Of all the things the frontier settlers needed in order to survive, the single most crucial thing was water. Without water, they couldn’t subsist, grow crops or quench their livestock’s thirst not to mention their own.
It’s just as crucial today. We must have water.
In the 1800’s a good water source played an important role in deciding what land to buy and where to create towns. That’s why towns were settled close to a river, stream, or lake. Water had to be accessible. Without it, towns would die as people moved on, seeking that life-sustaining resource.
Wars were often fought as greedy men tried to control the water. Men died in the attempt to keep water flowing to their land.
Lots of novels have been written and movies made about fights over water rights.
But it was very difficult sometimes for a farmer or rancher to obtain a good supply of water. If they didn’t have a river, stream, or lake nearby (which that was hard to come by in the desert) they had to dig deep in the earth, trying to tap into an underground stream. If they were lucky enough to find water just beneath the surface, they quickly lined the hole to keep the sides from caving in. They had themselves a well. They built a top over it to protect it and lowered a bucket down an open hole in the middle and hauled up water that way.
The only thing was that they had to do that every time they needed water. It could be a pain, especially for the poor frontier woman who had to have water for cooking, washing dishes and clothes and taking baths. A bucket at a time could get very tedious.
Almost every house had rain barrels to catch the rain. Some settlers built cisterns (usually out of cement and most of time they were underground) to catch rain in from a run-off. Water was so vital and it was necessary to collect every precious drop.
Sometimes the settler had to drill for water if there was no other way. He drilled pipe into the ground and prayed to strike water. Men with peach tree limbs known as “water witches” were called on to find the most likely place to drill. Those men with their peach tree limbs became the first geologists. Heaven forbid that it was such a primitive method! It often failed.
Once the driller did locate water, it was only half the battle. They had to get the water to the top. It involved pumping it to the surface with a friction pump and lots of arm strength.
In 1854, Daniel Halliday invented the self-regulating farm wind pump and that changed the whole perspective of getting accessible water through windmill technology.
Incessant winds on the plains made it easy to get power to the mill blades. Wind power kept the blades turning which in turn pumped water to the top through a long pipe. Water emptied into a storage tank on the surface. Simple technology but really efficient. Many times the windmills dwarfed the sod houses. But once everything was completed there was much rejoicing, especially by the farmer’s wife I’m sure. All the settlers had to do was dip water from the tank. No more drawing it up by rope and bucket or pumping until your arm wore to a frazzle.
I don’t know about you, but I love windmills. I love the sound of the wind whistling through the blades and creak of the pipe as it goes up and down. Such a beautiful sound. Around the storage tank was a good place to dig for worms too when we were going fishing.
Windmills are vanishing.
I’m sad that they’ve gone by the wayside. And it breaks my heart to still see windmills sitting idle in the pastures where houses once stood, remnants of someone’s hopes and dreams. Water, nature’s life-giving force.
Today, we turn a faucet and get all the water we need. We have controversial windfarms with hundreds of wind turbines set up on someone’s property. But don’t confuse these with windmills. Wind turbines don’t coax water or anything else from the ground. We simply harness the wind to create electricity for our homes and businesses. There’s been growing debate over windfarms that are popping up everywhere. I say if it makes power more affordable why not. Wind is a natural, renewable energy. We should use it.
What are your feelings? Do you think wind turbines are eyesores and present a hazard to birds or do we need to look past that and embrace green energy?
EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT – GET OUT AND VOTE TODAY!!