A half-century ago or more the good old days according to some folks many farms had windmills. Before the electrification of the Prairies in the 1950s and 60s, a windmill was a relatively inexpensive and very efficient way to pump water from deep water wells found on many Prairie farms. Some farms also used a windmill to charge batteries to supply electric lights in the home. The windmill was a feature of many farm sites and some have survived to this day.
Stories abound surrounding the place the windmill played on the family farm. My wife, raised on a farm near Basswood, Manitoba, tells the story of one of her brothers, when he was a small child, climbing up to the top of their windmill and her mother looking out in horror to see this small child perched over 40 feet up in the air. An older brother was quickly sent to retrieve the child and no harm was done.
Last winter while on holiday in the U.S., we visited a unique place in Lubbock, Texas a windmill museum called The American Wind Power Center. Over 100 historic windmills are displayed inside a huge building with brief histories posted at each one and volunteer guides to provide tours and additional information and amusing stories. Many more windmills are erected outside. The museum gives a great history of how working windmills were gradually developed, and they even have a modern wind turbine as part of their collection.
In the arid southwestern United States, wind turbines are a common sight as there are many wind farms in the region. There are also many working windmills on the great expanses of rangeland where there is no nearby source of electrical power to operate water pumps and so windmills perform their historic function of pumping water for livestock. These same types of windmills are also found on some rangeland in Canada in the western Prairie region.
Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba