Sunday, May 6, 2007

Indian Trash

Since moving to Central Florida a couple of years ago, we have avoided the usual entertainment outlets. Instead my husband and I have tried to find the old Florida, what was here before Disney, before housing developments transformed the landscape into miles of cement.

My first trip to Florida, like many Americans with new automobiles looking for a place to go, was in the late 1950s, early '60s. I, a bookish eight-year-old, traveled with my parents and older brother to visit an Aunt and Uncle in Pompano Beach. It was a summer of firsts -- first view of the ocean, first encounter with sand burrs, first kumquat picked fresh from the tree, and first breath of fresh salt air. For my brother it was his first encounter with beach parties and bikini clad beauties and other firsts he would never tell me about.

For decades I proclaimed that I didn't like Florida -- too humid, too buggy, the usual complaints. But now that my husband's job dragged us to the region, we can barely remember living anywhere else. Yesterday we found one of those spots that remind us that Florida has a history beyond theme parks and Spring Break.

Traveling Scenic Highway 1, we stopped at a little park near a small farming community named Oak Hill. The park, protected by the National Parks Service, is named Seminole Rest. Not one piece of trash marred the surface of this little gem. An unblemished cement walkway meandered through this spit of land that fronted onto saltwater: Mosquito Lagoon, making it handicap accessible. The first thing I noticed were the little Fiddler Crabs sidestepping along the waterline.

Plaques told us that the Timucuan Indians visited this place, harvested clams from the water and discarded the shells in what became an 18-foot high mound. The Wesley Snyder family bought the land, protected the mound from pillaging by the highway department. Many similar mounds were used as road bed for the burgeoning highway network back in the 1920s-30s.

The Snyder's also maintained the caretaker's cottage, built shortly after the Civil War and the main house, built at the turn of the 20th century. The atmosphere is one of peace, calm which seems in contrast with the harshly wind-sculpted oak and pine trees growing on the mound.

We will return to this spot -- a land fill of ancient times. The Timucuan Indians visited this spot about 1400 BC, and resided there even earlier as evidenced by shards of pottery mixed in with the shells.

Here's information about Seminole Rest: