Yesterday was a tough day for my husband.
The windmill that stood on his family farm in Nebraska for as long as he could remember, and then transplanted to our home in Kansas for the past twenty some years, was taken down yesterday. Each section unscrewed and disassembled like an Erector Set.
A strong straight-line wind was it undoing last summer. The wind had no mercy for the old gal and bent her fan beyond repair. Her blades dangled toward the earth as if she decided to take a nap from all the spinning she’d done for so many years.
She’d served as a lookout for our kids, and then our grandkids, who would climb her skeletal frame with purpose. When finally they reached a comfortable height, they propped a hand over their eyes to look out over the landscape as a sailor might from the crow’s nest of a great ship.
Its gears and chains would creak, moan, and groan whenever the currents of Aeolus collided with the massive fan blades. My grandson thought it sounded like a great Bull Elephant, and it really did! When he was really little, it scared him to death! I had to encourage the myth by saying, “I think the elephant is back, Daniel!”
Sometimes when the wind blew very hard I thought the fan might fly right off!
The windmill, an iconic figure in America, represents many things. Their majestic, trinket-like silhouettes dot the horizon from a bygone era when their bony structures popped up across the landscape like wild flowers after a rain. Sadly they have been replaced by more modern inventions, leaving the rusting and bent relics to the elements and those of us who mourn their passing. They have gone the way of the great wooden barns, square hay bales, and rural school houses.
A windmill’s purpose was utilitarian, providing life-giving water for cattle ranchers and homesteaders, and let’s not forgets my Rawhide heroes, Rowdy Yates and Gil Favor… where oh where would they have dipped their dusty Stetson for a cool refreshing drink after a long trail ride? My heart would pit-a-pt as I watched the two shake their wet hair like a dog just bathed.
My husband talks about he and his friends taking a dip in the round galvanized stock tank that stood beneath the windmill, during the hot Nebraska summers. It was a rural kid’s swimming pool, never mind the green slime he had to rake off before diving in.
So it’s with saddened hearts and an empty space in our yard, where the great elephant windmill stood, that we bid farewell. 😦