I asked who the man was in a photo taken at the dedication of the Dallas County Freedom Rock. He wore a knitted cap and was one of the first people to come up afterwards to talk to me. I’d been asked to talk about the Wilson brothers, who are remembered on one side of the memorial.
Jim Boll, I was told. Not only is he a Vietnam veteran, he’s known as the man who rescues windmills. The old Aermotors and other classic windmills we rural Iowans grew up with. They are dying out since electricity now pumps water on farms.
Jim started out with the one he played on as a kid. It later needed fixing, so he did it himself. Someone came by, saying he had one that needed repaired. That’s how it started, but he’s saved and mended well over 100 of them, some dating back to 1892.
Boll has survived the Vietnam war and cancer. It’s a good thing he has no fear of heights, although he does use a safety harness for the taller windmills.
Once in a while he sells an old windmill. The Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines bought one. He repaired one on the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
I’m drawn to the silhouette of old windmills across a prairie, announcing a farm there or at one time an old homestead among the corn, elderberries, oats, sumac, and wheat fields. That old windmill drew water at one time for the life of a family and their livestock.
An old windmill was my first chore, at least that I can remember from age 4 or 5, that of trudging down a gravel road to wire the handle of the contraption to let the blades above catch the wind to pump our water up the hill to a holding tank.
You can see Jim Boll’s forest of windmills along Highway 44 in Dallas County, Iowa, between Grimes and Dallas Center. It’s a treat to get to see so many all at once.
Here’s a story about him from KCCI TV.
Fascinating! Are any of them used to pump water? New England is increasingly using windmills to generate electricy, but they’re those big, ugly white things that are a blight on the landscape.
I’d imaging that only a few are actually used to pump water. Western and northern Iowa are plagued by those hideous wind turbines. Beautiful Madison County managed to get them stopped!
Good for Madison County!
I’m glad that someone is preserving this old, and once vital, technology. I found a collection of old windmills when I worked a job in northern Texas one year – quite a delightful find. Unlike you and Liz, I do not hate their modern counterparts at all. I’d rather see them than a smoke-belching stack from a coal-fired power plant any day. I like their clean lines and sleek look, too.
I wonder why I cringe when I we run into a flock of them. . . .
I wonder, too…
It is always great to hear of someone preserving the past! Thank you, Joy.
Sure takes a special knack to climb those things!
Brings back memories.
I’ll bet you can remember that shrieky music!
I remember when the very first (new) windmills went up in California down in the Palm Springs area. It was so shocking to see. Now we dont blink and eye seeing them. I always thought they should be rainbow colored, like giant pinwheels, that might have helped. It did provide and does great employment for a SIL and grandson now. I got to go into one on a tour years back….massive and terrifying. I much prefer the older more stately ones – thankful for their preservation 🙂
I was thinking last night about the colorful pinwheels we had as kids. Maybe color would make those big turbines more attractive to some people. White is pretty stark.
Stark is a good word for it. Different colors would be more friendly, wouldn’t they!
Fascinating article. I had helped my dad pull many of these in Eastern New Mexico to replace worn leathers, or whatever else was worn out down hole. Down there, it was the only way to get water to cattle who were pastured far from electricity.
I hope someone in New Mexico is still keeping some of the running. They are also so pleasant to see, and to hear their musical shriekings!