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
look like a field of iron sunflowers in the distance, but they’re windmills
– 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.
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 windmills
, but motorists passing through on U.S. 67 often are surprised.
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
“But no one around Mertzon intends to junk their windmill
before it doesn’t work any more, and even then they sometimes leave them standing.
“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.’”
is commercially-owned water system in the city, but it does not serve the whole
“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.
of poor water in some wells, the people of Mertzon appreciate their windmills.
After the initial investsment, they don’t have to pay any water bills.”
These days, alas, the urban windmill
thicket is gone and folks in Mertzon no longer enjoy free water.
July 15, 2010 column
Hotel > San