February 2011 River Ranch Diary

By: Gervase Hittle
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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.

13 Responses to “February 2011 River Ranch Diary”

  1. karen (hirsimaki) filter

    I was so glad to hear about your observations and as President Obama recently said in his State of the Nation speech…. “Americans are amazing”. This effort to transform the old equipment to new uses is a small proof of that. Not rocket science, but tenacious ingenuity and flexibility. We all need to do it in every small way possible. YEA!

  2. Darcie

    I love windmills and I have always dreamed of having one in my yard…this makes my husband groan and roll his eyes because one day he knows I will cart one home and he’ll have to help me get it running. Great to see new “green” ideas with old school equipment.

  3. Ken Hausle

    So this is off the cuff (sort of), but one time I was driving in my home town (Charlotte, NC) and I ended up behind this other car with a license plate that read:

    “old school”

    I was happy to drive behind that car, but that is mainly because the car itself was also “old school”.

    I appreciate consistency in message. Do you?


    ps – Congrats Jill and Dan!

  4. Ken Hausle

    Hey and as far as windmills are concerned, I am nothing but a big fan… of them wind machines.

    I could tell you about another or two and they have to do with helium.

    Dirigibles are where it is at….and I say that even if it is “old school”.

    Ha, ha……


  5. Simmons

    Went the opposite way sold my windmill off my place to someone who could put it to use so as it did not just sit there and spin itself into disrepair.

    Place out of Maxwell, NE bought it and hopefully they sell it to someone who can put it to use.

  6. Ken Hausle

    Simmons that was an excellent plan and to think you got the profit of the sale and somebody else is getting a decent windmill. Makes good sense to me.

    What do you think about this idea having to do with dirigibles. Take a real rigid stucture and fit it with big balloon potential and fill the balloon with helium.

    Cheap transportation assuming the weather is agreeable! Nice view as well.

    Just an old idea that shouldn’t have gone up in flames with the Hindenburg.


  7. Ken Hausle

    OK, so I figure what the heck…what do I have to lose. So please let me provide some additional detail on the dirigibe idea that has been bouncing around in my head for some time now.

    Hm. Let me just say this. It all starts with helium (a good dirigible) and from what I hear…helium is for sale from some place in Texas. This is heresay, but it came from a good source and if I could buy some helium futures I would.

    There is something to be said for “Old School”. Thanks Gervase. I think you must of been (and probably still are) an awesome language professor.


  8. Ken Hausle

    A link

    Not sure it talks about Texas, but it does helium. Anyhow, if I remember correctly there is a stash of helium somewhere in Texas than “needs” to be sold. A bizarre law passed in the past apparently becuase helium should be saved rather than sold.

    Regardless, you could probably acquire some real cheap just now. Just a conjecture. I’m not buying it becuase I’d just assume watch the balloons float away peacefully….I don’t think helium can really be owned plus we all could use a bit of levity. Everyone.

  9. Ken Hausle

    and how may I ask could the last message be published and the one just in front of it be in moderation?

    Who is moderating who?

    Fair question.

  10. Ken Hausle

    So, it posted and that is a pass.

    However, another post of mine here was moderated and I’ve noticed that when I do a Google search on my own name that this site shows up often….problem is there is advertisement with it and to me that is disappointing.

    Plus, I have posted two other message besides the one here that remain in moderation and about this, I must say that old-timers obviously must need a clue.

    Consider this a clue.

    Moreover, the helium field is near Amarillo and the panhandle ought become it’s own state. I’d vote for two senators for the first state that broke off from Tejas.

    That is just me, but I have studied Housten as well as Austin, so I think I know my stuff.



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