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Column: Buffalo Ridge -- our answer to the Hoover Dam

WORTHINGTON -- When you get above age 30, people sometimes ask you about things you remember that are not often seen any longer. Or maybe it is when you get above 40. You know what I am talking about. I even have people ask me about such things.

I have told some people of barns, and I have tried to describe some of the barns I saw in years gone by. There still are barns, of course. Mention of barns seems not to excite many people.

I have told of the groves, of the trees we used to see. Well, there still are groves. I tell of whole farms having disappeared. I tell of often having seen four farms in a single section of land. No one ever says, "Wow!" We often are driving past farms while I am telling about farms being gone.

Summer visitors are beginning to arrive. It is time once again to think of things across our region that we might show off because they are rare or historic or memorable. There is the Ocheyedan Mound. We have no Alp to point to.

Excitement for wind turbines may be wearing thin. We ourselves are beginning to take the turbines in stride. We have shown them many times to many visitors.

Still, when now and again someone stops by who has not seen the towering turbines -- well, those people are a great deal more interested in wind turbines than in the old barns I remember. And if we ride -- oh, if we go from Reading to Lake Benton, if people see the great turbine farms that have lifted from our land -- they are astonished.

There are wind turbines along many parts of the earth now. The sight of them is not as rare as it was. Still, if you set out on a drive to see turbines you will have visitors' attention and you often will trigger excitement if you take them to a turbine up close. This will stir a "Wow!"

The turbines have changed our land and our landscapes more than anything else ever attempted here. "T'was a land transfigured, t'was a new creation ..."

Many of us -- most of us, I think -- called them windmills when first we saw them. There are letters to editors in Daily Globe files which talk of windmills.

We became aware of Buffalo Ridge as we never were before. We were awed at the thought of the winds from the Ridge generating electricity for America's cities.

There are map features visitors should know about. There is a south to north "wind strip" in North America that extends from mid-Texas to Kansas, where Dorothy and Toto keep watch, and on to Canada, including Minnesota's Buffalo Ridge. On maps, that wind strip is colored purple. The Great American Wind Strip. This is how we were found out by the turbine planters in the first place. We are deep purple.

Architects will rate a building that is 260 feet high a skyscraper. Each wind turbine is -- total height, tower to blade -- 388.8 feet high.

The blades trace a 252.6-foot circle in the sky. Each blade is 125-feet long.

Ten years ago there was a fear the wind turbines would kill tons of bats on dark nights. This fear brought a study. On Buffalo Ridge, says the study, "Bat collisions are found to be very rare, given the amount of bat activity documented at the turbines."

Same for song birds. Seven of 22 grassland birds shy away from the turbines by a distance of at least 100 meters. It is thought the birds are avoiding the noise of the turbines and the maintenance activities. Not many little bird bodies ever have been found.

I know. Facts/figures like these make your eyes glaze over. But it is fodder for chatter when you show the turbines to visitors.

The wind turbines - the wind turbine forest which has come to be -- is one the great developments our region has ever seen. We are coming to be an important source of electrical power for America.

You can tell visitors, "We will see Buffalo Ridge, our answer to the Hoover Dam" Who would ever have guessed?

Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears each Saturday.