Back when I was growing up in the middle of the “Depression,” any kind of job was hard to find. My family was lucky. We lived on a farm and I learned at an early age, jobs never end on a farm. I also learned that nobody, as far as I know, ever starved to death on a farm.
Another good job, if you didn’t live on a farm, was “windmill fixing’’ Every farm in Brown County had a windmill. Having a reputation as a windmill fixer guaranteed steady work to any man who could do it.
Windmills require greasing at least once a month. Somebody had to climb that tower, stand on that little platform and take a handful of axle grease and grease the gears. Hardly anybody wanted to do that because heights made some folks dizzy and the grease made the rungs on the ladder slick. The trip down was worse than the trip up.
There was one person on the place who actually wanted to climb that windmill and that person was me. On more than one occasion, my folks would go to Blanket on Saturday and I’d find some excuse to stay at home. As soon as they got out of sight, I would head for the windmill. As the wagon drove away, Mama gave me a final warning: “Stay off that windmill.”
A couple of times I managed to reach the platform but getting on it seemed beyond my expertise. And then one day — I made it. I could see for miles. It was like being on top of the world. I knew I had accomplished something worth telling everybody about but I couldn’t say a word.
I felt like Columbus when he returned from his voyage. “Where did you go, Columbus?” Somebody would ask. “I don’t know,” Columbus would answer, “But it sure was pretty.”
Windmills had other problems besides needing greasing. The leathers would wear out on the pump, located on the bottom of the well, or a sucker rod would break. It took a good man knowing what he was doing to fix it. To be known as a “damn good windmill man” was among the highest compliments a man could get back then.
I like the sounds windmills make and they never seem to be totally silent. They can lull us to sleep at night and wake us in the morning. Nobody who has ever lived on a farm will forget the sound.
Although our water-pumping windmills are disappearing, we now have hundreds of those huge electricity generating windmills marching in rows across our horizons. Their capability for furnishing electricity is unbelievable according to their brochures. Nobody in the areas where these things are operating seems to have any idea where the electricity is going. One source said it was all going to Florida, or maybe North Dakota.
I heard a story that I don’t know is true or not but I like it. It seems that residents in one small Texas town sued one of those large windmill corporations “For using up our wind.” The corporation, after conducting various tests concluded that used wind worked as good as the unused kind for any purpose wind might be used. The case was dismissed by a judge as being “frivolous.” “Texas,” the judge said “probably has more used wind than any place on earth.”
Regardless of that and who gets the electricity generated by these things, the employment possibilities are practically unlimited to any half-way good windmill man.
One thing we know; every one of those things has to be greased every month.
Harry Marlin’s column is featured every Tuesday on the Brownwood Bulletin’s Viewpoint page. E-mail him at pilgrimB17@verizon.net.