Hot summer nights make the young restless, and now that I’m older, I wonder why. I was once guilty of pumpkin smashing and a few pranks worse than that, so it’s not that I don’t understand. But when I think back to such a time, I truly can hardly believe that I did those things, that I’m that same person. I guess that’s what’s meant by “growing up” or maybe even “redemption.”
One of my favorite stories of life in these parts happened when my husband and my mother and father were all still alive and we were together, my elderly parents here on a visit from New Jersey. It was summer, and we decided to go out to eat rather than heat up the little house cooking.
We were on our way home, late in the evening. As we were passing by the pond, which was a short distance from our house, suddenly several young men leapt in front of the car, causing us to come to a complete stop. Naked, they danced exotically in the glare of our headlights. Later, I realized the genius of their exhibition: The headlights, at their low level, revealed nothing but the boys’ privates. The rest, especially their faces, remained in the dark. The four of us sat in the car, stunned speechless except for my mother’s initial shriek. At last, the giggling young men ran off into the darkness, and we proceeded home.
I wouldn’t have done so, but my parents insisted that I call the police. Back then, and even now, our police force consisted of one man, who sometimes wore a uniform and sometimes showed up in his farmer’s jeans. A little embarrassed, I called him and dutifully reported the incident.
“Yup,” he said. “I’ll check it out.”
We heard nothing further. My parents returned home, somewhat worried that the area in which we lived, which was mostly woods and water, wasn’t as safe as they’d imagined.
A few weeks later, Paul and I were out for a walk along that same stretch of dirt road. The constable came along in his cruiser, which was not the newest model but was reasonably equipped. Suitable.
After some initial chatter, I asked him, “So, did you ever find those naked boys that night?”
“Oh, yes,” he said, with a slight chuckle. “I came right down after you called. I slowed down when I got to the pond, and darned if they didn’t hop right out in front of me, just like you said!
“I let them dance a bit,” he added, and paused a little before he went on. “And then I flipped on the blues! You never saw barefoot boys move so fast. They dove right into the water. I went down there and tried to wait them out, spent about an hour there, but they outlasted me. I never found them.”
We knew that pond, haven to snapping turtles and water snakes. I wondered which was worse: a prolonged immersion in those black waters, standing stock still, or being taken in for exotic dancing on a dirt road.
That was probably 20 years ago now, and those boys are men, probably fathers. I wonder whether they ever think back on that night of revelry and tell their story, as I do, or whether they blush at their imprudence and ask for forgiveness.
The View from Mary’s Farm, a collection of Edie’s Yankee Magazine essays, plus her most recent book, Saturday Beans and Sunday Suppers, are available at edieclark.com