The Garden of Eden

If there was a Garden of Eden in my youth, it was a location where we were forbidden to go but visited often. The landscaping nursery of Orlando S. Pride was a wooded plot of about fifty acres that was a paradise for active young boys. There was an upper pond that served as the best-ever nest for bullfrog eggs in spring and a best-in-the-neighborhood hockey rink in winter. Because it was fairly shallow, you could wade out in search of the bullfrog eggs to either gather or simply observe. In the winter it would freeze fairly fast and because it was completely shaded by dense stands of trees and just a bit below a south-facing hill, it would tend to remain frozen for long periods.

Below the upper pond was a swamp-like area filled with milkweed. There was always an abundance of dragonflies and rabbits. It was fun just trying to walk through the “jungle” even as your shoes and pants got covered with sticky mud. Opening and releasing the milkweed pods provided a bit of magic. A lower pond was much larger and was suitable for fishing although, because it was never stocked, about the only trophies were some small chubs. The biggest treasure was pulling an old shovel from the deep. More than anything, it was simply a great place to sit on the bank and talk.

North of the ponds was a large dense stand of low trees that provided a labyrinth of tunnels and “rooms” that were perfect for secret ceremonies and hiding should Mr. Pride appear for work. We made it a point to never be in a position where his “No Trespassing” signs were going to be enforced by a personal ban for life.

When I was older, some in my neighborhood turned this paradise into a place for cigarettes and beer. I only participated in this activity one time. It somehow tarnished the “specialness” of the place and, except for a single brief walk during my college years, I never returned. I think it was best preserved in my memory as a place of innocence.