Off In Search Of Overlooked Wealth
I discovered after several visits to Ridgewood that Lenny didn’t care for “Len” as a nickname, although his dad called him it all the time. I also learned that several pretty girls found his full, dark brown hair and light brown eyes “dreamy looking” even though he suffered from asthma. But even on those occasions when Lenny lost his tiny aerosol cans and his respiratory disorder became almost critical, he always made it through his adventures.
Lenny seemed like an only child, but he had an older sister and brother. Susan and Clay Stevens were born 10 and 7 years earlier, respectively, and had moved away. Susan, who had been high school class president four years and class valedictorian, was an elementary schoolteacher in Pittsburgh. Clay had been a high school champion football quarterback, a high scoring basketball shooting guard, and an ace baseball pitcher, and was now in the Army, drafted during the Vietnam War and already decorated with a Purple Heart for wounds received in action against the enemy and for meritorious performance of duty. And he was still fighting there.
As for Lenny and me, it wasn’t long after our visit to the police station that I met him at his favorite fishing hole after school. I was late because of my paper route and a mandatory supper with my family, so I left behind my pole and hurried to catch up to him. He had just wrapped some fish in newspaper when I spotted an interesting news article on the page wrapped around a fish he handed to me.
PARENTS OF KIDNAPPED GIRL RECEIVE RANSOM NOTE
By LEE WESTFIELD, New Cambridge Times reporter
New Cambridge Police Chief Sanford Owens has reported to this newspaper that the parents of 16-year-old Laurie Burnett received a ransom note earlier this week asking for $500,000 in exchange for the girl’s safe return.
The girl has been missing since Monday night when she was last seen at a soccer game at New Cambridge High School located on East Hickory Street. Her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Timothy Burnett, became concerned when she did not return home after the game. The New Cambridge Police Department was notified and an investigation followed. No leads have been found.
Chief Owens said he and FBI Director James McNabb have advised the family to cooperate with the kidnappers and to do everything possible for the girl’s safety, including payment of the ransom.
Miss Burnett was the 1970 winner of the Miss New Cambridge Junior Beauty Pageant.
The police and FBI are continuing the investigation into the kidnapping.
“Wow,” I said, “wouldn’t it be cool if one of us found the kidnappers’ lair and foiled their plans? We would be heroes.”
“You watch too much TV,” he said, handing me the other fish and picking up his pole and tackle box. We headed to his house and talked about our plans to ride bikes to Myers Ridge where there had been some gold mines years ago. He told me that geologist Albert Cuvier had discovered gold in the north part of Myers Ridge in 1901. For five years, miners hauled out ores and precious metals before the mines dried up. So off we went in search of overlooked wealth with a sworn promise to Mrs. Stevens we would stay out of the mines and return in two hours.
After Lenny brought out a coil of rope from the garage, we rode bikes west and up a long and steep road to Myers Ridge. Along the way, my thoughts churned with the notion of Lenny finding a gold nugget and being in the spotlight. So far, he lived a life overshadowed by his siblings’ achievements.
Myers Ridge was a woodsy end moraine with dairy farms, cow and horse pastures, and miles of secondary woods and brushy new-growth meadows caused by centuries of heavy tree cutting. Sadly, though, its farm community was decreasing swiftly. We rode past several abandoned farms and fields.
We had gone three miles when we came to a white and vintage two-story farmhouse. A lanky boy our age waited for us at the foot of a long driveway.