How Did We Get Here? Stories of Men in America

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His stories are known for their surprise endings. He changed the spelling of his middle name to Sydney in His parents were Dr. William's parents had married on April 20, When William was three, his mother died after giving birth to her third child, and he and his father moved into the home of his paternal grandmother. As a child, Porter was always reading, everything from classics to dime novels ; his favorite works were Lane 's translation of One Thousand and One Nights and Burton 's Anatomy of Melancholy. Porter graduated from his aunt Evelina Maria Porter's elementary school in He then enrolled at the Lindsey Street High School.

His aunt continued to tutor him until he was In , he started working in his uncle's drugstore in Greensboro, and on August 30, , at the age of 19, Porter was licensed as a pharmacist. At the drugstore, he also showed his natural artistic talents by sketching the townsfolk.

Porter traveled with Dr. James K. Hall to Texas in March , hoping that a change of air would help alleviate a persistent cough he had developed. He took up residence on the sheep ranch of Richard Hall, James Hall's son, in La Salle County and helped out as a shepherd, ranch hand, cook, and baby-sitter. While on the ranch, he learned bits of Spanish and German from the mix of immigrant ranch hands. He also spent time reading classic literature.

Porter's health did improve. He traveled with Richard to Austin, Texas in , where he decided to remain and was welcomed into the home of Richard's friends, Joseph Harrell and his wife. Porter resided with the Harrells for three years. He went to work briefly for the Morley Brothers Drug Company as a pharmacist. He also began writing as a sideline and wrote many of his early stories in the Harrell house.

As a young bachelor, Porter led an active social life in Austin. He was known for his wit, story-telling and musical talents. He played both the guitar and mandolin. He sang in the choir at St. David's Episcopal Church and became a member of the "Hill City Quartette", a group of young men who sang at gatherings and serenaded young women of the town.

Porter met and began courting Athol Estes, 17 years old and from a wealthy family. Her mother objected to the match because Athol was ill, suffering from tuberculosis.

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On July 1, , Porter eloped with Athol and they were married in the parlor of the home of Reverend R. Smoot, pastor of the Central Presbyterian Church , where the Estes family attended church. The couple continued to participate in musical and theater groups, and Athol encouraged her husband to pursue his writing. Athol gave birth to a son in , who died hours after birth, and then daughter Margaret Worth Porter in September The salary was enough to support his family, but he continued his contributions to magazines and newspapers.

In the GLO building , he began developing characters and plots for such stories as "Georgia's Ruling" , and "Buried Treasure" The castle-like building he worked in was even woven into some of his tales such as "Bexar Scrip No. His job at the GLO was a political appointment by Hall.

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Hall ran for governor in the election of but lost. Porter resigned on January 21, , the day after the new governor, Jim Hogg , was sworn in.

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  6. The bank was operated informally, and Porter was apparently careless in keeping his books and may have embezzled funds. In , he was accused by the bank of embezzlement and lost his job but was not indicted at the time. He then worked full-time on his humorous weekly called The Rolling Stone , which he started while working at the bank. The Rolling Stone featured satire on life, people, and politics and included Porter's short stories and sketches. Although eventually reaching a top circulation of 1,, The Rolling Stone failed in April because the paper never provided an adequate income.

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    However, his writing and drawings had caught the attention of the editor at the Houston Post. Porter and his family moved to Houston in , where he started writing for the Post. Porter gathered ideas for his column by loitering in hotel lobbies and observing and talking to people there. This was a technique he used throughout his writing career.

    While he was in Houston, federal auditors audited the First National Bank of Austin and found the embezzlement shortages that led to his firing.

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    A federal indictment followed, and he was arrested on charges of embezzlement. Porter's father-in-law posted bail to keep him out of jail. He was due to stand trial on July 7, , but the day before, as he was changing trains to get to the courthouse, an impulse hit him. He fled, first to New Orleans and later to Honduras, with which the United States had no extradition treaty at that time. Porter lived in Honduras for only six months, until January There he became friends with Al Jennings , a notorious train robber, who later wrote a book about their friendship.

    Porter had sent Athol and Margaret back to Austin to live with Athol's parents.

