The wind: Friend and Foe

Jerry Apps
The wind has always intrigued Jerry Apps. As a boy, he often wondered where the wind came from and where it was going.

The wind has always intrigued me. As a boy I wondered where the wind came from and where it was going? I wondered what caused the wind to blow and why it came from different directions? Why it sometimes was a gentle breeze and other times it was a tornado or a hurricane destroying everything in its path?

I asked Pa these questions. He said he didn’t know the answer, said he didn’t think anybody knew.

Why couldn’t I see the wind? I could see the rain. I could see the sun. I could see water in a lake or stream. I could see snow. I knew the wind was there because I could feel it and I could observe what it could do, without ever seeing it.

In grade school, I studied the beautiful Dutch windmills and wondered how the Dutch had harnessed the wind providing power to operate their mills. I studied sailing ships. Christopher Columbus had three of them that crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1492  and discovered a new land.

How did a sailing ship operate? How could a sailing ship journey in one direction when the wind might be coming from a different direction?

As a farm boy, most of my interest in wind concerned its effect on farming and farm operations. Pa couldn't answer many of my questions, but he knew a lot about the wind and how it both helped and hindered him. The wind and a farmer are partners, along with the rain, the sun, and the land. This much I do know.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: The wind, both friend and foe.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to