Many of my closest friends consider me as “old school.” I consider myself “old school;” so I don’t take that designation to be negative. I use a computer and carry a cell phone and am fairly comfortable and capable with both, but they are tools, not portable entertainment centers for me. I use them when I need them, and they “sleep” at all other times. When I think about defining “old school,” I think about authorship as ownership, about accepting responsibility for my actions (both good and bad), about my rifles with their beautifully grained wooden stocks, their blue, steel finish, and their micrometer adjustable, iron sights (even though my eyes now demand scopes); I also think about the dwindling family farms and ranches, about the now obsolete, corner gas station with its full service care, about my old saddles, the unfenced places I have ridden, and about windmills, not the windmills at which Don Quixote tilts, but those any traveler today can see dotted across the rural parts of this country in which we live.
I recently returned from a trip to southwest Oklahoma. There were two of us on this trip, and we did not take the most direct route either on the going or the return. Each of us had the pleasant opportunity to see a little new country, but wherever we went through Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota, we saw windmills. We also saw the giant wind turbines in their wind farms, but these relate only peripherally to this diary entry.
In my youth I applied the brake on the windmill end of the rod; so the pump rod could be connected to the windmill in order to pump water to fill a stock tank. That was a daily event. We kept a coffee can filled with water nearby to prime the pump. On certain days we braked the windmill, climbed the tower to the platform to grease the moving parts and bearings, of the windmill itself. then we would sit there for a little while to look out over the fields before climbing back down and releasing the brake allowing the wind once more to do its work. Ah, yes, old school.
As the years went by, electric motors were used to operate the pump jacks in the wells and the windmills’ fans, machinery, and towers became essentially abandoned and fell into disrepair. One would see towers with no fan or platform, no rod dangling; one might see a windmill fan with missing blades turning unbalanced in the wind in a seemingly last effort to survive. If you stopped your car near one, you would hear the squeal of rusted, worn out bearings and moving parts protesting the abandonment, disuse, and disrepair.
On this trip in a part of the Nebraska panhandle we observed windmill after windmill in good, serviceable repair, pumping water into stock tanks. In one area there was a cluster of about six or eight of these old style windmills that were producing electricity, not for the “grid” but being put into “old school” storage batteries for use on the ranch. I was absolutely amazed. It was wonderful for me to see these things; so we started to look out for more of the refurbished windmills being reclaimed from being screeching banshees of the prairie to becoming whirring laborers in the wind producing work and product without contributing to the consumption of fossil fuel and electric energy. Personally I applaud the effort, the old school technology, and the result of being truly green.
Like the buffalo, the windmill benefits our future.