A Propane Poofer for Off-Grid Entertainment

And another good thing about living in the Texas desert? The neighbors never tell you to cut it out with the propane poofer. (image: Tony Cenicola/The New York Times)

Since its discovery a century ago, propane has been a fuel of choice for people without a reliable power supply. In a story from 1912, The New York Times noted the gas’ portability and storability. “The product is available commercially, plants having been established … to supply the farmer and the country home,” its report noted. And 99 years later, propane remains a practical choice for folks who move off the electrical grid, and for the prefab homes that serve the market.

But how about using the gas for some off-the-grid entertainment?

This week, the Times has put together a charming profile of a photographer from New York named John Wells, who has set up a rugged homestead in the Texas desert. It’s a Spartan life, where he bakes bread in his solar oven and befriends the local longhorns, but property taxes are low. Wells pays $86 a year for the 60-acre parcel that he paid a total of $13,000 for. The nearest town is 60 miles away.

Without many neighbors to sully the night sky with artificial light, Wells has an amazing view of the stars. But sometimes a cowboy needs a little more excitement than the Pleiades. So, Wells built a propane poofer. Like much of the work on his estate, nicknamed the Field Lab, his poofer puts utility over flare. (For flare, check this “Jetsons”-esque creation.) But tug the rope, and the thing sends a fireball up to the heavens.