Even as a young child, Orville was
interested in tinkering and trying new things. On the morning of his fifth birthday,
his father brought him a special present. It was a top, but the strangest-looking
top Orville had ever seen. It didn't just sit on a flat surface and spin. It was
a gyroscope, with a spindle that pierced a piece of lead a little larger and thicker
than a silver dollar. Around the lead and the spindle were two heavy metal bands.
The family played with the toy a bit, spinning the top on the point of a pencil,
and "walking" it along a string. When the older boys and father went
off to work and and Wilbur left for school, Orville took the top and headed for
the workshop behind the house. He wanted to see if the top would spin if the metal
bands were removed, so he dismantled them with a hatchet and screwdriver. In the
process, he cracked the lead disk, ruining his birthday present, but his parents
weren't angry with him. "It was born in him to see how things were made,"
his mother said. "My father did it all his life and Orvy is exactly like
"You can't make yourself invent," his mother responded, "you just get an idea from a story someone tells, or from something someone does or needs, and suddenly an idea pops into your head."
About a week later a neighbor who brought the Wrights butter and eggs, brought only butter. "Rats have been eating my eggs," he explained. The farmer had tried setting a trap, but the rats got smart and avoided the trap. "You have to get a trap that doesn't look like a trap," suggested young Orville. "I'll invent one and make it for you." The trap he came up with caught 50 rats the first week. The farmer happily gave him $5 and Orville, at thirteen, was now a paid inventor. He continued to tinker, to try new things, and, as we all know, it eventually led to the beach at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903 and the flying maching that was the beginning of aviation.
1 Stevenson, p. 21.
2 Ibid, p. 155.
Charnley, Mitchell V. The Boys' Life of The Wright Brothers. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1928.
Stevenson, Augusta. Wilbur and Orville Wright: Boys with Wings. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1959. } ^
Copyright © 2002, Rita Smith
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