I was born in 1962 into a Kansas farm family. The tribe name, "Kansa", means "Wind People". The Native American populations of the Prairie knew the element of wind well. It is a land accurately named.
After Kansas Territory was opened to settlement in the 1850s, the Windmill, a wheel that converts the force of wind into power rose up over the Great Plains. From the life-giving water of a cool drink after a long day's work, to sustaining livestock and crops, windmills became vertical signs of survival on an otherwise often flat landscape.
Our farm had a windmill. It stood in the traditional position by the livestock tank and pens. It was pretty rickety and rusty by the time I came to know it. It had also been supplemented with an electric motor to pump the water from time to time.
The windmill was a destination for me as a little girl. This was especially true when I wanted to go on a grand adventure -100 feet from the house or so.
Sometimes my sister and I would travel together packing our little doll suitcases with doll clothes and bringing the wearers of these frills and frocks for company. We took pains to arrange everything as we sat under the scarce trees near our modest galvanized tower.
Often I traveled alone. I would sit on the fence, or in the cattle shoot itself watching our white horse, Lady, listening to the lowing crying calves recently purchased at auction, marveling at the bulls - imagining and daydreaming the time away.
All the while, there was the accompaniment of the wind, and the metal melody from the windmill.
1,729 miles away in the Willamette Valley farming community of Champoeg, Oregon, a robust "Aermotor" wind wheel, anchored atop an elegant four story Victorian tower, had been turning through four generations of the Zorn Family.
This "Japanese" -style water tower was the inspiration and aspiration of Jerry's great grand-uncles, Casper Zorn and John Hoefer. The 50' structure was built in the early 1880s, and through a 600 gallon redwood water tank on the 4th floor, it provided indoor plumbing to the Zorn Farm House built by the uncles in 1862.
There was also a sophisticated system of shafts and gears within the building that at one time ground grain with the power of the windmill rotation.
A Columbus Day storm blew the wind wheel down in 1962. This powerful and destructive hurricane hit the Pacific Northwest on October 12th of that year; the windstorm and its awful effects are still remembered.
Home movies show Jerry, almost 4, scampering after his siblings, parents, aunts, and uncle surveying the aftermath of the storm here on the Farm, as well as the beginning efforts at clearing and clean up.
There has been a long tradition in this family of saving and repurposing items - from windows and rooms of houses swept apart in the 1861 flood, to depression era butter tubs, to wood and metal equipment - like wind wheels.
And so the tradition continues. A few days ago, we christened Columban Hall with Club Member friends by lighting our "new" chandelier - the repurposed wind wheel. It was wonderful to have friends old and new with us to mark the day.
Getting to this point has been a lot like the Kansas State Motto: "To the Stars Through Difficulty". Earlier in the week, Abel, (his name fits him perfectly) and I installed "stars" on the Hall cupola ceiling before hanging the chandelier. For us, it's an illuminated way of reminding us of all manner of life's adversities, and the value of pursuing the path through.
Jerry's growth and agricultural iterations here on the farm since that time he was four and following others have been varied, yet integrated. They have included raising black angus cattle, sheep, chickens, nursery stock, grass seed, organic vegetables, and what he likes to call his experience of "ultimate farming"; viticulture.
We see wine as a basic element. From vine, to bottle, to glass; making wines that delight lifts our hearts as we lift glasses together over the storms and joys in this life. For us, and we hope others, it pushes against the darkness; our Toast and call to Ad Lucem. (to the Light).
These are our memories. It has been so rich and pleasing to hear members and others visiting The Hall recount their own. Where they were and what the effects and impact the storm had on them, their family, friends, farms, and neighborhoods has filled this gathering space with so much story.
We look forward to making and gathering more memories, more stories - all over more good wine.
8400 Champoeg Rd NE
St. Paul, OR 97137
Columban Hall Tasting Room open daily 11 am - 5 pm (Friday and Saturday 11 am -7 pm, June - September).