I can say that I have my own Old Bessie. Our roaster, a Primo PRI-20, is a fire-breathing 1500-pound mechanical wonder. I place the harvest of farmers who live far from my childhood experiences into this churning contrivance and with a bit of science, a bit of art, and a lot of providence, it produces the aromatic treasures we share as our coffees.
In my mind, for my paternal grandfather it was a 1983 Chevy Silverado truck. A World War Two veteran of the Pacific theater, my grandfather returned home to a 14-month old first son he had never met and began the work of building a life on the fertile ground of Southeastern Nebraska. My father came a few years later and by that time the American dream was in full swing, replete with cattle and chickens, corn and soybeans, yard dogs and a growing family.
I’m sure he owned many trucks and tractors. Evidenced by the Caterpillar dozer he acquired at a scrap sale that only recently was sold by his descendants, he had an affinity for machinery. That ‘83 Chevy though, that was an Old Bessie. It had an extra wide cattle guard on the front, which is a necessity in rural America. When a bovine herd decides to occupy any particular stretch of country road, no amount of laying on the horn will move them. It requires a gentle nudge from the truck, a bit of horn, and some choice words in broken Czech to continue on to the next mile.
As a boy I would sit next to grandpa amongst tools, rusty bolts, a stray corn cob and watch as he deftly used his Old Bessie to do the work of his American dream. He was not necessarily a man who imparted wisdom through grand oratories. I learned from him the value of every animal, each square foot of land. He probably never intentionally said to himself, “This boy, my 8th grandchild of 10, needs these life lessons to grow into his own dreams.” And I, like many, have probably romanticized the memories of my ancestor. But I’ll never forget what that truck represents.
So what is the American dream for our company? We have only begun, but I can say we hope to fulfill my grandfather’s dream. His hard work provided the seed money for our dream, Bethesda Roasting Company. If I can do the same for my three sons, I think we honor the tradition.