Quite a long hair in exchange for a Christmas gift, and a star named Billy Jackson

The following is a repost, but edited and improved, of an old piece of musing I wrote for my previous and now defunct blog:

I’ve read the biography of O. Henry and I knew I just have to read his works.

Henry, William Sydney Porter in real life, is a simple American who bore a lot of heartaches. He was born in North Carolina in 1862. He stopped his formal education at 15 but he pursued his love of reading and writing. How (figuratively) rich he was, for the world had turned into his school. He went through a lot of odd jobs—working in a drugstore, in a ranch, in a general land office, and in a bank.

As a teller, O. Henry began to show signs of poor money management. His accounts showed irregularities, but it was only later, after his wife of 10 years with whom he has two children died of tuberculosis, that he was prosecuted and convicted. He spent more than three years in prison where, with enough time on his hands, his short stories (and his pen name) were born. He purposely made O. Henry, after Orrin Henry the prison guard, as his nickname as a way to keep his identity a secret. He wanted it that way.

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