We enjoyed good relations with the police. Every day around noon a Sheriff’s Department cruiser would pull up to our main fire pit. The genial officers aboard would engage in pleasant conversation and take in what they could see about our living situation. At first we were not engaging in any activity that would cause concern. However, due to the open nature of our community, several unsavory types climbed aboard. We did not want to be unwelcoming, but accepted all comers. Stories of unpleasant encounters in town started to filter back. It seemed to be setting the framework for our undoing. No one among us felt called to police anyone’s behavior, so we continued our community experiment in hopes that good behavior would outshine the bad. Some even brought forth the idea that what we were partaking in what was only a small part of a Grander Design. Our main focus still centered on becoming a sharing, caring, loving group of people.
One evening a large gathering assembled and musical instruments were brought out. We enjoyed a lengthy celebration of song and dance. At its pinnacle, everyone joined in a rousing rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Before we finished several police vehicles pulled up and a raid commenced. Most of us scurried away. Two were apprehended, Paul, who called himself John the Evangelist, was nabbed right off and Mickey who had a crippled leg and could not join the rest of us in running away. Apparently, Paul had a record and outstanding warrants. His behavior in town stood out and he was traced to our community. Mickey was released the next day and brought back the story of Paul’s arrest and his criminal background. There was also talk of a bigger raid to unearth any more folks we might be harboring. This raised fears that many did not want to confront. Terry left with Jennifer and Candy for Zephyrhills.
Karen showed me an alternative location down the road, across the street on Crawl Key. We walked over and found back in the forest several abandoned shelters. These were obviously the remnants of an older community. Huts were made of bamboo, thatch, and salvaged lumber. They were quite charming and offered shelter from sun and rain and had raised sleeping platforms. We met a couple living in one shelter who had been there quite a while. They informed us we were what we saw was left over from an artist’s colony that failed but left intact their structures. They said it was OK I took over one of the lodgings. Karen had already been ensconced in another. I set about house making and gathering belongings and what was left from the good spirit that had been scattered during that police raid. From across the road, I could witness the demise of Paradise.