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by Tumbleweed Smith

San Angelo is home to the Aermotor Windmill Company.

“They’re built right here and we ship them all over the world,” says Bob Bracher, president and part owner of Aermotor. “We ship to about 25 different countries and every state in the union.”

When I toured the factory, shipments were getting ready to ship to Russia and Africa. He says Russia has ordered a bunch of them because they’re building up their cattle over there. Several of them are going to Nigeria, where clean water is in short supply.

The company has 30 employees who turn out thousands of windmills a year.

“We build six different sizes of windmills,” says Bob. “The diameter of the wheel is the way we classify them. They’re 6 feet, 8, 10, 12, 14 and 16. The 16’s will pump to a thousand feet. The most popular is the 8 feet windmill, which fully installed sells for $7,500. It’ll go down 175 feet.”

Bob says Aermotor is the only windmill company in Texas and one of only two such enterprises in the United States. “We’re the last one that is a full service line, but there is one in Nebraska named Dempster and we compete against some knock-off windmills made in Mexico, Argentina and China. Our company was started in 1888 in Chicago and operated there for years, and then somebody decided to move it to Argentina. They got kicked out of the country and the Argentineans took their patents and products and started making windmills. They moved back to the United States and in 1983 made some changes to make the units more efficient. They were in a few states before coming to San Angelo in 1986. We’ve been here ever since.”

Bob knows windmills. He grew up on a ranch and still ranches near Fort McKavett. He has five windmills on his property. Many parts for the windmills are made at the factory in San Angelo.

“They’re made right here. Everything we use is made in the USA by American workers. We don’t use anything foreign. We don’t even use foreign bolts. We’re a true American company.”

Windmills are strong symbols of independence. Bob says some people think the railroads settled the west, but actually it was the windmills because the railroads had to have windmills to run the trains. The windmills also gave ranchers and farmers the ability to establish agricultural pursuits. Once a windmill is installed, it stays there for a long time. Some of Bob’s customers in the panhandle use Aermotor windmills that are a hundred years old. For some, the windmill is nostalgic.

“A lot of people grew up on a farm or remember seeing a windmill on their grandfather’s farm. They’ll come in and buy a windmill and put it up, sometimes to pump water, sometimes just to see it and listen to it creak.”

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