The gentle squeaking and pumping sounds tell you that the windmill is doing its job; harnessing the relentlessly blowing wind to bring water up from the far depths of the earth, for all the thirsty livestock.
There is a whole field of them whirring around at the American Wind Power Center in Lubbock, Texas (including a giant 164-foot white Vestas wind turbine that powers the museum) plus a building crammed with over 100 historic windmills that you can walk around and read about.
I was struck by the engineering creativity and craftsmanship of these machines. I learned, for example, that the weird-looking windmill with the blades folded like a closed flower was actually a regular windmill that is folded like that when it is shut down.
There were absolutely enormous windmills that used to pull up enough water to service steam railroad engines. There were small metal devices that perhaps brought up just enough water for some chickens, displayed right next to elaborate professionally manufactured windmills and then further down, some simple wooden handmade ones that would make MacGyver proud.
The museum also supports a WindSmith Academy: a two-day school covering basic tenets of wind power. Those who are interested in working in this growing profession (which is more and more important to the economy of western Texas) can check it out ahead of time through this course, and even climb up the tower of a 50 meter wind turbine at the end of class.
If you’re ever in Lubbock, this museum is well worth a stop. I truly enjoyed it.