There’s some pretty peculiar stuff in California. No disrespect. I worship those quirky, roadside attractions. There are books – Weird California – and websites – Roadside America – touting all that is weird in the Golden State. And other destinations, too. Happily, there are peculiar reasons to Visit Stockton! Who knew this could be a good thing? I live for the weird and wonderful and was giddy when I pulled into a Stockton roadside oddity. Included in one, but not both, of the aforementioned authorities on the subject. The Windmill Ranch will blow you away.
People collect stuff. How and why is anyone’s guess. In the case of Stocktonian Frank Jay Medina, the addiction was windmills. “He always liked windmills and it started from there,” according to son Gary Medina. Frank retired early from the hay business and started looking around for something to do. Voila! He started collecting windmills from ranches throughout the region. Go figure.
The original collection passed the 200 mark according to Gary. About 40 remain with Aermotor being the prevailing brand. The “Cadillac” of windmills, Aermotor began manufacturing in 1888 selling 24 windmills that first year and is still in business today. One of the original Aermotor windmills lives at the ranch, along with the ranch’s largest windmill – 20 feet across – and the smallest – six feet across. The Windmill Ranch attracts visitors from around the globe and it’s easy to see why. One windmill claims an “OK Corral Livery” moniker. There are more than a few bullet holes in the windmill tails, but that’s all part of the beauty. Possibly my favorite “mill” is the stunning red and white, wooden Dempster seemingly unchanged with time.
None of the windmills are operational. A piece of Americana – I consider them public art. Other antique farm equipment and objects d’art litters the ranch property – kitschy, yes! And Stockton wouldn’t want it any other way. Oh, wait, the kitsch doesn’t end here. Frank Medina made an appearance on To Tell The Truth and Ripley's acknowledged him as the "oldest man in the world with all his teeth who has never had a cavity.” Insert laughter here.
A 2008 visit by Huell Howser shined a light on local attractions and Stocktonians; somehow he missed the Windmill Ranch. We all know that Huell would agree Windmill Ranch is another fine example of California’s Gold.
Are You That Woman is not new to this whole weirdness thing. Author Jan Friedman, Eccentric California (2005), kindly acknowledged my assistance in researching her book. Yes, I have a few more California oddities up my sleeve and more to uncover. Any other Stockton/San Joaquin curiosities you want us to explore, then by all means: [email protected]
FYI – Enjoy the weirdness of the Windmill Ranch An Evening with John Covert, September 20, 2014.