn’t been developed, that the man found it, that my initials are the only ones in the year of ’71, that I’m getting the ring back after 50 years,” she said.
Pinckney said she hopes to get the ring resized so she can wear it to a class reunion one day.
But Pinckney will have to wait a little longer to be reunited with her ring. Rather than have the ring mailed, she has asked her son to hold onto it until he visits her in December or January.
“I’ve had things mailed to me that were stolen,” she said. And then adds wryly, “I wouldn’t want Craig to have to find the ring for me again.”