Jeff Rhoads Sr. never attended Shell Point Elementary School.
And the 54-year-old Burton resident has always hated snakes.
So he's not exactly sure how he came to possess the school library's copy of "A Book of Snakes" by Dorothy Childs Hogner, copyright 1966.
But on Friday, he returned the library book to the school, exactly 39 years overdue.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"I love that book and hated to give it up," said Rhoads, who works the night shift at Walmart. "But the thing made me feel guilty every time I looked at it."
He walked into Shell Point Elementary with the book -- due date Feb. 25, 1972 -- and a note that explained what he knows of the book's history.
Rhoads, who moved to the Beaufort area with his family in 1962, doesn't remember checking out the book and neither does anyone in his family. His only affiliation with Shell Point, which opened in 1968, came when he was a senior at the old Battery Creek High School on Mink Point Boulevard and enrolled in a class that gave teenagers a chance to visit the elementary school to read and play games with the children.
However, Rhoads said he couldn't have checked out the book then: He didn't start the class until 1974, when the book already was two years overdue.
Nonetheless, "A Book of Snakes" has been a part of his life for decades, an oddity he couldn't seem to lose.
His mother used to keep it in a bookcase in the family's bathroom. He took it with him when he moved to his own place, occasionally displaying it on his coffee table.
Rhoads recalls reading the book with children in his neighborhood.
"They always wanted to see the book about snakes," he said. "Then they'd go outside and look for them. They loved that book."
Rhoads rediscovered the book while spring cleaning last week and considered donating it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army for other kids to enjoy. Then, he noticed a card indicating the book belonged to Shell Point and promised to return it to its rightful owner.
"I woke up this morning knowing this was something I had to do," reads his handwritten note to the school. "I don't know how I acquired it, but I know where it belongs."
The school library staff was shocked Rhoads had held on to the book for so long, said media assistant Jennifer Slade. She said his effort will show students, who occasionally lose library books, it is never too late to return something to its owner.
"Anytime you find a book, bring it to school and we'll get it back where it belongs," she said.