Last time I drove
through Mertzon, it sunk in on me that the windmills
West Texas still has
plenty of Aermotors cranking away, and on many mesa tops giant wind
turbines are popping up like rain lillies, but Mertzon used to depend
on wind power long before it was the green thing to do.
With a little editing, here is a piece on Mertzon in the 1960s from
“Red Rooster Country,” my long out-of-print first book:
“They look like a field of iron sunflowers in the distance, but
– literally scores of them scattered all over Mertzon.
“Though no one has tried to organize the movement, there is a distinct
possibility that without much effort, Mertzon could be named the
Windmill Capital of the World.
“One Mertzon resident estimated there were about 100 windmills
dotting the small Irion County capital and at one time, even more.
“The reason for all the windmills
is that Mertzon has no public water works. If a resident wants running
water, either a windmill
or an electric pump must be used.
“Mertzon residents naturally don’t pay much attention to their abundant
, but motorists passing through on U.S. 67 often are surprised.
“If Mertzon does own the title of windmill Vatican City, it’s going
to have to enjoy it while it can. The day will come when the electric
pump phases out the windmill
for good, at least inside the citiy limits.
“‘All the windmills
are fairly old,’” County Judge Reginald Atkinson said. “‘I don’t
remember any new ones going up in the last 15 or 20 years.”
“Mertzon was settled around the turn of the (last) century by ranching
people. “‘Naturally,’” the judge said, “‘when these people moved
in from their ranches they moved their windmills, too.’”
“Today (1968), people are finding electric pumps quite a bit less
expensive than the traditional windmill.
A good windmill
costs about $700 while an electric pump can be installed for around
$300, the judge said.
“But no one around Mertzon intends to junk their windmill
before it doesn’t work any more, and even then they sometimes leave
“If a city water plant was constructed, however, the pumps and windmills
would be made useless. But the chance for a city owned water plant
any time soon is not very likely.
“‘Right now we have one of the lowest tax rates in the country,’”
the judge continued. “‘If we were to decide to operate a water works
the tax rate would naturally have to be increased accrodingly.’”
“There is commercially-owned
water system in the city, but it does not serve the whole city.
“One resident said for each windmill
in Mertzon there is a different tasting water supply. “‘Some of
it is really good, but some wells are so bad you can hardly drink
the stuff,’” he said.
“Regardless of poor water in some wells, the people of Mertzon appreciate
After the initial investsment, they don’t have to pay any water
These days, alas, the urban windmill
thicket is gone and folks in Mertzon no longer enjoy free water.
July 15, 2010 column
Hotel > San