It is a common misconception that the Wright Brothers were the first two people to think of a flying machine. Even though they were the first ones to bring about a successfully manned flight, many others had sought to fly the high skies long before they were even born. Unlike the fabled flight of Daedalus that was followed by Icarus' unfortunate demise, there had never been any evidence of a manned flight, especially on a machine. The Wright brothers were energetic and ingenious enough to build and fly their first plane. But they were not the only ones doing it.
In another part of the world, somewhere else in town, another two brothers were working on similar experiments. These brothers were bright and energetic lads, born just two years apart. Their whole lives had been immersed in books and studies. Both the brothers had long sought to fly in the air like birds. The older brother was tall and wiry and had a large head, fit to be a mathematical genius. And that is exactly what he was: a mathematical genius. The younger brother was short and strong and he was most skilled at handling materials. He was a genius when it came to mechanics and could make almost anything from a given set of supplies, your regular MacGuyver, if I may say. I was only ten years old when I was employed by these two brothers (then 18 and 16) and I was at once put under oath never to tell anyone about what they were doing. For in their secret barn, far, far from the town, they were also building something grand, something that (as they thought) would change the world forever. They lived the next thirty two years of their lives in reclusion, planning and testing, wishing and then finally, one day after forty-two years of exhaustive research, came out of their “laboratory” with what they thought would be, the first ever flying machine in the world.
I remember that day perfectly. It was on that day the brothers had called me in to their “laboratory” and offered me a glass of champagne. “We have done it, man,” they told me. “We have made our flying machine. And tomorrow, we are going to fly in it and show everyone that human flight is not just something we can only think about, but actually accomplish. You have been our faithful servant for thirty two years, and we want to give you the opportunity to come see our first flight tomorrow at dawn.” I was terribly excited; so excited in fact, that the only sound to escape my lips was a faint, “Thank you, sires”. Or maybe I had said “God help you,” it was so long ago, I can hardly remember.
What I do remember is the next morning, when I first saw their “plane”. It was their perfect flying machine, a monstrosity of metal, wires and rubber. They had worked many a years on it and stood now in front of what they thought was the perfect aerodynamic, aeronautic, airplane. Their long and meticulous research had not just included the design of the plane but they had also painstakingly thought-out the exact way in which they were going to launch their plane into the sky. They had spent hours in making an expensive and special (in 1901, heat adapting tar was special) thousand meters road, which ended at the brink of a cliff. Their plan was to use a twenty-horse powered engine to accelerate the 'plane' fast enough so it would fly itself off the ground once the road ended. They had the whole thing planned down to the scratch.
On the momentous occasion of the great-flying-experiment, the two brothers set out to their experimenting grounds a little before sunrise and got their machine geared up and ready. They both had decided to men the plane themselves and had not included any help since they wanted to awe and surprise the town by flying over the city hall in full view of everyone. They were very excited as they got in the cockpit, revved up the engines and made a test run by taxiing around a bit. The energy and excited built up to a proverbial crescendo when the brothers turned the plane onto their special road and faced the drop off a thousand meter ahead of them. They revved the engine once again and sped off into the road towards the edge, ready to use their great speed to soar up into the sky.
The 'plane' did go very fast indeed. But that's all it did, sped off very, very fast. Sadly, it crashed down on its maiden flight. Actually, once it reached the end of the cliff at the drop off, it just, well, dropped down all the way.
I was so scared then, that all I could think of was running away from the place as fast as I could. I was so scared that I never spoke about the two brothers to anyone after that. No one in the town nearby also never noticed the disappearance of the two brothers until about sixty years later when old Mrs. Gunter once mumbled something in the presence of her fourteen-year-old grandson. Her grandson just shrugged at the crazy old woman. He thought she had said something like “now where did I put that darn long ball of brown wool baby?' No one ever spoke of the two brothers ever again, until today when I recount their lives.
What Mrs. Gunter actually said was “... now why haven't the darned Wwrong brothers been in town lately?”