(CNN) - Thirty years ago, Joe Meyer lost his sheriff's deputy badge.
It was winter in Nisswa, Minnesota, and then-Deputy Meyer been called to help a vehicle that was stuck in a ditch off of a gravel road. When he returned to the station, he realized his badge had disappeared from his jacket.
He went back to the same place but couldn't find it, even after he'd waited for the snow to melt in the spring.
He'd only been at the sheriff's department for two years and the badge was his first with his name on it. It felt like a symbol that he'd finally made it in the department.
"When I lost that, it sucked pretty bad," Meyer said.
Fast forward to last Thursday, when Zeke Larson, 11, and his older brother Rex were riding their bikes on the same, now paved, road -- something they do often in the summer.
Zeke saw something shining in the dirt, enough that it caught his eye. He jumped off his bike and pulled it out, revealing a tarnished deputy sheriff's badge. It was a little rusty, of course, and all the gold had been scratched off, but he could still make out the name at the top: Joe Meyer.
Zeke told his dad, who told his neighbor, who informed Meyer. On Sunday evening, the badge was back with Meyer, now a captain at the department.
"It was a little bit emotional for me, just because of the significance of that badge, and to have it returned to me by two young boys meant a lot," Meyer said.
Meyer, 52, says he's reaching the end of his career now and looking ahead toward retirement. The fact that a hallmark of his early days found its way back to him felt meaningful.
"It's just remarkable that it was able to be returned to me at this time in my life," he said. "I never expected to see this thing again."
The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.