April 30, 2009

Death of a Windmill

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I'm heartbroken. The white corrals windmill bit the dust.  How could this have happened you may ask?  Believe it or not, it was the wind.  What does that say about our wind?  Our windmills can't even take it. Windmills are supposed to be self-regulating, meaning they turn or fold in to protect themselves from too strong of wind, but I guess the wrath of the wind this year proved to be too much. This spring we've seen more heavy duty winds than I can remember in a long while. And if you think it's bad in town, you should come to my house.  And if you think it's bad at my house, you should go up to the white corrals. 

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The windmill is a western icon.  From Americanheritage.com, "The windmill, even more than the railroad, was crucial to settling the West. Windmills permitted ranchers and farmers to live and work on land where there was no reliable natural water supply, which was most of the frontier... Today only a handful of windmill manufacturers survive in the United States. Working windmills are rare, and many stand abandoned, their broken blades and bullet-riddled tails making eerie silhouettes against the sky."

Luckily I snapped a shot of it the other day before they pulled it down.

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Here's the best/simplest explanation of how a water-pumping (American) windmill works that I could find.  From Backwoods Home Magazine:

How a windmill works

"The windmill’s wheel (fan) has 15 to 40 galvanized steel blades which spin around on a shaft. The shaft drives a geared mechanism that converts rotary motion to an up-and-down motion like a piston in a car engine. That motion drives a long pump rod (aka sucker rod) going up and down inside of a pipe in the well. Attached to the end of the pipe is a cylinder with a sealed plunger going up and down in it that forces the water up the pipe. The seals (cupped seals that ride up and down in the pump-cylinder) are called “leathers.” (Neoprene instead of leather is used in most cylinders today.) Each up-stroke pulls a certain amount of water into the cylinder, but on the down-stroke a check valve (aka foot valve) in the bottom won’t let it be pushed out, so the water has nowhere to go but up (with the next upstroke). It’s a simple efficient design that has remained virtually unchanged for more than 100 years."

Note:  If you are pumping the water for cattle to drink, a pipe is attached that takes the water to some sort of drinker or to a storage tank where it can then be gravity fed or pumped to other drinkers.

The windmill at the white corrals pumps...or used to pump :(  it's water into two big metal storage tanks.  One tank has a drinker right on it and it also gravity feeds several smaller drinkers in the vicinity. (Hayes is drinking at one of the tanks below)

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This tire drinker comes off of the white corrals storage tank. It's on the other side of the corrals.

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With no plans (YET! we'll see what I can do!) to replace this windmill, I feel sad to lose a little bit of the West's heritage.  Platt Land and Cattle tries to do most things the old fashioned way, to honor the cowboy tradition (plus they just love it that way).  They still use horses  to gather and move their cattle instead of ATV's.  They still rope their cattle to brand them instead of using a chute.  And they definitely dress the part...you should see the bill to outfit them !$$!


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The thing that makes me that saddest is that I will never again be able to photograph that windmill.  I loved having it in the background of all the branding pictures.  Can you tell that I am seriously mourning?   

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If you want to see a nice animation of how a windmill works, check out Aeromotor's website below. It helped me understand the inner workings of a windmill :)  You can click on it to make it bigger.  The White Corrals windmill was an Aeromotor.  See the picture below I took last summer.


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Just a few more pics in memoriam: (When I started going through my photos, I couldn't believe how many I had taken of this windmill...I have tons...I even have numerous pictures of its shadow!)

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Adieu my beloved windmill, adieu.


Jaime said...

That does make for some good pictures! Love all your pics of the AZ sky too. I have never really seen the clouds like they are in your pictures...amazing!

Missy :o) said...

ah, what a sad day. boo hoo. i shed some tears for you. :O)
seriously, it was sad to see that pretty, old windmill laying on the ground! you are right, a piece of history is gone....

tricia said...

Thanks for a good explanation of how a windmill works. Yes, it's sad. I love them, too, and remember going to check the cows with my dad and hearing my mother say it was the only good thing about the wind blowing. Free Water. It was always miraculous to see that water coming out the pipe. I wonder if my dad's has survived at Coyote.

Annie said...

How sad,I do love seeing windmills. Stupid wind.