Windmill thefts may be powered by millennium anxiety

Sheriff attributes thefts to fears of Y2K power loss

November 26, 1999|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WEATHERFORD, Texas -- A windmill thief is on the loose in Parker County, and Sheriff Jay Brown and others believe that the thefts might be Y2K-related.

A windmill -- with 8-foot metal blades and a 24-foot tower -- was stolen two weeks ago from a ranch near Millsap.

The previous week, a windmill head was stolen.

"With this Y2K thing coming on, everybody wants a windmill," Brown said.

The owner of a Fort Worth windmill company agrees.

"It's a bumper year for windmills. I call it the Y2K crazies," said Mark Welch, owner of the Second Wind Windmill Service Co., which sells 200 to 300 windmills yearly to working ranches, and another 10 or so more to people who want "yard toys."

Welch said that along with stocking up on food, ammunition, batteries and hand pumps, some people are scrambling for windmills.

"They're fearful that electricity will fail and they won't have a way to get water," Welch said.

"I've sold two hand pumps in 20 years and had one in my inventory for years, then finally discounted it to almost nothing to get rid of it.

"Two years ago, they cost about $210. Today they cost about $650, and you have to get on a 16-week waiting list just to order one."

George Conley of Springtown, Texas, said about half the windmills he installs are just for looks.

"We put in several a year that are not for pumping water," Conley said.

"They're just put up to look good and to look at," he said.

"I would think it would take somebody extra brave and bold to steal a windmill, but it wouldn't be impossible," Conley said. "It could be a popular thing to do today because some people put one up just for looks."

Buster Nations of Millsap, Texas, who reported a windmill stolen from his ranch this month, said, "The fact that windmills have become a popular yard ornament could have generated a market for them.

"I think it's more people wanting to put them up for appearance sake.

"They don't have any need to use them."

Nations said his 60- to 80 year-old windmill, valued at $3,400, could have been carried out through a six-strand barbed-wire fence that was cut, but because the 8-foot metal blades and 24-foot metal tower weigh about 800 pounds, it would have been more practical to use a trailer or truck to remove them.

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