The Day I Met Dave Evans and Helped Lenny Become a Hero
David Evans and his best friend Lenny were in the same grade at Ridgewood High, home of the Fighting Eagles. Like Lenny, Dave had dark hair, but he had greenish blue eyes, and he was scrawny and taller than Lenny was.
After we exchanged pleasantries, I followed the two on our quest for gold. We left our bikes hidden in tall grass near Ridge Road and followed a well-traveled deer path to a swampy outcropping along the eastern edge of Myers Ridge. Lenny, our leader, put up his right hand for us to stop.
“If there’s gold,” he said, “this will be a good place to look.”
Dave and I followed until we stood at the edge of a cliff. Twenty feet below us, water trickled from the hillside, fell, splattered on rock farther down, and fell again to Alice Lake far below. I got busy and helped Dave with a rope Lenny had brought. I tied my end to a young hornbeam tree, which is a hardwood tree we call ironwood back home. Dave harnessed his end to Lenny. Then we lowered him to where water exited the side of Myers Ridge. He dug around at the wet ground, pulled up rocks, examined them closely, and tossed them away. After ten minutes, the process became boring to watch, so I returned to the hornbeam tree to make sure my knot held. It did.
Past the tree where the ground turned swampy and muddy, a red squirrel inspected the inedible raw leaves of a small patch of skunk cabbage, likely looking for the plants’ hard, pea-sized seeds to carry back to its nest. That’s when Dave called me back.
We hoisted a grinning Lenny to us and he proudly displayed a three-inch chunk of bright yellow rock. It was cold and heavy when I held it.
“Think there’s more?” Dave asked. His eyes were wide as he looked at the gold, then down at the cliff and back at the gold.
Lenny shrugged and blew into his hands. “I should have brought gloves,” he said before taking the rock away from me.
“What are you going to do with it?” Dave asked.
Lenny shrugged again. “Melt it, maybe, and make a bracelet for my mom. I’ve been reading up on how to make jewelry.”
“Tomorrow,” Dave said, “I’m going down there and look for more.”
“Can’t,” Lenny said, frowning. “I have a dentist appointment after school. Besides, since it’s too dangerous to go in the mines, a better place to look would be down below at the bottom of Alice Lake.” The frown deepened. “The gold’s high density will have caused it to sink into the bottom.”
“I’m not trained for scuba diving.” Dave looked at me. “How about you?”
This time I asked the questions. “Why don’t we inspect some of the sinkholes up here?”
Dave’s eyes widened again. “Are you crazy? Some of those caves are infested with rattlesnakes.”
“I’m not saying we go in the caves. I’m saying that the ground of the hole may reveal more gold. After all,” I puffed my chest, “virtually all the gold discovered is considered to have been deposited by meteorites which contained it. And since gold was found inside Myers Ridge, don’t you think there’d be more of it showing up where the ground has broken away?”
“I don’t know,” Lenny said. “Sinkholes are as dangerous as the mines and caves. You never know when the ground is going to collapse.”
“We could use your rope,” I suggested.
Lenny looked down at his wristwatch. “I have to get home. What’s your phone number, Steve? I’ll call and we’ll discuss it.”
“I don’t remember,” I lied. “But I’ll be in town this weekend.”
We decided to meet at noon on Saturday at the driveway where we met Dave. Then we returned to the driveway. Lenny left Dave the rope, we said goodbye, and Lenny and I headed south along Ridge Road, toward an intersection and Russell Road that would lead us back to Ridgewood. We had gone more than a quarter mile, perhaps 600 yards, when the flash of sunlight reflecting off the chrome of a green sedan off in a field to our left caught out attention. We stopped.
“That’s an abandoned road to one of the mines,” Lenny said.
A field of teasels, wild grasses and ragweed hid the road, but a vehicle had obviously driven on it since the tires had flattened the grass.
“My Spidey sense is tingling,” Lenny said. I chuckled at the comic book reference, and then stopped short when I saw the car back up to turn around.
“Hit the deck,” Lenny shouted. We dove for cover among daisy fleabane and a large clump of purple and yellow New England Astor. I pressed myself close to the ground and hoped the handlebar of my borrowed bike would go unnoticed by whoever was inside that car.
The green sedan reached Ridge Road and stopped. We were ten yards away. Had the driver seen us? I kept still, even when a horsefly bit one of my sweaty arms and sucked my blood. For what seemed like several minutes, the car pulled onto Ridge Road and drove away.
I unclenched my jaw and slapped at the fly, fussing about the sting it had left under my skin. Lenny scrambled down the overgrown road, heading toward the mine. I followed, still groaning and moaning about the fly’s bite. I caught up to him at the mouth of the cave, which someone had boarded up with old barn wood planks. We pulled the boards away easily and entered a musty smelling cavern that changed quickly to cool dampness and became darker the farther we went. We passed an old rail cart covered with burlap.
A thought came to me that we should look inside the cart. Then, as though he had read my mind, Lenny went to it and pulled away the empty burlap sacks.
We found 16-year-old Laurie Burnett bound and gagged inside. She seemed okay, though very relieved to be free and angry at the ordeal her captors had put her through.
The police caught the two criminals, who turned out to be Emergency Medical Technicians at New Cambridge Hospital where Laurie’s dad was a surgeon. He rewarded Lenny and I with one hundred dollars each. I gave my money to Dave to help hire a diver to search for gold at the bottom of Alice Lake.
The diver found no gold.