In Hood County, a country retreat where scores of windmills sing

Jessie Haney loves the peace and quiet at the Windmill Farm & Bed and Breakfast in Tolar; but she also appreciates the noises.

"Each windmill has a different sound as it turns," she said. "They have their own voices and their own personalities."

Since they discovered it 10 years ago on their honeymoon, Haney and her husband, Larry, have celebrated every anniversary at the 26-acre retreat, which has 42 restored windmills, as well as horses, oak trees and wildflowers.

The bluebonnets were just coming out the last time the couple made the trip in mid-March, Jessie Haney said.

"Sometimes there are these little yellow flowers," she said. "I love the Indian blankets, and there are lots of oak trees."

The best thing about the Windmill Farm for the Dallas residents is that "there's nothing there but windmills, three cabins and the home," where owners Chuck and Ruby Rickgauer live, Jessie Haney said.

"We live in Oak Cliff and there are houses everywhere, traffic; it's crowded with people," she said. "Going down there is a stress relief."

Chuck and Ruby Rickgauer know how the Haneys feel.

They settled in Granbury when he retired from the Navy in 1984. But the town of about 25,000 people was a little busy for them, so they moved to the much smaller Tolar, just down U.S. 377 in Hood County.

"We moved out to the country in 1990 and thought it would be neat to have the windmill from the farm where she grew up," Chuck Rickgauer said. "Her parents said we could take it. We loaded it on a truck and brought it to Texas."

Ruby Rickgauer remembered the windmill as being the only source of water on her parents' South Dakota farm.

"You had to carry it in a pail up to the house," she said.

Though all the Rickgauers' windmills change direction with the wind and spin, they don't pump water because the aquifer is too deep.

Since moving the first windmill to the farm in 1992, Chuck Rickgauer has restored more than 300, most of them for other enthusiasts and collectors of what he believes is more than a piece of history. Whether they were called Clipper or Eclipse, Axtell or Air King, they had a single purpose.

"They let people expand into areas where there wasn't surface water like lakes and streams," he said. "Windmills were great for Texas."

The Rickgauers were drawn to the windmill "hobby or side business, whatever you want to call it" by the technology's charm, Chuck Rickgauer said.

"I'm fascinated by the way they were engineered," he said. "They were made for people who didn't have a whole lot of money and didn't know a lot about engineering, fixing or maintaining them."

The Rickgauers don't have to make a living from the windmills or the bed-and-breakfast that comprises the three cabins. Ruby Rickgauer, a retired nurse, said the cabins mostly pay for themselves and give her something to do.

"We're here at the house most of the time, but we're able to go out and talk with people," she said. "The cabins are about a quarter-mile from the house."

Ruby uses a golf cart to deliver breakfast that's typically egg casserole, homemade bread and cinnamon rolls.

"I usually have fresh fruit, too," she said. "I send sourdough bread home with everyone. In the afternoon I'll put cookies or a piece of cherry pie in the rooms for snacks."

Some guests give their hostess the impression that they come just for the cherry pie and cinnamon rolls.

Jessie Haney said that she loves visiting the Rickgauers, too, but that walking the caliche road that sweeps near their cabin porch and wanders through the windmills is the real reward.

Larry Haney said his greatest reward was helping Chuck Rickgauer restore a windmill last year.

"When I was a little kid, my uncle would let me pull the brake on my grandmother's windmill while he took it out of gear after the tank got full," he said. "... I've been hooked on windmills since."

Driving through to look at the windmills and take pictures is free from sunrise to sunset.

"The first chance you get you should at least go down there and drive through," Larry Haney said.

His wife said that's all it would take to fall in love.

"If you ever go once, you'll go back" to watch the windmills and hear their voices, she said.

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620

Twitter: @fwstevans