- by Dennis Thompsett

The Okeepenokee is like an enchanted little  country, just outside the city. If you take 20th Street on the East Hill and head towards Meaford, past  Pittsburg and the other stuff out there, you will come to a T- junction. Right will take you to the Meaford Highway. If you go left, past one country road you will come to the brow of a steep hill. Go down that Hill and suddenly you are on a friendly old country road with two bald ruts for wheels and grass in the middle. At this point you have entered the enchanted land known as the Okeepenoke. 

Why is it called that? I don't know. It sounds like it's in Florida and it's a swamp. But it isn't. And it's not.

If you follow that old road it gets worse and worse. It eventually comes out down by Leith but you'll only get there if you have a high clearance 4X4. However, there's no need to drive that far into the Okeepenokee to experience that enchantment.

It is very quiet there. No neighbours. No busy roads. No factories or farms. And no pesky adults. They seemed to have forgotten all about the Okeepenokee; just like we did when we became adults.

Perhaps there's magic involved. It somehow makes the entire area into a stress-free zone. In other words it is the perfect place for slow  meditation, for gentle self rejuvenation, AND FOR RAUCUS, LOUD, DRUNKEN-ASS TEENAGE PARTIES.

Of course in the '60's we read Playboy for the articles, we spent all of our free time in the library. And we all  went out to the Okeepenokee for the meditation. With cases of beer, loud music on 8-track tapes and big bonfires. There was also the zen sound of one bottle-top snapping. Over and over. Did we achieve Nirvana and the calming effect that meditation promises? Perhaps by passing out.

Maybe every generation of teenagers needs a place to interact unsupervised. To make mistakes and grow up a bit.

On Sunday mornings there were bedraggled bunches of teens, leaving the loving arms of the Okeepenokee, looking like zombies and surprised by it. Because teens never seem to realize that even in the enchanted land of the Okeepenokee, there is always a price to be paid  for fun. Sometimes it was  just  a hangover and smelly clothes. Sometimes it was a baby.

Photos: Sandra Mitchell-Smart


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