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    Unfortunately, Athol became too ill to meet Porter in Honduras as he had planned. When he learned that his wife was dying, Porter returned to Austin in February and surrendered to the court, pending trial. Athol Estes Porter died from tuberculosis then known as consumption on July 25, He was sentenced to five years in prison and imprisoned on March 25, , at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio.

    Porter was a licensed pharmacist and was able to work in the prison hospital as the night druggist. He was given his own room in the hospital wing, and there is no record that he actually spent time in the cell block of the prison. He had 14 stories published under various pseudonyms while he was in prison but was becoming best known as "O.

    A friend of his in New Orleans would forward his stories to publishers so that they had no idea that the writer was imprisoned. Porter was released on July 24, , for good behavior after serving three years. He reunited with his daughter Margaret, now age 11, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Athol's parents had moved after Porter's conviction. Margaret was never told that her father had been in prison—just that he had been away on business. Porter's most prolific writing period started in , when he moved to New York City to be near his publishers.

    While there, he wrote short stories. His wit, characterization, and plot twists were adored by his readers but often panned by critics. Porter married again in to childhood sweetheart Sarah Sallie Lindsey Coleman, whom he met again after revisiting his native state of North Carolina. Sarah Lindsey Coleman was herself a writer and wrote a romanticized and fictionalized version of their correspondence and courtship in her novella Wind of Destiny.

    Porter was a heavy drinker, and by , his markedly deteriorating health affected his writing. In , Sarah left him, and he died on June 5, , of cirrhosis of the liver , complications of diabetes , and an enlarged heart. She married cartoonist Oscar Cesare of New York in ; they were divorced four years later. She died of tuberculosis in and is buried next to her father. Henry's stories frequently have surprise endings.

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    In his day he was called the American answer to Guy de Maupassant. While both authors wrote plot twist endings, O.

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    Henry's stories were considerably more playful, and are also known for their witty narration. Most of O. Henry's stories are set in his own time, the early 20th century. Many take place in New York City and deal for the most part with ordinary people: policemen, waitresses, etc. Henry's work is wide-ranging, and his characters can be found roaming the cattle-lands of Texas, exploring the art of the con-man, or investigating the tensions of class and wealth in turn-of-the-century New York. Henry had an inimitable hand for isolating some element of society and describing it with an incredible economy and grace of language.

    Some of his best and least-known work is contained in Cabbages and Kings , a series of stories each of which explores some individual aspect of life in a paralytically sleepy Central American town, while advancing some aspect of the larger plot and relating back one to another. Cabbages and Kings was his first collection of stories, followed by The Four Million. The second collection opens with a reference to Ward McAllister 's "assertion that there were only 'Four Hundred' people in New York City who were really worth noticing.

    But a wiser man has arisen—the census taker—and his larger estimate of human interest has been preferred in marking out the field of these little stories of the 'Four Million. Henry, everyone in New York counted. I joined the Airforce when I was 16 at the same time I left school, took my test and waited for the results. It was something beautiful at the time to all the young fellows in uniform. You think you want to be a part of something, but apart from that you can't always say why you do something, you're young, you don't stop and think of the dangers and things, you just do what you feel you want to do regardless of what your parents say.

    My parents did not approve in the beginning, but they had no choice at the time, but like everything else, its your life or your education, you gain an experience. I went back to JA in November , the Windrush came in , I returned to England, you know your parents are strict for one, now you have more freedom.

    After you reach a certain time in life you think you want to get away from the control of your parents. As a matter of fact I had a reasonably good job in Jamaica and things were looking up. It just a matter of the Island is too small. You don't realise how small until after you've travelled. One doesn't feel that you know everything, what happens, what you feel is a sense of freedom. I went to Bermuda, met a lot of Bermudans, I was in a crowd of people again, many were ex-service men you were able to do things. I had a relation on the ship who was going to see his brother, who was studying at the time.

    It's difficult for me to go back, because I've never looked back, I always try to look forward in life. I wouldn't say England been good to me, but I say it made a change in my life at the time. England was the easiest country to get into and the hardest country to get out of, for the mere fact is if you working, you never earn enough money for your fare, but at the same time you always say you always have another 10 year, years. You get yourself involved and things. But England has something that you want to get back to; you can't put your finger on it.