Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23, 2011 Chapter 19

     After several laps in the pool one evening early last week, I joined Doug and Sharon for a late dinner. Sharon had opted to cook, and produced fairly decent chicken enchiladas, complete with fresh avocado and black olive salad. It was the first meal we had shared since my date with Winston. Again, ships passing in the night.
   “It’s almost like you step back in time,” I told them as I described the afternoon at the windmill museum. “He’s got more than 150 windmills of every size and shape imaginable. They’re gorgeous, and he’s done a wonderful job of displaying them and their history. I learned an awful lot.”

   “Like what?” Sharon asked. “I was out there when it first opened, but it’s been a long time.” Turning to Doug, she said, “You haven’t been there, have you, honey?”

“Nope. Just driven by. I know several windmills are outside. But not 150. How’d he get so many of them in that small building?  And what’s so fascinating about windmill history?” He looked skeptical.

   I eagerly shared my new-found knowledge. “The South Plains was settled mainly because of the windmill. Seems there’s not much surface water around here. No deep rivers, just a few small branches that dry up. And the playas — which I learned are definitely God-made — are seasonal rather than a stable water source. Another old water source, the springs of Lubbock Lake, dried up in the early 1930s.

   “Anyway, this used to be Indian country. In the early 18th century ... I think that’s what Windy said ... the Comanche tribe came and took over from the Apache who were here. It was a Comanche stronghold up until the last battle to move the tribes to Oklahoma reservations. Then cattlemen brought in huge herds and drew water out of the underground water table with windmills.”
   Doug interrupted, “It’s the Ogallala water table here. Huge reservoir about 150 feet below the surface.”

“That’s what Windy said. It’s not too deep, so they didn’t have to go down very far for good water. The wind alone brought up enough to keep stock tanks filled for livestock, and when electricity made power pumps available, enough water was brought up to irrigate crops. The climate was good for cotton. Now, though, civilization takes even more water than crops. Currently, Lubbock gets most of its water from manmade lakes, such as Lake Merideth north of Amarillo, and soon from Lake Alan Henry, south of Post. Anyway, the area was settled as farmland and Tech was born. In fact, without the windmill, we might all be at the University of Texas or A&M.”

“Heaven forbid,” Doug said in mock disgust. “I like the wide-open spaces out here on the Llano Estacado.”
   Sharon looked at me, “Yeah, and I don’t look good in maroon or burnt orange. Maggie, did you ever ask Doug about that? About the name Llano Estacado?”
   “No. Forgot. Doug, what’s it mean? Spanish for ...?”
   “Palisaded plains, or staked plains. There are several theories about the name. Let me get my book on it.” He left to retrieve it from their library.

“Did you find out about that lone wind turbine out at the museum?” Sharon asked as she loaded the last dish in the dishwasher, added detergent, and turned it on. We moved to the den. “Do they actually pull energy from it?”

“They do. It generates enough to run the whole museum. Windy’s got another one coming — or at least the turbine part — in pieces. He plans to put it inside the museum so children can get an up-close idea of the actual size of the propellors. You were right about the size. He says the blades can be anywhere from sixty-five to one-hundred-twenty feet long.”
   “He’s going to put those inside?!”

“Says he is. He has exciting plans for the place, incorporating windmills and wind turbines to show the history of it all. Even planning on finding an old Dutch windmill. Not all the ones out here pulled up water ... some were used like the Dutch ones, to grind wheat or corn. Windy hopes to have the first phase done right after Christmas and will host a gala to open the new exhibits.”
   “New exhibits?” Doug asked, returning.

“Yes, he’s expanding what he has and rearranging it all. Although right now it’s pretty spectacular. Just over 100 windmills are inside, row after row of wooden ones, metal ones, from about four feet high to more than fifty feet tall. Restored blades and tails and towers and motors of every shape and size ... just everywhere. And they’re painted in mostly red and white, with an occasional blue or green here and there—the wheels, that is, not the towers. He’s collected from all across the country. 
   “He’s got one inside with a wheel span of about 25 feet. It’s really special. I think he called it the Southern Cross, but it’s less than twenty years old. The larger the wheel span, the deeper the pipes can go down to get the water. He said the Southern Cross can pull water up from about 1400 feet.

   “Some of them have double wheels and some have two tails. Mill makers normally printed their company names on the tails. Eclipse, Standard, Aermotor — in all different colors and styles.

