Nestled in the sprawling grounds of Calhoun Seventh Day Adventist Church in Calhoun, Georgia, is a fairy tale village of 50 miniature structures—the Rock Garden. Now in its ninth year, the garden was started by one of the church’s members, DeWitt “Old Dog” Boyd, based on a game he invented for his eight children. The game was simple. “Everyone had a handful of change,” he says, “and there are things that you buy and sell. Everyone had a little porcelain person, an alternate personality.” His persona? “Genghis Kahn, conqueror of China.”
The family moved around over the years, but everywhere they lived, Old Dog built a village for them to continue the game. When they reached the Midwest, they quickly realized that the clay structures they’d been using for their game couldn’t hold up to the harsh cold. “Water would get into the little houses and freeze, and they’d just be shards.” After some trial and error, he invented the method he still uses today that includes the rocks that have given the garden its name. “We just get bags of pebbles at Home Depot,” he says. “Different colors, shapes, sizes.” The end results are stunning, with medieval castles and cathedrals, winding slate roads, a bridge with Roman arches over an idyllic stream—all built to accommodate the tiny clay people the game started with.
It was in 2007 when Old Dog started The Rock Garden on the church’s 53-acre grounds. “It was to keep me out of trouble,” he says. “I’m kind of a scoundrel.” The garden is far from a single person endeavor, however—Old Dog’s daughter, Susana, who has eight children of her own, built a monastery, and his friend Joyce Maples has been working with him since 2008 when she suggested stained glass windows for the cathedral. Joyce is responsible for the Memory Wall, a four-foot tall structure with a clay heart for every marriage celebrated in the garden. Currently, there are 16 hearts. “Hopefully, they’re all still married,” Old Dog jokes. And Old Dog’s favorite part of the garden? “Always the part that I’m working on.”
The Rock Garden is located at Calhoun Seventh Day Adventist Church in Calhoun, Georgia. For more information, visit Gordon County’s website.