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BBQ Guru Inventor - "Shotgun Fred" Pirkle

Spring ChickenSpring Chicken Posts: 9,491
edited January 2012 in EggHead Forum

It's no secret that we Eggheads like accessories, gadgets and toys to go with our Big Green Eggs.  One of the long-time favorite gadgets is the BBQ Guru, invented and sold by "Shotgun Fred" Pirkle.  Those of us who own one love it.  Those of us who have met Fred, like him.  I think anyone would.  He's the real thing.

This article about Fred was in the Sunday edition of the Houston Chronicle.  I thought it worth passing on.

I couldn't link to the article but it's definitely worth reading...

Best to you Fred.

Spring "Shotgun Fred Fan" Chicken

Spring Texas USA.


His mind and spirit undefeated

• Sam Houston State gets record gift from inventor living with ALS



The voice, rasping through the telephone receiver, is labored, punctuated by the wheeze of a breathing machine.

The body, whittled away by Lou Gehrig’s disease, is weakened, bound inexorably to a wheelchair.

But the mind, forever at work devising new gadgets and gizmos, remains finely honed and fiercely productive, unbowed by illness.

Such is the world of “Shotgun” Fred Pirkle, Texas Hill Country native, inveterate inventor, barbecue devotee and the man behind a $25 million pledge to his alma mater, Sam Houston State University.

The gift, the largest in the university’s history, will go to establish a new engineering technology program, provide student scholarships and fund faculty recruitment, internships and other academic enrichment.

“It was a very nice Christmas present,” said Frank Holmes, vice president for university advancement. “It’s almost transformational, not just in how it will help us evolve the industrial
technology program, but because of the attention and awareness it will give to the importance of philanthropy for public universities.”

Before Pirkle’s pledge, the largest single gift Sam Houston had received was $5 million. A five-year capital campaign, which ended in August 2010, yielded $61.2 million for the school, said Holmes.

“We have a real sense that people are aware of (Pirkle’s) gift,” noted Holmes, who believes the donation will spur others to give to the school.

“It will absolutely be an inspiration to his fellow alumni. We’re already seeing the benefit.”

Invention, barbecue

Pirkle, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Sam Houston’s industrial technology program and was named one of the university’s 2011 distinguished alumni, sees the donation as an investment in the country’s future.

“I feel strongly about America and American jobs, and young people are the future of America,” said Pirkle, speaking from his home in a Philadelphia-area retirement community.

“They are the potential of the nation, and they need to acquire skills. So I’m putting my money where my mouth is.”

That’s nothing new for Pirkle, who was dubbed “Shotgun” by his mother because of the way he hurtled through life.

Early on, Pirkle displayed a knack for the two things that would frame his journey: invention and barbecue.

His grandfather taught him how to barbecue, but he was born with the ability to envision practical solutions for abstract problems.

After graduating from Sam Houston, Pirkle worked as a high school industrial arts teacher and made extra money as the owner of “Shotgun Fred’s BBQ,” a part-time catering business, before parlaying his knack for invention into a successful career in industrial technology.

“He’s just a gadgeteer.

He has ingenious ways of doing things and understands mechanics,” said friend Geoff Bucks, one of Pirkle’s students at Jersey Village High School 35 years ago. “He looked like a young Einstein, with a bushy ’fro and a handlebar mustache. He’s the smartest man I’ve ever known.”

In 1982, Pirkle founded Therm-Omega-Tech, a Warminster, Pa., company that designs and manufactures temperature control valves for medical and industrial use, and developed a railroad freeze protection device that has become the standard for the industry.

He has gone on to patent more than 20 products, including what may be his favorite invention: the “BBQ Guru,” a digital temperature control for charcoal grills.

Tools for daily living

Pirkle and his little red gadget are celebrities on the barbecue circuit — and his “BBQ Guru” team has won state competitions in Maryland and Virginia and was named reserve grand champion at the 2010 Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue.

“It’s in my Texas blood, absolutely,” Pirkle said of his love of barbecue. Since being diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) about a year ago, Pirkle has used his inventor’s mind to develop tools for making life more livable.

The disease, which attacks nerve cells in certain regions of the brain and spinal cord, will eventually rob him of the ability to move, eat, speak and breathe.

“Every day, he’s thinking of ways to make his life better,” said longtime friend Shelby Ralston, who helps care for Pirkle along with round-the-clock nurses. “He’s driving his engineers crazy, but these medical devices are going to help a lot of people.”

So far, Pirkle has created an amplifier that lets him speak through his breathing machine, the No-Bow Shoe Tie, which allows a person to tie a shoelace with one hand, and several feeding tube variations.

“That’s just typical,” Bucks said of his old friend’s trademark talent.

“If modern medicine doesn’t fix him, he’ll fix himself.”


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