Monday, November 15, 2010

How This All Started, Part 12

Our windmill tower.  January 2004
  If you're still following the story, the windmill tower was put up in January of 2004.

Now I have to make a decision to either tell the story like it happened, in chronological order, or flash ahead and then retrace my steps in another post and go back.  What to do?  I've asked my three most faithful readers (Carl, Joel and Ann) for their opinions and even Carl (who hates flashbacks) said I should finish up the tale of the windmill first, and then fill in the blanks in the time frame next.

So here we go:
 A whole bunch of other stuff went on for the rest of the winter; for me the usual housewife chores; sewing some clothes and more intense house-cleaning (because during the growing season who has time to clean house?)  For Carl, more planning and working on the Next Project, but more on that to come.

The spring and summer of 2004 were taken up with installing the aforementioned Next Project, a wedding, a garden walk and of course, working on the Quarry construction, until finally, in late August, we began to get ready to put the windmill head up.  Carl built a stand to place the windmill on so he could work on it in our driveway.  When it was time to retrieve the windmill, Carl and Joel hooked the mill onto the Super H with chains and carefully brought it out of the machine shed at Mom's,  placed it gently on our little trailer and towed it home.

Once we had it back here again, Joel lifted the head with the tractor once again, and Carl guided it carefully to the stand.  The head weighs around 350 pounds, so it is cumbersome.  Below is a picture of the two guys putting the mill on the stand:
Late August 2004, Carl and Joel putting the windmill head on the stand.
Once we had it on the stand, Carl went through and checked all the bolts and made some adjustments which took over a week.  Then it was time for more decisions.  Do we repaint it?  We hadn't painted the tower before we put it up, and it was rusty, so do we leave the mill rusty too?   After a lively debate, we decided to go ahead and paint the mill, and I'm glad we did.  Off to the hardware store for a bunch of cans of galvanized metal spray paint.
David, age 14,  takes his turn spraying the windmill.
We looked through pictures of other windmills and decided to dress ours up a little bit (though it's probably not traditional) by adding some red paint to the end of the fan blades and to the tail.  When the mill was new, the tail would have borne an 'Aermotor Co'. logo emblazoned across the tail with 'Chicago' stenciled in red letters below it.  We didn't have the stencil, so we just added a  red 'V' to the tail and thought it looked ok.

Another very bittersweet memory to share here; Joel's best friend, Marty, had been diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy as a youngster and was in a wheelchair.   I have never known another person, young or old, with such a cheerful disposition in the face of great adversity.

  Marty was more involved in school activities than my two kids ever were, and was an honor student.  His wheelchair didn't hold him back from typical guy-like outside activities, either.  The two friends would go tearing up and down our side road, Joel on his bike, Marty in his wheelchair, just having a good time.  They also went cross-country through the farm fields here and when they'd get back from the field, Marty's wheelchair would be dragging tall grass and cornstalks underneath.  Marty loved tractors as much as Joel, and used to come over and watch Joel hauling stones off the pile for the Quarry construction. 

Here's a picture of Joel and Marty after we had painted the windmill:

Joel and Marty, juniors in high school,  September 2004.
We decided to raise the windmill head on Labor Day weekend, 2004.  Marty, and his mom, Jill, were here to help, and we couldn't have done it without them.

Below, Joel and Carl are coming down the lane with the windmill head, Carl is steadying the mill so it doesn't spin on the chain suspended on the tractor bucket:

Getting closer.....

Approaching the tower.  Joel on tractor, Carl and David.
Once again, we could not afford to hire a crane to put the windmill head up, so Carl came up with an idea.  He had a system of pulleys, ropes and angle iron rigged up like a temporary crane hoist to raise the head which also, once again, required me on the tractor, pulling. Carl had worked on the idea of how to raise the head for weeks, and was confident it would work.
Joel, preparing the tower for the lift.
There was a lot of preliminary work to do before we could get to the actual lifting part.  In the picture above, Joel is standing on the cedar platform, working on the mast head.  The rope seen on the left-hand side of the picture is attached to a bucket which contains nuts and bolts and tools Joel needs.  Marty was in charge of towing the bucket up and down the tower with his wheelchair.  Whenever Joel needed something, Marty would raise and lower the bucket.  You can see how many trips he saved Joel by the tracks in the sand in the picture below:
Marty, in charge of tools.
 Raising the tower back in January could have been a disaster, but there were much higher stakes this time--for Joel would be standing on top of the 40' tower while I was on the tractor, doing the pulling.  One slip with my foot on the clutch of the tractor and a nightmare would play out right before my eyes.  I was very uneasy with this job. Both of the men told me I was being silly, what could happen?

