guest blogger: Otto Frederick Rohwedder

Posted: October 28, 2019 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

At some point inequity and anonymity overwhelm you. I am sure you understand. Maybe as a kid you caught a fat river catfish only to have your bullying brother snatch it from your slippery hands and insist his line hooked it. Then he ran home to show your parents what he brought for supper. Maybe you didn’t get the top prize for 9th grade mathematics because Henry Schmidt cheated on the big test. Principal Wagner was so impressed by Henry’s “achievement” that he ran out of superlatives as he pinned the ribbon on that cheater’s shirt. Maybe you agonized for weeks to gather the courage to ask Emma Meier to walk the midway with you at the county fair. When she agreed, but later changed her mind after that dim-witted George Smith asked her, you thought your heart would wither and die. It did not help seeing George and Emma hold hands for the next three months. Maybe whenever Mama baked a fresh loaf of bread and passed it around the table your gluttonous, greedy siblings ripped off chunks the size of small animals for themselves. By the time it got to you only crumbs remained, barely enough to feed the mice that scampered across the attic at night. If you complained Papa always recited the cliché about early birds and worms. Papa’s wisdom did not stop the sloshing echo in your stomach when you shifted in your chair. Constant rejection affects a person. You begin to wonder if fairness and rightful acknowledgement will someday emerge.

Early experiences taught me one critical lesson: nobody likes a complainer. What they do like – dare I say love – is an achiever. People respond to men of action, men who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and deal forthrightly with life’s trials. Oh, you’re not being heard? Then do what you must to make yourself heard! You have something meaningful to contribute? Then go out and make those contributions! You think nobody will remember you like they do George Washington or Isaac Newton? Then work hard so people will remember! It is not always apparent how one can achieve these things. All I knew was something churned in my soul that I needed to harness, shape, and release. I would make my name!

Early on I apprenticed as a jeweler and opened three successful establishments in St. Joseph. Repairing watches and setting gemstones is a fine trade, but it would not bring everlasting recognition. Thus I began to dabble with inventions aimed at improving life and changing society. Edison did it and look how he is revered. Why not me?

But where to start? I thought back to my childhood with its various indignities. Perhaps I could prevent future generations from suffering as I did. I labored to devise mechanical solutions to bullying brothers, school cheats, and the hurtful whims of teenagers. My thoughts wandered to dark, evil places. Night after night I tinkered in my workshop to concoct sadistic updates of various medieval torture devices. The Pear of Anguish and Shrew’s Fiddle were certainly effective, but improvements could be made. The Pillory held a powerful allure and could also be brought up to modern standards. My obsession became my nightmare. I lost sleep; my features turned ashen. I fought hard and eventually banished my demons. My desire to help people, not hurt them, overrode my baser urges. I would make people happy, not scream in agony. As for those who did wrong by others, faith assured me time and circumstance would finally catch them.

Inspiration came in a flash, as it often does. I recalled those hungry nights when I never got to savor Mama’s freshly baked bread. What could make food distribution, specifically that of bread, more equitable? Of course! Pre-sliced loaves with the pieces already equally proportioned! I redirected all my energy into creating a machine which would not only slice bread, but package it too. I sold my jewelry stores to finance my dream. After many failed efforts, including a devastating factory fire which destroyed an early prototype and my lone set of blueprints, I designed and patented the first automatic bread-slicer and packager. No longer would a child be denied his fair share of bread! Much like Edison’s light bulb, people could now admire Rohwedder’s bread slicer. All those years of toil paid off. Society would benefit and I would receive worldwide acclaim.

At first it greatly pleased me when people referred to any new innovation as “the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Yet, the impulse to amend them with “Rohwedder’s bread slicer” was powerful. I wanted to shout, “Yes, sliced bread is great. And I sliced it!” I saw the personal credit I so richly deserved evaporating into the mist. Disappointment festered. By all appearances I was rich and successful. Still my demons returned. I became so possessed that I renewed my research into the old methods of persuasion. People would not forget Otto Frederick Rohwedder! I crafted a particularly diabolical revision to the Heretic’s Fork, one I felt was doubly clever since a fork is used for feeding. However, fate had other plans. I slipped away into the great beyond before securing a new patent.

The glorious afterlife has illuminated the often destructive nature of the human ego. I now realize that making things better for people is the ultimate reward. Still, I would be less than truthful if I said I didn’t still yearn to hear somebody say, if only once, “This is the greatest thing since Rohwedder’s bread slicer!”

  1. rangewriter says:

    Thanks for the introduction to Otto Frederick Tohwedder. I’m sure that without you as medium, I’d never have met this clever man.

    Liked by 1 person

Whatcha got to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s