Texas Ingenuity History


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A Stove that Doesn't Blow Smoke

You won't find Texan Don O'Neal's invention in Wal-Mart or the Sears catalog, or even in the His and Her Christmas catalog gifts from Neiman-Marcus. But it has impacted thousands of lives, saving many families from lives filled with disease and death.

For generations the rural poor of Guatemala have cooked food in the same way, using a three stone fire inside their homes. It is easy to use. Take three large stones and place them a small distance apart in a circle, fill the space with firewood and you've got it. There are advantages to this type of fire. It is easy to build, it is free, you can configure it to accept almost any size pot, it can be used inside or outside the home and it provides light and warmth.

There are also problems with this fire. It is inefficient and requires a lot of wood to keep it going. When used inside a house, which is often the case, it produces smoke that is irritating to the eyes and lungs. It is also dangerous and causes burns.

This three stone type of family fire has been widely used in Guatemala (and many other third world countries) for generations. In fact, the fire is such a central part of existence that families must spend much of their energy and time collecting sticks and logs to feed the constant flame. This daily need for firewood has caused forests near villages to be stripped bare. As the forests are turned to scrubland, family members have to make long journeys on foot to find more wood. The trip can take an entire day, and often results in health problems such as back injuries and hernias. In a culture dependent on the three stone fires, there is no time in the day for idleness, creativity, and little productive work can be performed beyond gathering the daily requirement of firewood.

In communities using the three stone fires, the mother or sister keeps the fire burning during the day to cook tortillas and other food for meals, while other family members search for wood.

Continues in book. . .

The stove is safer than the open flame, three stone stove since it lifts the fire off the floor, protecting children from devastating burns.

Don Oneal

Don O'Neal displaying his efficient, life-saving,

and ecologically friendly stove. (Courtesy Don O'Neal.)

To make sure his new stove would be acceptable; O'Neal thoroughly tested it in a laboratory setting as well as in selected local homes. The new stove proved its worth.

The story continues in the book Texas Ingenuity... For complete information on this and other Texas stories...