Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine previous issue link Image Eye on Kansas Magazine previous story link  Image Eye on Kansas Magazine table of contents  link Image Eye on Kansas Magazine next story link Image Eye on Kansas Magazine next issue link  Image


Musings Outside of Montezuma

windmills on the horizon

By Dan Patrick

From so many miles away, the wind turbines don’t look like anything special.  They’re little dark grey toothpicks with tiny Mercedes-Benz Y’s rotating, rotating, rotating at the same monotonous pace, sluggishly trudging through the thick summer air.  In fact, they look spectacularly inconsequential.  If they weren’t the only departure from cows, telephone poles, flatness, greenness, and more flatness in the last 100 miles, I wonder if I would have noticed them at all.  Mentally, I let out a grand, lip-fluttering sigh.  I say “mentally” because I don’t want to disappoint my dad sitting next to me, driving the car that carries us through western Kansas—not nearly fast enough, I think—with an incredibly put-out, roll-of-the-eyes, and who encouraged me to accompany him on this business trip to see the “awesome” wind turbine farm outside of Montezuma.  After roughly three hours of driving, the trip has reached its climax and the denouement: a tour of a cotton factory and a four-hour drive home, looms amidst a cloud of disinterest and self-pity.

windmillAs we approach the wind turbine farm, however, something…magical…occurs.  The same wind turbines that only minutes, miles, ago had been just another hopeless, dull extension of the western Kansas vista are suddenly…alive.  They’re living entities, practically exuding life with every rotation.  Within a hundred feet of the steel and fiberglass monoliths, it occurs to me that my face is pressed flush against my car window, the very bottom of my window with my eyes straining upwards, no less, so I can get as full a view of the wind turbines as possible.  I am enraptured.

My dad and I pull into a small parking lot at the base of two towering turbines.  I practically fall out of the car, refusing to look down long enough even to see where my feet are stepping.  “How the mighty (or haughty, rather) have fallen,” I think as I stand awestruck at the bottom of the turbines that I had dismissed as “inconsequential” no more than fifteen minutes ago.  Incredible. Amazing.  Unbelievable.  So…big!  And seemingly alien, these massive structures reach interminably into the sky.  So…smooth!  From a few feet away the long trunk leading to the turbine’s head is seamless, a long, strong piece of engineering, devoid of the marks of man.  No conspicuous logos, no rungs extending up the length of the trunk to provide access to the turbine’s head.  And, the head!  It looks like a command center, a true head.  It sits atop a long opaque white trunk rising righteously, proudly from the plains of western Kansas.  The head that looks like a stadium skybox atop a stout post with a great, conical nose at the base of which extends three magnificent blades.  And no descriptor better befits the blades than magnificent, from their sheer size to their smooth rhythm.  It’s beyond comprehension how these massive lengths of fiberglass can so effortlessly and consistently slice the air, rotation after rotation, with the same cool pace.  And then my eyes light upon the tapered sides of the blades, the part that channels the air into a thin circular stream to be cleaved be the fat fore of the blade that follows it.  A mild feeling of horror as ruminations of kitchen knives: the glint of their business edge parting tomatoes fills my head…but is quickly gone. 

belly to the beast
Irresistibly, I am drawn to the belly of the beast, or rather, beauty.  A small “No Trespassing” sign hangs from a heavy length of chain surrounding the parking lot and I pay it all the due it deserves, that of a formality, so I at least glance at it as I gingerly step over it.  I literally belly up to the trunk of the great turbine and tilt my head back until my crown is perpendicular to the ground.  I am a babe warm and secure in the assuring presence of my mother, life giver and preserver.  As I peer into the sky all that exists is this white, metal trunk about which I am wholly draped, its head, its great blades, and the sun.  The turbine takes on a greater maternal aspect when as looking up against the harsh light of the sun, which practically simmers in the thick blue air, blades that offer an occasional bit of recourse from the sun’s bright, nearly unbearable beaming… 

After having inhaled the wind turbine farm until I am plenty sated and near dizzy, my dad gathers me up and off we are again.  My head is reeling, abuzz with all things wind turbine.  Suddenly, my mind catches on a sharp, insistent thought protruding from the rushing current and it occurs to me that some complain that the wind turbine farms mar the Kansas landscape.  For me, I can’t think of a better, more fitting testament to that which is Kansas than the wind turbine farms.  Like Kansas, the turbines have a clean, simple design.  No extraneous parts.  Absolutely lacking in “gingerbread” as my dad would say.  Unassuming and indefatigable.  They’re not loud—to eye or ear—and they work day in and day out providing a crucial service, much like the many plaid-shirt-and-overalls-clad Kansas farmers who rise, toil, and go to bed early only to do the same day after day.   And, they are positioned in neat, tidy rows and columns, reflecting the conservative, traditions of the state.  They are the fluffed pillows resting atop the neatly made bed with the hospital-folded corners that is Kansas. 

How I loved these magnificent marvels and how they populated my thoughts days after seeing them.  It was a fascination, an all-consuming, magical fascination the likes of which I hadn’t experienced since I first found a dollar under my pillow after having left a tooth for the Tooth Fairy or ran barefoot into my family’s living room on Christmas day to see presents from Santa Claus spilling from the base of our Christmas tree where eight hours before there had been none.  I was enchanted. 

Then came the undoing.  I was driving down a major highway one day, I can’t remember which and I like to think it’s because I’ve tried very hard to suppress this memory, when I saw a short S-10 pickup truck buzzing toward me in the opposite lane, a great “WIDE LOAD” banner stretched across its grill and an amber-yellow siren atop its hood.  My eyes tracked behind the truck and lit upon it. “It” being a massive tractor trailer with the forewarned “WIDE LOAD.”   The “WIDE LOAD” was a massive blade.  A wind turbine blade.  It looked so big, yet so sad and alone.  It was horrifying, disillusioning to see this lone blade bound to the bed of a tractor trailer and being bused along a commoners’ highway, like any other piece of construction material.  Two more tractor trailers followed, each with another disembodied blade in tow.  The curtain dropped with an abrupt thud; end of show.  I had just awoken to find my mom removing my tooth from under my pillow and trying to furtively replace it with a crinkled dollar bill.  I had happened upon my dad in the early Christmas morn, hunched over a bed of presents, inking “From: Santa,” and “To: Danny” on a present with a fat, acrid Sharpie.  The illusion was gone…

Nevertheless, I couldn’t be happier or more thankful that my dad took me on that particular business trip through western Kansas.  If he hadn’t I might never had understood the true, seemingly visceral, allure of the wind turbines.  And then there’s the cotton factory!  But that’s a whole other story…

     

 

Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Last Updated March 24, 2007
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image
Eye on Kansas Magazine Blank Image