KILLEN — Alex Purser stayed home from school because he wasn’t feeling well.
As the day went along, the Killen boy, 12, started feeling better and was getting antsy to do something, so his mother allowed him to go outside for a short time.
When he did, Alex noticed a silver-looking object. Curious, he checked it out and discovered it was a somewhat deflated balloon. Then he took a closer look.
“At first I thought it was just a regular old balloon, but then I saw the writing on it,” said Alex, who found the balloon on Feb. 9.
The inscription read “Bud & Naomi anniversary, 50 years, 1-26-13.”
It also included a phone number.
Alex showed his mother, Beth Purser, who was intrigued.
“I started telling him about how people write messages on balloons and set them free,” Purser said. “At first I thought it was a joke, but the phone number didn’t have a local area code. Alex was home sick and had cabin fever, so I wanted to do anything to keep him entertained.”
Purser called the number and Naomi Sparks answered and confirmed she and her husband, whose first name is Lynwood, were the names on the balloon.
“We called and talked for about 30 minutes,” Purser said. “She was full of information and wanting to know where we were from and how we found it. She said she knew I was from the South because she could tell from my accent.”
Naomi Sparks said they released balloons about a week after their 50th anniversary party, at the urging of her great-grandson, Emerson, 4.
“I had no idea that this would go from Farmington, Mo., to Alabama,” Sparks said. “I was ecstatic when they called. I was just happy to know this one got that far. That’s quite a distance. I couldn’t believe it.”
Naomi Sparks said she recognized the balloon from Purser’s description, because her great-grandson made a remark as it floated in the distance.
“When he let the balloons go, he said, ‘Oh, look at that one, it’s going way, way up in the sky,’ ” she said.
Since the initial conversation, the families have started sending photos of themselves and the balloon to each other. They believe this is the start of a friendship.
Alex said Naomi Sparks was pleasant.
“She was nice,” he said. “She didn’t think it would fly that far. She said the helium was already halfway out of it when they let it go. I thought it was pretty cool, all those miles from Missouri.”
Purser said she made an educational opportunity out of the event. She and her son researched Farmington and discovered the southeast Missouri city is more than 300 miles away. They talked about atmospheric factors such as the jet stream.
“The fact that it actually made it this far, didn’t get hung up on anything and didn’t deflate is amazing,” she said.
Jennifer Schuller, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Huntsville, said upper-level winds can carry balloons a long distance, but this is unusual.
“That’s really impressive for it to go that far,” Schuller said. “The winds must have been strong to carry it such a good distance.”
Bernie Delinski can be reached at 256-740-5739 or bernie.delinski@TimesDaily.com.