The Peculiar Case of a Stolen Windmill

A moment in Texas history you may not have heard.

By T. Lindsay Baker June 2, 2015 9:56 am

Windmills are big things, and you don’t ordinarily think about people stealing them, but this is what happened to Eldon Reyer as a park ranger at Castolon down in the Big Bend country.

In 1962 he and his wife moved to Big Bend National Park on the banks of the Rio Grande across from Mexico, where Eldon was responsible for managing wildlife. He and a helper repaired a windmill to pump water for wildlife.

One day while on horseback patrol, he found the windmill was gone. The whole thing was missing. “I knew that it had to have vanished across the river” into Mexico, he thought to himself.

“I started looking around and I found where they had drug the angle iron portions behind a burro. . . These marks were quite deep. . . I picked up the trail and went west about three miles toward the river,” he said.

Eldon now returned to a cliff, and from its height with his binoculars he looked across the Rio Grande into Mexico. “Back across the river probably two or three hundred yards on the other side of the bank, a guy was building an adobe house and the whole framework was the galvanized angle irons. . . . On about the fifth day the blades showed up on the roof as tin roofing,“ he said.

Reflecting on what had happened; Eldon decided that the thief had probably long planned to steal the windmill.” He mused, “He was probably waiting up there when I went by and took it down after I had passed. It amazes me how fast they dismantled that thing and drug it out of there.”