Meeting Amy Evans
My favorite sport in high school was playing baseball. I played Pony League in the summer and my friends and I put together a softball team so we could play ball on days there were no league games. Dave and Lenny played softball too, though theirs was an organized church team.
When I went to watch them play, I seated myself at the top row of the bleachers behind home plate and a few feet to the left of Amy Evans, a very pretty girl. She had curly brown hair tied up in ponies on either side of her soft face, and she clapped her small, delicate hands while she cheered her brother and Lenny on.
“Who’s winning?” I asked her.
She stopped cheering and addressed me with a cool look. “Bottom of the seventh,” she said. “Nazarenes are up five to four.”
I thanked her and cheered for New Gospel to win. Dave began the final half-inning by fouling a pitch from the Nazarene Church’s ace pitcher, Johnny Blake. Amy told me that Blake had been throwing change-ups and heated fisticuff strikes all game long and was still striking out batters. I admired his determination to win, but it was Dave’s determination I admired more.
He fouled the second pitch, which cleared the backstop and practically landed in my lap. I gave the ball to Amy.
“For you, mademoiselle,” I said when I handed it to her.
She screwed up her nose, threw the ball back onto the field, and slid away from me, putting several feet of space between us.
The New Gospel players were animated inside the dugout at the first base side of the field, all calling for Dave to hit the ball. For a skinny guy, he had broad shoulders and muscular forearms. He had an excellent chance to clout a four-bagger and tie the game, which is what I hoped would happen.
But Johnny Blake’s next pitch dropped before it reached home plate. In his excitement to get a hit, Dave swung a windmill cut at it and missed by the proverbial baseball mile. The ball scooted under the catcher and zipped straight to the backstop. Dave, aware of his mistake, never hesitated. He raced to first base as the catcher caught up with the ball and threw to first base. The speedy Dave Evans beat the throw.
Lenny headed to the batter’s box.
“Just make contact, Lenny,” Amy yelled.
“Trying for the long ball,” the third baseman yelled out to his teammates. Then to Blake, “Throw him the heat.”
Lenny hit the first pitch—wham, bam—right into the third baseman’s glove. In a matter of a second, he had lined out. The next batter grounded into a double play: 6 to 4 to 3. The teams met at home plate in a game ending ritual of touching hands and saying “Good game.”
Amy stood and prepared to leave. I introduced myself. She scowled at my outstretched hand and said, “Please go away and leave me alone.”
I wasn’t expecting a cutting dismissal, so I kept grinning at her and wanting to tell her I wasn’t hitting on her, even after she did a quick about-face and practically sprinted down the bleachers.
“Pleasure to meet you, anyway,” I said to her fleeing backside. Then, moments later, I, too, headed down the bleachers.
Ridgewood’s Weird History
Even though Amy remained aloof when I visited Ridgewood, she did chip in with information one day when Dave told me about Ridgewood’s strange past of green and yellow lights appearing in 1745, back when the town was called Amity. On the night of July 7, the lights swarmed over the town, hovered in the sky for an hour, then exploded into flame that vanished into thick ash that settled on the town like tarry soot.
For five days, fever, madness and death seized most of the three-hundred-and-fifty townspeople. Many of the afflicted suffered slow, agonizing deaths. Of the few who lived outside of town and were not afflicted, one was 19-year-old Ezekiel Wood. He recorded a grisly account about a fur trader who murdered his wife and two children while they slept, and then stuffed their corpses inside the belly of a slaughtered cow. Ezekiel also wrote of lunatics setting fire to the town. Nearly all the homes had both dead and living inside. Ezekiel, who was attending the sick, managed to escape the inferno by submerging himself in the local river. He was the only known survivor of the blaze, and he became great-grandfather to Ridgewood founder, Frank Wood.
No one has seen the lights again.
Over time, Dave and Amy revealed other weird tales, which I recorded in my notebooks. Every town has its urban legends and Ridgewood was no exception. There were the fabled cries of help from school kids who were on the unfortunate bus that sank to the bottom of Three Mile Swamp, campfire stories about the lunatic with a hook for a hand who had escaped from the prison at nearby New Cambridge, and people who had seen Norman Myers’s ghost on Myers Ridge.
Even Dave and Amy’s father, Parker, had his spooky stories to tell, and he told us several while we roasted hotdogs around a campfire behind his house one Halloween night in 1971.