   “There’s one really old metal tail — the tails point the blades into the wind — you can tell it’s been shot with buckshot many times. Has hundreds of small holes in it. Good target practice for the locals, I guess. Anyway, some of his windmills are more than a hundred years old and still turning. Several inside ones have motors on them now to show how they turned.
   “Oh, and in the middle of the exhibit floor, he’s got a huge fenced pit — about 8 feet deep so windmills can be placed on the subfloor. Runs about 100 feet across the museum floor and I’d say 10 to 15 feet wide. That way, the platforms and blades are closer to eye-level for visitors, again, to get a better view of their size.”
   “That’s a smart way to display them. Bet the kids like it,” Sharon said. “Will it stay like that when he reworks the displays, do you think?”
   “He said he’s moving the pit back farther into the new area, leaving the front area open for classes and receptions. I think the whole museum display area is going to be almost three times its current size.”
   “Then it will really be a showplace. I do like the idea of the pit, though. Smart of him.”
   “I thought so, too. It was a totally different perspective than always looking up. He offered to let me climb a big wooden one outside — the one from his own family farm is right out front — but I wasn’t exactly dressed for climbing. I told him I might take him up on his offer another time.”
   “I’ll bet the view is great from up there,” Doug said wistfully. “Like to climb one myself and see just how horizontal this country is. One of my colleagues says the South Plains is so flat you can watch your dog run away for three days!”
   Maggie laughed as Sharon rolled her eyes, groaning, “Old joke, Darling. What’d you find on Llano Estacado?”
  Doug opened a coffee table-sized book and explained, “The most accepted theory is that Coronado named it himself after seeing the Caprock Escarpment northeast of here. Estacado can be translated as ‘palisaded,’ which means a wall of wooden stakes used as a defensive barrier. The cliffs of the caprock were described by Coronado as an impenetrable defense for the land. 
  “A second theory is that because the land is so flat and open, there were no landmarks of any kind to guide travelers across this ‘sea of grass.’ So Indians, and then Spaniards, would drive tall stakes into the ground at certain points as guides across the terrain. They ‘staked out’ a trail.

   “Others say yucca flower stalks served as stakes to tether horses on the open plains. But the most recent theory, which I think is extremely interesting, was proposed by a Spanish-speaking Tech student — Llano Estacado could be a bastardization of llano estancado, meaning ‘plain of many ponds.’ ”
  “Referring to the playas?” Sharon asked. 
   “Definitely. There are thousands of the shallow depressions here on the South Plains. They fill up with water during rains and then don’t drain well because of the hard caliche soil they’re made from, so they support the wildlife around here. Without the playas, we wouldn’t see the migration of those Canada geese you like, or several other species. Anyway, I think it’s quite possible estancado is the right theory.”
  “Hard to know which one is correct without all the facts,” I said, a twinkle probably forming in my eye. “ Maybe we could pile all the theories together? Let’s see, ‘Francisco Vásques de Coronado came upon the caprock that looked like a stockade, scaled the palisades to conquer the land, found full playas and stakes made of yucca plants dotting the landscape, so he watered and then tethered his horses. Llano Estacado Etancado!’ ”
   Sharon groaned, “That was as pathetic as Doug’s joke. Good thing you don’t write history for a living, Maggie.”

    The next day, I was sitting in the office writing—not exactly about history, but about the future—and a recent generous donation by an alumnus for a nondenominational chapel to be built on campus. What a great idea. They plan to place it near the alumni center on the southeast corner of campus. Perfect for weddings —just a few steps over to the alumni center for the reception. And for quiet reflection? There were many times in college I would have liked to have a quiet place to pray and meditate. Hope they keep it open for student use 24/7. 
I was also thinking about the graduation ceremonies I’d attended last weekend. My first at Texas Tech since my own long ago, I was impressed with the pomp and circumstance and the excitement of the graduates and their parents, but was disappointed Interim President Bennett Boyle represented the university. Although donned in regalia as all the other assembled faculty and administrators—although his gown looked ancient and musty— he was the only one without a mortar board, tam or cap on his head. He probably didn’t want to muss his helmet hair. Not only did he look out of place without a hat of some type, but he also gave a lackluster speech and showed no enthusiasm for the proceedings, as if he couldn’t wait to get out of the arena. Not a good way to impress the Regents, although that might be a good thing for all concerned. 
   Luckily, a keynote speaker had been engaged months ago by the former president. Rousing the crowd to laughter and tears, she did an outstanding job and received a standing ovation. The contrast between the two, as Winston might say, was “mindbludgeoning.”

   The next day, I came back from a quick lunch to find Elaine fuming once again. She had passed Allison in the hallway. Boyle’s new assistant made another racial remark, under her breath, but loud enough for Elaine to hear. Although tempted again to deck the stupid twit, Elaine instead reported it to me as I had requested. I calmed her down, then gave her a gift. (More about that in a minute.) 
Later that afternoon, another gift arrived. Elaine brought in a package delivered through campus mail. It was an expensively framed surprise from Winston. As I looked for a place to hang it, Elaine read it out loud: 
JABBERWOCKY by Lewis Carroll
(From Through the Looking-Glass 
and What Alice Found There, 1872)
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!
He took his vorpal sword in hand: Long time the manxome foe he sought— So rested he by the Tumtum tree, And stood awhile in thought.
And as in uffish thought he stood, The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! and through and through The vorpal blade went snicker-snack! He left it dead, and with its head He went galumphing back.
And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! He chortled in his joy.
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.

   This morning, another present arrived, this one enjoyed by the entire building, with the exception of Bennett Boyle.  Allison turned in her resignation, effective immediately, saying her brother desperately needed her to help him out at his construction business in Amarillo. She packed up her nail polish, juicy fruit, glamour photo, purple elephant and left. She didn’t want the plant.
   Only Elaine and University Counsel Bobby Jones and I know what really happened. After the hallway insult last week, the gift I had given Elaine was the tape from a small recorder I’d had in my pocket the morning I retrieved my plant. It contained Allison’s racial slurs, loud and clear. Elaine took the tape to Bobby Jones and filed a formal complaint against Allison for racial discrimination and harassment. 
   Bobby Jones called Allison into his office to discuss her options. She opted to resign.
   The job opening has been posted. I understand Miss Katherine will not apply. 

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