Friday, September 11, 2009

The Gift of the Magi

The dapper fellow above is one William Sidney Porter, born this day, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Of course, most of us know him by his pen name of O. Henry. Writer of some lovely short stories that usually have a "twist at the end." He is considered America's answer to Guy de Maupassant. Most of his stories are set in his time period, the early years of the 20th century, and involve average, everyday people. He moved to Austin in 1884, and that is were he begin writing as a sideline, and where he met he wife to be. He worked at several jobs during his first years in Austin, and eventually got a job with the General Land Office as a draughtsman. After resigning there, he took a job at the First National Bank of Austin, and it was this job that was to cause him so much trouble in his life. His role at the bank was as a book keeper, but the bank was a bit fast and loose with "rules," and eventually he was fired for embezzlement. He and his family moved to Houston in 1895, and he got a job writing for the Houston Post. While living in Houston the federal government audited his old bank, and found major issues with his bookkeeping. He was later indicted and arrested on embezzlement charges, but his father in law posted his bail. On the day before his trial, he fled, first to New Orleans then to Honduras. It was while in an Honduran hotel that he coined the term "banana republic." He eventually returned to the States to visit his dying wife, and turned himself in to the feds. He was sentenced to five years, and eventually did serve three years in a federal pen in Ohio. He settled in New York, in order to be closer to his publishers, remarried and became a fairly successful writer. Either because of this success, or because of the pressure the success created, he drank heavily. His health begin to decline, and his second wife left him, and he died on June 5th, 1910 of cirrhosis of the liver. His stories still are fairly popular today, and one of the best quotes I have heard about writing is from him. He said "There are stories in everything. I've got some of my best yarns from park benches, lampposts, and newspaper stands." That is good stuff, and true to this day, and we would do well to remember it, so for finding all those yarns in all those lovely places, William Sydney Porter, (September 11th, 1862-June 5th, 1910) you are my hero of the day.

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