Mad Jack Hanks: Tales from the O-NO Ranch 4-11-11
“Little Miss Martha” loved windmills. I’m not sure if I ever asked her why she had such a fascination with windmills, she just did for her own reasons. I, myself, have always loved the sound of that ol’ fan creakin’ and groanin’ as it turned and lifted the sucker rods up out of the hole and brought that clear cold refreshing drink from Mother Earth.
I remember as a lad being in our little Baptist church and having an old cowboy say a closing prayer. In his prayer he said having a relationship with God was as satisfying as a “cool drink of windmill water.” Gentle readers that little prayer stuck with me my entire life.
It’s easier to understand if you have been raised up on the arid grasslands of West Texas. The summer heat can be debilitating and the sight of a windmill in the distance when you and your pony are really thirsty offers hope for relief. I worked for an old-time cowboy at McLean, Texas, some 70 miles east of Amarillo. This old man was tough as a boot and everywhere you went, you went on the back of a horse unless it was to build fence or change the leathers in one of the many windmills.
That country was pretty doggone windy like it is here just south of the Wyoming border. If I needed to change the oil in the windmill’s gears on top of the tower, I had to tote the oil in my saddle bags and get there a’horseback. The closest windmill was over a mile from the house and I wasn’t too “whoopie” to shut down the tower (fan) and climb some 30 or 40 feet up the air on a rickety ladder only to stand on a little platform that was just a little over 3-feet square. To shut down the mill on a windy day, there is a long wooden handle connected by a wire to the fan up top and the handle itself is secured to one of the legs of the tower structure. You pull the handle down and secure it with a rope or a wire and just hope that it doesn’t get loose while you are up on that little platform in a pair of size 11 boots with spurs on. If it came loose the whole fan assembly might swing around and send you flying off the tower. Bad deal, really bad scary deal from my point of view on a windy, windy day.
I wrote this column because the wind has been blowing for three days and three nights and when it does I usually think about being up on that mill on such a day and wishing I wasn’t there at all. That’s part of a cowboy’s job and you do whatever it is you are asked to do, or you find another occupation. I like being a columnist on such a day as today.
Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion and I’ll c. ya’ll, all ya’ll.