After Joel got everything in place on the stub tower and Carl had everything hooked up to his satisfaction, we were finally ready to give the rope and pulley system a try.  I backed up ever so slowly and the head started to come off the stand.  We all held our breath as it ascended higher and higher, but when the mill was about 20' in the air, the angle irons on top of the tower suddenly bent.  Oh, that was a scary sight!  We were pulling at too much of an angle.

Everyone was safe, yet, so Carl had me drive ahead slowly so he could lower the mill back onto the stand.  Back to the drawing board, Carl made some changes to the hooking arrangement and we tried again.

By now it is getting late in the day, close to sunset again.  There I am, below, holding my breath and praying for all I'm worth that this works and Joel doesn't get hurt. 
Me, staring hard at Joel and keeping steady feet on the clutch and brake.

 In the above picture, you can see the mill is going up, this time we have it hooked correctly.  I am still holding my breath though......

 Almost to the top now.  Joel has the hardest part of the entire job to perform, he has to wrestle this 350 pound mill over onto the mast head on top of the tower while keeping his balance on the tiny platform.  This was the most nerve-wracking part for all of us.
Carl was standing in front of me, orchestrating this whole deal---he looks like a musical conductor with Marty by his side in the picture below:
Carl, on ground, conducting; Marty watching, and Joel doing his best not to fall off the tower.

Success yet again!  Joel announces the mill is seated on the stub tower!!  I can finally breathe.

Joel needed a few more tools hauled up the tower again and I volunteered to climb up there with him as I had so much nervous energy to burn off.

Joel and me, hanging around on top of the tower.
As a kid, I used to climb our 40' tall silo to put silo filler pipes up every year, and that was nerve-wracking enough.  I don't have a fear of heights, what I have is a fear of landing after I fall.  I do not know to this day how Joel was able to stand on top of that platform and put the windmill on the tower.  He has nerves of steel!  And I should never, ever have allowed it.  He still climbs up there several times a year, checking the gearbox for oil or just to take pictures.  I have gone up there a few times, but only to the base of the platform.  That is high enough for this old bat.

Joel, going back up to do some final adjustments and unhook the ropes and angle iron hoist.
 Since it is so dark out, it's hard to see in the above picture, but Marty is sitting in the foreground watching Joel ascend the tower.  Jill had taken many of these pictures for us and we truly appreciated her help.  Marty and Jill went home shortly afterward as it was getting quite cool out.  We'd all had a very long day. 

Sadly, the following spring, May 2005, Marty passed away shortly before high school graduation.  The world lost a very, very special young man that day.  He was the most remarkable person I've ever met.  Whenever I look at the windmill, I can still picture Marty the day we put it up, hauling that bucket up and down, always with a smile.

September 2004

May I always remember to be courageous and positive, just like Marty. 

 Marty, 1986-2005

His memory lives on.


Meredehuit ♥ said...

Karen you truly amaze me. There is a special place in heaven for you... with your dear Marty. Love reading your story.

Toni - Signature Gardens said...

Makes me nervous for Joel just looking at these pictures! Yikes!!! There is no way no how I would be up on that tower. Y'all are incredibly brave or incredibly crazy, one of the two!! Wow. I continue to be amazed at your ambition and resourcefulness in accomplishing these projects!!!

FlowerLady said...

This part of the story was beautiful. An amazing tribute to Marty, who still touches people with his happy spirit, through your story.

I do not like heights at all. I will climb things to help DH, but that's it. I'm a chicken. I want to be on the ground. Not that I don't like being up high and looking around, it's the climbing and then having to take that step off the ladder onto the roof that sends me into tears. I guess it's the fear of falling.

What adventures your family has had and such a treat to read.

Hugs ~ FlowerLady

Gatsbys Gardens said...

Karen, I couldn't possibly have climbed that tower, barely a ladder. What a heatwarming story about Marty (my brother's and father's name).


Sall's Country Life said...

As tears are streaming down my face, indeed what a beautiful tribute to Marty. You all are such an amazing bunch, and should be so proud of all your accomplishments. I am sure Marty is looking down on your farm every day, wishing he could be there to lend a hand again. Love your stories, but you gotta stop making me cry every morning. LOL.
Thanks for sharing,

Anonymous said...

Last post you got asked how big the windmill is and this post your pictures really tell the whole story. The image of your son next to the windmill top really puts it into perspective. Another great post that I really enjoyed reading.

Zoey said...

I was amazed at all the tracks in the sand from Marty's chair.

What a heart-warming tribute to your friend.

You and your family have really put a lot of work and love into your quarry garden.

Granny Lyn's Garden said...

Karen, What a beautiful tribute. The windmill is a wonderful memorial.
Following you progress through you blogs has made me laugh and made me cry.
(Marty is my oldest sons's name.)
God Bless, Lynda

Karen said...

Thank you.
Marty was a wonderful young man. We will always remember him.

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