For many years, my paternal grandparents resided at the corner of Arctic Street and Red Bud Trail on the north edge of Buchanan. As I mentioned in my preceding post, I was fortunate to often have the opportunity to spend time with them when I was a boy. And during those visits, in addition to the occasional fishing trip, my grandfather would sometimes take me for a summertime walk a mile or so down Red Bud Trail just beyond the city limits to visit the site of an old artesian well. (Artesian wells are those where geological strata, such as rocks and gravel, confine the groundwater. Thus, a spring will flow from such a well under natural pressure without need of a pump.)
It was always a pleasant stroll along that stretch of Red Bud. The steep hills on the west side of the road are heavily forested, and looking up to the canopy of the towering hardwoods one would see the afternoon sunlight filtering through the verdant foliage in flashes of sparkling fluorescent greens and yellows. Ahead, narrow shafts of light would blink through the lush overhang providing spotlights for flitting insects and dancing particles of dust.
The road is similarly forested on the east, where a steep embankment leads down to the meandering waters of the St. Joe River. And if our timing was right, we would find both sides of the road festooned with blooming red bud trees. As we make our way deeper into the wooded section of the road, we become enveloped in the humid, musky smells of virgin woods mingled with an occasional wisp of Grandpa’s Prince Albert pipe tobacco, until we finally reach our destination.
The well was not particularly impressive though—no circular stone base with a hanging wooden bucket or anything like that. In fact, it consisted of a rusty three-quarter inch steel pipe that someone, many years previous, and for reasons unknown, had driven horizontally into the side of a steep hill just off the shoulder of the road. Ice-cold, crystal clear water flowed from that pipe as it no doubt had been doing for countless years.
My grandfather would capture some of the water with the Mason Ball jar he had brought with him and we would each take a long slug to cool us off after our walk. That water, with all its minerals, could slake a thirst like none other. Once we were rested, Grandpa would fill the jar one last time to take some back to Grandma.
Back in the eighties, my wife and I decided to build a house here in Florida. We were pleasantly surprised when our builder informed us that, coincidentally, the well he had just driven for us was artesian. But be assured, the taste of the water from our new Florida well was no match for the crystalline outflowings from that simple spring well on Red Bud Trail.
And be sure to check out James Spier’s blog, Birding the bend, for more beautiful photos like the one above of our avian friends who hang out in the red bud trees along the St. Joe River.
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[For those who are familiar with the area, the well was located on the west side of the road just north of what in those days was a forty- to fifty-foot hillock of sand that had been largely cleared of trees and brush. Folks from all over the community harvested clean, white sand from that location for use with everything from do-it-yourself concrete and mortar mixing to children’s sandboxes. The dune is long gone now, and the site is currently home to the Wheatberry Restaurant and Tavern.]