Archive for Monday, May 4, 1998


May 4, 1998


Though the old wooden windmill doesn't pump anything, it stands proudly on a hill outside Lawrence.

On a hill on County Road 442 west of Lawrence, a red and white windmill catches a breeze.

The paint is bright and still new. The windmill, however, is old -- possibly even 110 years old.

Paul Garber leaned against his windmill on a spring afternoon.

``I've made it look like it is pumping,'' he said, even though the red pump isn't connected to a well, just two wood ties. The antique, and operating, windmill is between 90 and 110 years old.

Garber bought and restored the windmill, putting it up in his back yard. Once a workhorse on many high-plains farms, old wooden windmills are now scarce, he said. His was found in a Colorado barn where it had remained stored for more than 50 years.

``It was simply good fortune,'' he said. ``The people that didn't need this anymore took it apart carefully.'' Many wooden windmills, he said, were just left to fall apart.

His grandsons, Isaac and Paul McPheeters, scrambled out of their mother's car and ran to the windmill.

``Can you turn it on for us?'' Paul, 7, asked. Paul's mother, Priscilla McPheeters, said that her father has always been interested in preservation.

``We say out with the new and in with the old,'' Isaac, 10, said.

The 12-foot-wide wheel -- twice the size of wheels on steel windmills -- turned slowly in the breeze. Its white tower stands 36 feet tall. The ladder, with its last leg tied up so the grandchildren can't climb it, is red. The white slats are red-tipped. Red lettering on the vane proclaims it an Eclipse, a company established in 1888. The weight on its ``on'' lever is a trademark half-moon.

``There were thousands of these made,'' Garber said, ``but there aren't that many left.''

Garber grew up on a farm in south-central Kansas. On the farm, they had a windmill.

``I enjoyed watching it,'' Garber said. ``Then when electricity came it suffered the fate of all the wooden windmills.'' It was torn down and scrapped.

Garber said he started trying to find an old windmill three or four years ago, but had little luck.

``When I asked anybody, they said I was 20 years too late,'' he said. ``They were all gone.''

In the winter, he got in touch with a Colorado rancher who had just purchased the well-preserved Eclipse.

``The restoration was much easier than I had any right to think it would be,'' he said. ``I can't claim to have done anything but painted the wheel.''

After he bought the windmill in January, Garber spent February painting it. A dozen of the 96 cypress wood slats in its wheel where broken. The mechanical parts were in good shape, with little rust.

But the windmill needed a tower to sit on.

When he bought the windmill, Garber said, it was just the wheel and the metal parts. He found blueprints for the Eclipse in a windmill magazine, and had a carpenter, Martin Madorin, build the tower.

Madorin built the tower in a week, working off and on. Meanwhile, Garber assembled all the working parts and the wheel. A crane lifted the put the assembled windmill in place.

Garber said he doesn't have a real collection of farm antiques. ``Certainly it's the first windmill'' he said. ``I do like old farm equipment.''

-- Felicia Haynes' phone message number is 832-7173. Her e-mail address is

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