Never say dilettante to a Flats Jackson

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'TIS time to rehash an elderly tale - this time specially for reader Beth Compton, who called the Kineo cookstove (or the cousin of it that was pictured in this space Feb. 17) a ''space heater'' and dilettante. The tale has to do with my longtime trail crony Flats Jackson, who kept a set of sporting camps on Spencer Stream in those days. That's far up in Kibby Township. A couple of professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology came in one spring, and Flats put them on trout, regaled them in his usual manner with witticisms and pleasantries, and cooked them three surfeits of goodies a day. These two professors were greatly interested in the Kineo cookstove in the camp - Flats had it sitting up on four blocks of wood so the cooking surface was about six feet off the floor and he had to do the cooking standing on a box.

So one of these two scholarly sports said unto the other, said he: ''It's amazing! You compute the interior volume of this cabin, make note of the dimensions, and this fellow Jackson has worked out the extreme efficiency of that stove. Neither higher nor lower, the position is exactly right to accommodate the caloric potential to the thermal needs of the building. So how do you suppose an uneducated back-country woodsman achieved offhand something that would take one of my advanced students at least a week?''

So when Flats came in with a mess of trout ready to fry, they asked him. Flats said, ''Didn't have stovepipe enough to reach the roof.''

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The Kineo cookstove was originated by the Wood & Bishop Foundry in Bangor, Maine, and was meant for up-country use. It had four covers, with an overhang so the cooking surface was larger than the firebox and oven beneath. The true Kineo had oven doors on both sides, so it could be set right or left against a wall, but when placed back to a wall both doors could be used. The Kineo was lovingly dubbed ''Biscuit Baker,'' and 'twas said a pan of biscuits could be passed in one door, through, and out the other - they'd be cooked to perfection and ''light's a feather.''

Over the years, since the original Kineo became standard in Maine woods camps , it has been imitated by almost every other stove foundry. For years we had one in our maple sugar camp that was made by Atlanta (Georgia) Stove Works, and right now I have one in our picnic gazebo from Taiwan. When Wood & Bishop ceased to puddle, their patterns were taken over by Portland Stove Foundry, downstate, and if you wish to order, wait, and pay, you can get a real Kineo there. We had one when we first set up housekeeping, and the word ''dilettante'' hardly suits an efficient cookstove that handled all the Thanksgiving dinner food for 22 people. Fact - I have a photograph.

True, the Kineo was never a Modern Clarion, a Queen Atlantic, a Glenwood, or a Kalamazoo. It was always a runt, and had no warming oven, no upper shelves. But it would do anything the bigger kitchen ranges would do, and my wife will blink a reminiscent tear and tell you none of the sophisticated ranges she has had since will bring along a pot of beans as did that Kineo. Our daughter has a Kineo in her brand new 1984 home, and uses it every day. She also has a microwave oven and an electric range - which she does not use every day.

The Kineo was not first of all a space-warmer, but, like all cookstoves, it embraced that purpose, too. The firebox would easily take a 20-inch stick, and enough could be shoved in through the side door to last almost all night. Which means the Kineo would handle overnight oatmeal porridge and mulling stews.

The draft of a Kineo was a mighty thing. A fine asset in a land where folks came in from a day outdoors and had to get both warm and supper. Feed in a few cedar splits, a couple of dry maple sticks, touch her off, and almost instantly the Kineo would be roaring like a gale. Ed Grant used to tell about the time he set up a new Kineo in his camp at Beaver Pond, up in the Kennebago country. He got the stove put together, and the flue pipes in place, and he laid in some birch bark, some kindlings, and a few pieces of beech. Stuck in a match, and then he went down to the lake to fetch a pail of water. Came back, and the draft had sucked that Kineo right up against the roof rafters. Ed had to butterfly the damper to bring the thing down gently without a smash.

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