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Easy Hold: so little, yet so important

We live in a time of so many amazing high-tech inventions. And I have just happened upon one of the most useful products ever seen.

The way I found it is an interesting story in itself.

I am one of those people who hates to cut his toenails. It is a stressful, acrobatic chore, involving bending, stretching, twisting, grunting and hoisting a stubborn leg onto a sink.

Nature made toenails very thick to allow man to kick smaller creatures, as was his destiny. This makes them difficult to clip.

And if your clipper is sharp enough to do the job, the slivers of toenail can shoot through the air like shrapnel missiles. We can only guess how many people have been scarred for life by their own toenail shards or those of a loved one.

Because of these hazards, I sometimes go long periods of time without clipping my nails.

And recently I was walking barefoot through my home when I heard a terrible yowling.

I looked down and was shocked to find that I had impaled the cat on my uncommonly long nail.

I hopped on one foot to the car and raced to an animal clinic. It wasn't an easy drive with a leg sticking out the window, so as not to dislodge the cat.

"You handled it just right," the veterinarian said as he removed the angry creature, stitched its wound and declared it healthy.

Then he chuckled and said: "The same thing happened to me once, except it was a tiny in-law instead of a cat. But since I discovered Easy Hold by Trim, the world's finest toenail clipper, it is no longer a problem. I highly recommend it."

And that's how I bought my own Easy Hold toenail clipper.

It is sharp and powerful and has clever thumb and finger grips that prevent slipping.

And it somehow gobbles up the clippings.

In opening the wrapping it came in, I happened to glance at the printing and saw these words: "Developed in cooperation with the University of Mississippi Medical Center."

I've always been proud that the University of Chicago leads the world in Nobel Prizes, many of them for scientific discoveries.

Yet I don't remember ever dashing out and buying something discovered by any of the Nobel Prize winners. I don't even know if their discoveries have made me happier or healthier.

A call to the university put us in touch with the man who invented the amazing Easy Hold _ the widely unknown Eric "Ric" Rommerdale, 52, a retired Navy dental lab technician who now runs lab technology at the university's School of Dentistry.

"Well, well, well," he said, "you found me. I usually stay out of the limelight."

"You really want to talk about this?" he asked.

Of course. There are an estimated 2.5-billion toes in this country.

"Well, it isn't that glamorous. In about 1988, I was getting gas at one of those stop-and-go places that have soda pop and stuff, and I saw this old fella trying to cut his nails. But the thing kept slipping out of his hand. He said: "I wish someone'd come up with something that'd help me hold onto these things.'

"So I went home and played around with the idea in my workshop. And I finally came up with this thing. I had friends try it, and everybody seemed to like it."

After a while, he called Revlon, the biggest seller of all sorts of nail clippers.

"Some Mr. Vice President told me, "We're not interested in anything you're doing.' "

He called the smaller W.E. Bassett Co., and the president came to see him, looked at his invention and asked him to redo his entire line of implements _ scissors, tweezers and, of course, nail clippers.

The rest, in the toenail world, is history. The clippers have sold by the millions. And because he has a dozen or more patents, Mr. Rommerdale shares in the profits of each and every item.

"Now, the part that catches the clippings? Be sure to say that wasn't my idea. They already had it."

Mr. Rommerdale declined to say how much he has raked in.But he conceded that he makes 2 percent of the sale royalties.

And he deserves it all for his vision and creativity. The rest of us look at our toes, and what do we see? Just our toes.

He looked and saw his fortune.

"I've done a lot of things," Mr. Rommerdale says, "but I guess this is what I'll be remembered for."

By me, that's for sure. And my cat too.

Tribune Media Services, Inc.