Tilting at the windmills: This Prairie Legend team keeps them spinning

Great State
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ST. LOUIS, Okla. — Today marks an easy day for Michael Porterfield.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “This is a gravy day today.”

He doesn’t have to mix cement, dig footer holes, or lift anything really heavy.

All he has to do is climb a skinny ladder 27 feet up, stand on a small platform, and keep this Aeromoter spinning.

“This is pretty much the same design they came up with in 1933,” he explains. “And they didn’t change it much from 1888, 1889.”

Blame his grandparents for directing his attention skyward. They had windmills on their farm. They even gave him one to fiddle with.

“For some reason, I wanted to fix all of them,” he smiles. “I had to get involved after that.”

A long fascination eventually turned into a career 10 years back.

Porterfield joined a dwindling number of professionals who tilt at these prairie dragons against the headwinds of progress.

Micheal explains, “Around here, we get the lion’s share of the work because there aren’t very many people to call any more.”

Change the oil on this simple machine and it might work for a half-century. Subtract years for neglect and storms.

But he says some windmills still surprise.

“I’ve seen windmills, I can’t believe they’re even pumping water anymore and they keep working. They’re pretty incredible machines,” he says.

Porterfield calls his two-man operation ‘Prairie Legends.’

Michael has been on most of the surviving windmills in pastures like this between Shawnee and Ada, McAlester and Pauls Valley, and this one amidst the pump jacks near St. Louis, Oklahoma.

“There are a lot of them out there working,” he says.

Ranchers may turn to solar power to pump water.

The old windmills might slowly complain their way to stopping altogether.

But guys like Porterfield still climb the good ones, partly for the view, and partly to keep these pieces of history happily spinning along.

For more information on what Porterfield does for a living, click here.

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