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Chuck Hinman, IJMA No. 370 : Windmills, Remember Them?

It's Just Me Again No. 370 by Chuck Hinman. Windmills, Remember Them?
The next earlier Chuck Hinman column Chuck Hinman: IJMA No. 302. A self taught lesson

By Chuck Hinman

Yes, I remember windmills like an old friend! They dotted the countryside of farms in the Midwest. Land was laid out on the township and range system. The average farm was a quarter-section or 160 acres. There were four windmills on every square mile of land. So you see, windmills were very visible.


Windmills were an ingenious method to bring water from underground reservoirs to the surface for domestic use that including human and animal use. They appeared after the mid-west began to be developed agriculturally. That would have been over 150 years ago.

I was born in 1922 on a farm in Gage County, Nebraska. When my parents purchased that 160-acre farm between Wymore and Liberty, a windmill was already in place. It was just a few feet from our back door.

The well was thirty some feet deep. The water was hard but had an excellent taste. Fortunately our well never failed in the drought years of the 1930s. Neighbors whose wells failed hauled water from our well in those days.

Our windmill was thirty feet high. Dempster Mfg. Co. in Beatrice manufactured it. They manufactured things of aluminum and steel such as windmills, stock tanks, fence posts, fuel tanks, etc. The Dempster Company is still manufacturing farm products. The fan at the top of the mill had twelve blades mounted in a wheel which was eight feet in diameter. Opposite the fan blade assembly was a metal tail whose purpose was to position the fan blade wheel to receive the full thrust of the wind at the moment. The fan was always changing position it seemed. There was a distinctive sound involved in the windmill's operation.

What an invention and cheap power source for Nebraska where the wind always blows, "sweeping down the plains."

There was a 500-gallon water tank in the basement of our house. The windmill kept that supply tank adequately filled with water. Nearby was a gas powered engine to develop pressure in the water tank to push water to the kitchen and bathroom on the first floor. The windmill-water system also supplied water to the stock tank down in the barnyard.

Water windmills became obsolete when the Rural Electric Association came into being in the 1930's. Water pumps became electrically operated.

I am surprised that as much of an attractive nuisance as windmills would have been in a family of energetic kids that there were no windmill-associated accidents in our family. Climbing on the windmill was never an option!

There may have been a shortage of moisture in the clouds, but there was no shortage of wind to operate the windmills!

Emailed by Chuck Hinman: Wednesday, September 10, 2008


This story was posted on 2012-03-11 05:03:11
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