Kid author of notes in bottles identified

Published: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 30, 2003 at 11:03 p.m.
ALACHUA - A little girl named Mary Ann wanted to find something out in the early 1980s. If she put notes inside bottles, closed the bottles with aluminum caps and then let them float down river, would anyone find those notes? Would anyone write to them?
It took 22 years for Jesse Sledge to answer yes to both of those questions.
Sledge is the clammer who found a note in a bottle in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Suwannee River a week ago. After breaking the bottle to get the note out, Sledge and his friend Tommy Christian painstakingly deciphered the message on the faded paper. It asked that the finder contact Mary Ann McKnight on Arendell Way in Tallahassee.
Christian found one person by that name in Tallahassee, but she knew nothing about any bottles or notes. When a photo of the note was published in The Sun on Thursday, several readers were able to put the note together with former Gainesville resident Mary Ann McKnight Cantey. One of those readers was Cantey's father, Paul McKnight, a former administrator of North Florida Regional Medical Center.
"I knew right away that it was my youngest daughter," McKnight said. "We used to take all three of our kids to our cottage on the Santa Fe River right there by the Ichetucknee."
Cantey was about 12 when she let the note that Sledge found float away - an event she barely remembered until her father called her Thursday morning.
"I was really shocked to hear about it," Cantey said. "Right now I would probably think of doing something like that as littering, but we didn't think it was littering back then - we probably just wanted to see how far that it would go."
Cantey is still living in the house on Arendell Way where the family moved so her dad could accept a promotion when she was in the sixth grade. Cantey and her husband live there now because the McKnights retired to Alachua.
Sledge's initial reaction when he found the bottled note was that it probably had been a child's project.
"I'm glad that we found her because it completes the circle," Sledge said.
Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or voylesk@

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