Hanks: West Texas Windmills and their value

As a young lad in a Baptist church, a prayer was offered up by an old rancher/cowboy. I remember him as looking very old and tired.

He ended his prayer something like this, “Lord, knowing you is as refreshing as a cool drink of windmill water from an old tomato can on a hot summer day.” I always remembered that prayer as we lived out in a Mesquite and cactus covered pasture and it was a hot place in the summer.

There was a windmill a little over a half mile south of our house in an oilfield camp. I spent most of my free time when I could at that windmill. It was the only water around in such an arid environment and that’s where all the critters came to drink including the livestock on the ranch.

The wind seem to always be blowing enough to spin the fan, however slowly that might be. There was this little stream of water coming out of the well pipe into a large metal tub and the overflow went into an earthen pond. That pond could get pretty nasty and scummy with algae and toss in some cow patties etc.

Just the same, there were those times I would secure my horse to the windmill tower, peel off my clothes and take a dip although I made a promise to my mom I never would do that.

I always loved the sound of that fan when it creaked and groaned as if it were painful for it to produce the smallest amounts of water.

Little Miss Martha always loved windmills. She kept pictures of them throughout the house and I still have some hanging today.

There was something so peaceful about that machine that defied all odds or so it seemed to just keep pumping and pumping and bringing life to a hot, dusty world around it.

There were ranches where I helped out or was employed that would build a fence around a windmill taking in several acres. It was called a water trap where cattle could be trapped and worked if necessary as there were always a good set of corrals in the trap. That trap was the only place cattle could water in that particular pasture.

I have fond memories of riding up to those windmills in the heat of the day to check on cattle. They would gather up under the shade of the Mesquite trees around the mill, chew their cuds and fight flies to get to the salt licks.

After riding in and out of the brush looking for problems, I would ride over to the mill, dismount, tie up my pony and retrieve that tomato can with a bailing wire handle hanging on the mill and fill it to the brim with that cool windmill water.

Sometimes, if necessary I would dump a can of water over my head, after removing my hat of course.

Those windmills were an oasis in a harsh environment and brought such pleasant and enduring relief on a really hot day. Those were peaceful and relaxing moments in a cowboys daily routine during the “dog days of summer”.

I especially remember that summer on the LX Ranch north of Amarillo, Texas, when old Lester (83 years young) and I were prowling a five-section pasture checking on the welfare of critters in our care. It was a hot July or August afternoon when we rode up to the windmill to water our horses and get a drink and relax for a short spell.

As our ponies were drinking and we were still mounted, a yellow steer appeared from out of the brush with head tilted back while looking us over. He decided it was safe to come in for a drink from that big old circular cement tub. We were on the opposite side when he eased up and dropped his head for a drink.

I noticed Lester take his rope string down and start to build a loop. I had learned never to interrupt old Lester when he was busy, so I remained quiet although I could see nothing wrong with the steer.

In a flash that old cowboy who was no bigger than a whisper, threw a hoolihan across the tub right around the neck of that surprised steer.

The steer pulled back and Lester let out a war whoop, “HEEL’EM JACK, HEEL’EM” as he pulled the steer away from the tank. “What’s wrong with ’em Lester?” I bellered as I built a heel loop. “AIN’T NOTHIN’ WRONG WITH ’EM, I WAS BORED!”

Typical cowboy behavior regardless of age being a consideration. All of the above has settled in my mind over the many years and each and every time I see a windmill, it all sorta’ starts bouncin’ around in my brain.

Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion. I hope all of you had a memory making Memorial Day! Lay in the grass some summer night and look up at the stars and if you can be close to a windmill, that’s even better. I’ll c. y’all, all y’all.❖