November 2, 2006
Miller Co. -- Job forecasters believe the service part of our economy should grow phenomenally during the next 10 years. One service job, in particular, lets you see the countryside like few others, but could have a hard time recruiting workers.
But one man enjoys the challenges and goes to great lengths on every service call. Some people can dress for work in a snap. "I enjoy fooling with them. I like to see them turn," says Roy Fulmer, a windmiller, as he describes himself, as he puts on a special safety harness.
He will climb the ladder of success without giving it a second thought. "It seems like forever I've been doing it for so long," says Roy, who doesn't remember for sure if he started 10 or 11 years ago.
He maintains windmills and they still fascinate him even though he knows all about how they work. "Simple, but efficient," says Roy about a mechanical design that hasn't changed much.
Even simplicity needs maintaining. Roy changes the oil, "About every two years; Going to spray all moving parts now," says Roy from atop a tower 50 feet in the air as he pulls up two plastic jugs and a red funnel.
One jug has new oil, and the other one catches the used oil when Roy's loosens the drain plug on the gearbox.
Zack Cleveland's windmill needs servicing, a family heirloom that has been in his wife's family since 1927. "I just couldn't see throwing something away this unusual. You don't see many of these," says Zack about a road widening project that put the windmill in jeopardy.
He disassembled it and trucked the windmill to his home a short distance away. The Cleveland's particular windmill is a collector's item, a Challenge model 27 that pumps water to thirsty pecan trees. A giant windmill to some people, perhaps even to the legendary Don Quixote if he saw it.
Roy enjoyed reading the book about Don Quixote who would go out and take on windmills thinking they were giants. "It was one of my favorite stories before I got involved in windmills," says Roy.
He's been scared up there before. "A couple of times; Hang on for a minute and it passes, hopefully," says Roy. But one time it didn't pass so quickly. He had a serious problem.
Roy was 50 feet above the ground when he started having chest pains, and he couldn't safely climb down. His boss, Bryant Nunnelly, rescued him.
Roy had had a heart attack up there, and as soon as doctors released Roy after treatment, he went back to repairing windmills with their blessings. "Just because I had a heart attack doesn't mean I'm more vulnerable," says Roy, who believes the climbing helps prevent future heart attacks. "It's good exercise," says Roy.
And a good job, doing what he enjoys doing, "I just enjoy seeing it turn," says Roy about a simple machine can bring home the water. Roy Fulmer estimates about half of the windmills we see pump water, while the other half provide decoration.