backroads windmills

Terry Rodman’s collection of windmills just north of Jasper, Minn. is a living history lesson … and Rodman can tell you about each one. But he is more than a history buff. He seems to be fascinated by the variety of ways humans have found to harness the wind — particularly to pump water. That’s why of the 44 mills he has erected (he’s working on more), each is a different make and model.

Nine mills are from foreign countries: China, Australia, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Spain, the Netherlands, Brazil and Argentina. Typically he had the gearbox, blades and tail shipped to Jasper and he built the four-legged tower. (Being a welder and machinist, he not only refurbishes but also makes parts and towers.)

In Spain, Rodman saw windmills with stone bases, so he took the specs and built a replica using a fuel barrel for the base.

Rodman saw another unusual windmill in the Netherlands: a Bosman on a black tower. There were four fans and two tails at a 90-degree angle from each other — one vertical and one horizontal. A water float system rotates the tails to turn the fan into or away from the wind. The gearbox is a Ford Model A rear end, redesigned to pump water.

The mills collected in America are equally diverse. There is a mill with twin fans. Another that was sold by Sears & Roebuck. A Challenge with fans made of slender wooden blades. Most sit on shorter towers than the original. Not only does he not relish climbing tall towers at age 75, it’s easier for people to see the working parts of the windmill.

There is even a windmill that tips over — intentionally. The Aermotor Tip-Over mill is hinged in the middle and has a red, bell-shaped counterweight on the bottom. When it needs service, it is unlatched and the head swings down to a height reachable by a regular ladder.

“That’s one of my favorites,” Rodman said. “There aren’t many around.”

The windmills all stand near his home on Split Rock Creek. They can be glimpsed from Highway 23 north of Jasper; but get a close-up look by turning off the highway onto a gravel road (21st St.) and after a short distance turn south on 40th Ave. After walking among the windmills, follow the stone path across a bridge to the Dutch windmill. Inside there is a guest book to sign.

Terry Rodman can be reached via email at     

Editor’s note: A feature story on Rodman, written by Siemers, appeared in the Feb. 24, 2006 issue of The Land. Since that time Rodman has added a number of windmills to his collection and we thought readers might enjoy a visit to his display.