Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tilting at windmills

Living in a small town on the coastal plains of Texas in a rural county, there are more things here than meet the eyes and happenstance of the average city dweller. One of my ham buddies here, Fred, has a small spread out in the country. He recently told me about his almost finished plans to erect the aged windmill tower he'd purchased. At first I thought the plans were for the tower to hold antennas for his ham activities. But, Fred said he had also purchased a similarly aged mill to go on top of the tower and was in the middle of refurbishing the gears inside the mill and cleaning up the housing. He used his machining tools to remake pieces needed to get the blades back in shape to spin again.

Fred disappeared from the ham scene for a while in late summer, working on this and many other parallel projects. So, I was surprised when I received a call yesterday, telling me I only had twenty minutes to get over there to his house (about ten minutes away from mine) in order to take photos of the final rigging and raising of the windmill.

I grabbed my camera and an extra set of recharged batteries to dash out the door. The job turned out to be much longer than either of us had anticipated, but that is the way of all projects, I fear. I got there while he was still getting the several gallons of diesel fuel needed to power the combination front-end loader/backhoe that would be one of the mainstays of the project.

I had asked if I could photograph the project as a means of documenting it. I'd always been curious about windmills and had never been present at taking one down, putting it up, or even been close to the mechanisms that surmount the towers that, well, tower over Texas ranches and farms, doing their work in a way that never failed to lull me to sleep as a kid. That sound of creaking pumping of water, the taste of water out of a tin cup usually placed on a wire hook at the bottom with a faucet ready to supply water fresh from the well...those memories came flooding back.

Almost three hours later and over 150 photos later, he put the finishing touches on parking all the vehicles and closing down the project as I wended my way home. What an afternoon! I surely will never forget that event. And I got to play Sancho Panza, besides!

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