Mel West visits PET designer, Earl Miner

PET MO-Columbia update 10/27/15


Fires are often difficult to extinguish. A fireman is often left behind
after a large fire is thought to be out, because they know a hidden and
smoldering spark may come back to life. Farmers know that when hay
bales catch fire they must be on guard long after the known coals are
put out, because inside one of the bales there may be a new fire.

Last week Barbara and I visited Earl Miner in a nursing home at
Lebanon, MO. Earl is one of our dearest friends, a Christian gentleman,
a mechanical genius, and a most generous humanitarian. We worked
together for years as he designed machines for the poor in developing
countries. First it was the TRAG (TRansportation AGriculture), with
various adaptations of the machine, and then the well-known PET.

Earl had to be placed in the security of a nursing home after he went
deeply in Alzheimers. When we visited last Friday, it was apparent he
had also had a stroke. He can no longer speak to be understood, and I
first thought that the fire of his spirit had gone out. How could we
communicate, and tell him the wonderful reports of his past work? The
emotional pain of the moment was almost more than Barbara and I could
bear. Where was our beloved Earl?

Then, as we began to talk and mention PET, the TRAG, his family and our
children, the smoldering fire inside him came back to life. When I
mentioned that over 52,000 of his PETs had been made, and 285 just
shipped to children in India, he grinned and raised both arms in a
cheer. He began to talk, though we could not understand a word, and old
times were relived. Accomplishments were celebrated.

I thanked Earl for what he had taught me.

*** I reminded him of how he had taught me to keep a product simple.
“Design it to be as simple as possible and still get the job done that is
intended, using as few resources as possible.” That was a lesson for PET.

*** I told him about the time he was painting a new TRAG, putting a little
white stripe along one side. I commented that it was quite a bit of extra
work for a machine going into the hard work of the developing world. He
had replied, “Mel, the poor people like nice things, too.” That became
our motto at PET – “We do no treat the poor poorly.”

*** We remembered how he had said that the worth of an inventor could be
measured by the size of his junk pile. The bigger the junk pile the better
the inventor, for he is willing to try out new things, and discard them if
they did not work.

I think he understood that and celebrated it with us. That inner fire
had not gone out, it just needed to be stoked into flame by the breath
of the Spirit that binds us both together.


“People tend to remember best the things they have felt most deeply.” – David Riseman

Mel West, Founder
PET MO-Columbia

One Reply to “Mel West visits PET designer, Earl Miner”

  1. Thank you for visiting Dad. It is heartbreaking to know that the brilliant, funny, loving Earl that we knew is now only shown in a few gestures & smiles. Be assured that he is cared for & loved. We wish a nursing home had not been necessary, but he needed care that could no longer be provided at home. If anyone wants more information on Earl, send me a private message on FB or email at

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s