Monday, June 14, 2010


Don Quixote and The Ugly Maiden

It is spring time in the Rockies and that means it is time for our annual trip to the summer pasture to repair fences. The winter snow drifts and animals, mostly the human kind, leave fence posts broken and the barbed wire on the ground. To keep the cows on our property and the neighbor’s cows on their property, the fences have to be repaired. Wilford and I load the necessary supplies; tools, staples, nails, wire, fence posts, food and clothing into the back of his pickup for a 3 day stay and leave for Dryhead. A light spring rain is falling and the road in is slick and rough. We stop and turn the hubs in on the four wheel drive pickup. As we get back in the truck we can see far enough ahead to spot another pickup coming toward us. Wilford recognizes the pick up as a Tillett rig and says “ Oh, that’s Bess Tillett and she has one of her girls with her that I have been wanting to introduce you to, and she is just your type”. Now I knew some of the Tillett girls and I can’t say I would have anything negative to say about them so I was looking forward to this meeting. Will pulls over on the left side of the road so that my window will be right next to Bess’s passenger window. As her truck gets closer I try to wipe the mist off of my window so I can see who is with her. She pulls up beside me and I roll my window down just as she is rolling hers down. There staring me in the face is a real pig. I mean a REAL pig! Bess had been to South Africa and brought back a wild pig and domesticated it and taught it to sit up and ride in the pick-up right beside her. It is all wrinkled and covered in black course hair and its teeth are curled up to the middle of its face. It is probably one of the ugliest things I have ever seen. Now Will is getting quite a kick out of this. We visit with Bess and she tells us where the fence is down along their property and we tell her we will repair it, and eventually move on. I mentally filed this as something for which I will definitely get even with Will.

As we come out on the plateau known as the Hansen Flats I can see the silhouette of a drilling rig. Will tells me that the Hansen’s have contracted a well driller to drill two water wells and install water tanks. The hot summer sun dries up the small ponds and creeks and forces us to move the cows to the mountain range where there is water year round. So if these guys find water it will change our grazing schedules and allow us to leave the cows out on the plains a little longer. We stop by the drilling rig and they are already on the second well and tell us that they found water on the first well and that they are sure they will hit water on this one. I ask how they plan on getting the water to the surface and into water troughs for the cattle. Windmills they tell us, and Hans Hansen has already ordered two windmills for the wells.

We leave the plateau and drive down into the canyon and unload our food and clothes at the Hansen cabin. We spend the next two days riding fence. Some we reach with the truck some we have to get to on horseback but we eventually get them all repaired and head back home.
About a week later I get a phone call from Hans Hansen. He says to pack enough clothing for a week because he and Eddie Meier are heading into Dryhead and need some help to erect the windmills. We spend the first day just loading the truck and trailer with windmill parts, generators, welders, concrete, shovels, picks and tools and we head to Dryhead. We have to dig corner footings for the tower and the ground is solid rock. You can only hand dig about 2 inches every hour. It takes us from 6 AM to 10 PM just to dig the four holes. We decide to pour the concrete and set the anchor bolts in the holes the next morning and while it is setting up we will dig the post holes for the next windmill. Morning arrives and Hans informs Eddy and I that he has other things to do back home and will be back in 6 days to pick us up. Eddy and I are stuck out on the Hansen flats of Dryhead with only an old Ford tractor with a cement mixer attached to the back of it.

After the holes were dug and the concrete poured the erection of the windmill was pretty easy. After the first four days and two dead rattlesnakes we had the first windmill all assembled and ready to go. We had to tie the windmill blades down with a rope to keep the shaft from turning while we connected the pump to the drive shaft. After we got it coupled together someone needed to release the rope and let the blades rotate. It is a typical windy day on the Dryhead flats. Eddie decides to climb the tower and release the blades. As soon as he disconnects the rope, the blades take off and he ducks just in time because the blades come close enough to take his hat off. We pour water into the well shaft and after a few minutes of anxiety we can hear water coming up the shaft and eventually the windmill is pumping a nice stream of water into the water tank. On the next one we tie it down with the chain in a position that it can be released without being in the path of the blades.

If you travel to Dryhead you can still these windmills, one has collapsed and the other one is still pumping water 46 years later.

7 comments:

Joan said...

You've had 30 people check out this story but had no comments,so I will add mine...I love your stories. Please update often if only for me. You are a gifted story teller.

Colett (*.*) said...

maybe if you left comments on others blogs they would be more willing to leave them on yours, ha, just saying. please keep writing, I love it so much.

Amy said...

I thought I left a comment, but it appears as though I did not! Anyway...yet another glorious piece of work from my dear father! I sure wish these were not few and far between!

Kaye said...

I want to go to Dryhead. . . wherever that is! Keep writing!

Jem said...

Ditto to what everyone else says. . more please!

alex said...

i LOVE listing to your storys its fun to know what you did when you were my age i <3 you

Donna Varnes said...

Your blog came up while I was doing research for a memoir I am doing for my 81 year old mother who was raised on a homestead in Dryhead. We were trying to find any info on Annie (Bess) Tillett as Ruth Smith (my grandmother)got a job working for The Tilletts as a housekeeper and cook after her husband Delbert Smith died and lived on their ranch. Anyway she was happy just to read about something that took place near her old stomping grounds. Thanks