WHO CARES? I MEAN, WHO CARES?’ \(Elgin Williams died a year ago or so, in his early thirties, and this was like a hot day in early November, a stinging wind with no pity in it. His friends agreed against flowers; they sent contributions to the NAACP. \(He was brilliant, mercurial, quixotic. He had joy in every pleasure and pain in every sadness. He got a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas; he wrote in scholarly journals, his books were unpublished. he taught at Columbia and in the Midwest; he married and had three children; he sold insurance, he painted in a wild careless way, he wrote for the Houston Informer. Since he has died we have tried again and again to tell about him, but newsprint will not seemly record a man so honest and so vulnerable to life. \(One day he came into the office and saw upon the parapet against peripatetic Young Democrats a book, 0. Henry, The Man and His Work. He took it away and read it, perhaps, and one night reviewed it. It is the most amazing review. Why didn’t we publish it before? I don’t know, I don’t know. Haven’t you ever made a mistake? Now we publish it, when it is too late, except to remember. \(I have left some things out because I have an excuse to do it now that he is not here 0. HENRY, THE MAN AND HIS WORK, by E. Hudson Long. Philadelphia, The University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949. 158 pp., $2.75. One day, just about noon, I picked up this book at the Observer office and proceeded, alone, to Lung’s Chinese Kitchen. There I lunchedI remember starting to read the book, to get involved in the life of William Sydney Porter, and the next thing I knew it was three o’clock in the afternoon and I was closing the book, still lost with that lovely boy as I finished the final bean sprouts and drank the last of three pots of tea. Why? My father loved, O. Henry I remember the set of his books I grew up with, the set which formed perhaps one-half of the total of my , father’s library. \(My father, son of the Irish tobacco dealer of Chapel Hill, Virginia, who lost a fortune allowing relatives to work for him. My father, who wanted to be an artistbut had to quit school after the fourth grade, who became in turn a dry goods drummer and an insurance agent, but who is a great, a big manand perhaps because of 0. Henry, perhaps because 0. Henry expressed something for his generation, was the symbol for the life of humanity, for the life of love and art thatthat \(Did you read William Faulkner’s speech in acceptance of the Nobel Prize? Did you read his letter from Rome on the Till Well, I shall tell you a little about what 0. Henry did, for it proves that the big writers, the big, big writers are always on the side of the underdog, etc. Even Degas. Degas was a Royalist and anti-Semitic and wouldn’t let anybody set a foot in his studio unless they expressed themselves as po-government in the Dreyfuss case. But even Degas loved the ballet “rats” be painted and in essence was an Observer reader and an Emma Tenayuca fan. Deny it though he might O. Henry wrote for S. S. McClure, the trust-buster and muckraker. 0. Henry discovered New York, his “Bagdad on the Subway,” where the slum children could not in summer on the fire escapes draw a breath of air unless it was “fried on both sides.” \(The same slum children that Ronnie Dugger loves, that he has captured in his photographs. 0. Henry like his spiritual descendent Ronnie Dugger will do any\(I remember writing Maury Maverick, Jr., after the Waco sell-out to the Ramsey crowd. Maury, I said, I have often wondered what liberal politicians like you do and now I know because you have been quoted on the front page of the Observer. The story read as follows: “I have stayed up all night trying to save embarrassment for Mr. Sam,” said Maury Maverick, Jr. Maury, I said, I have often wondered what liberal politicians like you stay up all night for. I have always thought it was to get milk \(Maury, I said, I always thought you liblabs, you big doctors, stayed up all night to get milk for the babies who sleep five in a bed and don’t get to take ceramic classes from Harding Black. But now I know. You stay up to save embarrassment for other “liberal” politicians. Well live it up, Maury…. \(Man, I must have got under his skin because the next day an air mail letter from him was lying lasciviously in my mail box. Dear Elgin it said I always enjoy hearing from you because your remarks are always mature, \(Do you dig? I had really got under his skin. I had needled 0. Henry played boyhood games, such as Indian and Ku Klux Klan. In North Carolina. 0. Henry particularly praised The Cloister and the Hearth. “There is material in this one book alone for dozens of short stories,” he said. I love 0. Henry now and his word is good enough for me. I haven’t read The Cloister and the Hearth and hope, I really sincerely hope, that some reader who loves it will send it to me. `Just More SOB’s’ 0. Henry liked to draw and many of his sketches of local townspeople may today be seen in the Greensboro, North Carolina public library, where he grew up. I plan to drive over there in the spring, primarily to see my friends the Neville Marshalls in their lovely plantation home in Natchez, Mississippi on the way during their pilgrimage you know how that is, crinolines and waistcoats with taffeta for the men and azaleas and all. You come too! But I shall also go to see 0. Henry’s drawings. Anything that man does is good enough for me. With reference to 0. Henry \(and haven’t all of us felt like sion attracted him, and there was no one in Greensboro doing anything that 0. Henry would have liked to do permanently.” How true? Haven’t you yourself, dear Observer reader, you who have grown up in Winnsboro or Denton or McAllen or San Antonio or Austin or Oxford or Plum or whereever? One must create one’s own occupation. 0. Henry came to Texas and worked on a ranch owned by a captain of the Texas Rangers who had a wife who liked to read books. 0 there were men in those days! 0 there were women in those days too, women who weren’t stomped down and demasculated by the Rainbow girls at lunch! Page 6 April 11, 1958 0. Henry was accepted by the cowboys after a hazing in which the cowboys rode their horses over his bed in the house in which he was asleep. 0 there were men in those days! \(Not that there aren’t men in all days. I asked J. Frank Dobie the other day, the other day when I was so depressed about the coming governor’s race, no man in it, no real four-footed honestto-goodness sawdust-and-tumbleweed man, Mr. Dobie I said, Mr. Dobie: Aren’t there any men any more, you know Texas history, what has happened to all the men, the ones with heart, aren’t there any men any more Mr. Dobie? And he responded: 0 Elgin, there are just as many men as there always were but there \(Do you dig? There is a moral in that story. J. Frank Dobie wasn’t behind the ragweeds when the brains, the brains, were passed out. No siree. Did you go to the Writers’ Roundup? Let me tell you what that big doctor, that Big, Big Doctor did there. He was making this intro, see. Making this intro. And he goofed, Goofed. Like he called Hart Stilwell Fred Gipson or Afton Wynn Bill Brammer. Got some of those writers confused. I mean, he made a Major Error and someone, one of those Theta Sigma Called It To His Attention. And do you know, do you know what he said, do you know what \(Sotto voce, he knows hoW to throw a line away, he knows, \(“I’ll be calling China Formosa THE PRICE OF COURAGE, Curt Anders, Sagamore Press, N.Y., 1957 . COMMERCE The Texas Institute of Letters chose this novel for its annual award as the best novel by a Texan. in 1957. The author was born in Commerce in 1927 and educated at East Texas State College before he went to West Point, but he is not a Texas Firster. The word “Texas” does not appear in this novel of the Korean War, in which Anders’s experience showed him that no state is an island, complete in itself. The man who pays “the price of courage” is Lt. Eric Holloway -. When he is first seen in combat, his actions cause the reader to join his men in disbelief that “an officer in the U.S. Army could be such a goddam fool.” However, like Shadrack, et al., he undergoes his ordeal and comes \(The Christian Science Monitor has published an essay by Laura B. Barber, written from Huntsville, Texas, HUNTSVILLE . From now on into summer, Texas fields are bright and sweet with wild flowers. The spring started late in February with the rich pink of the redbud trees and the dainty white of lamb’s lettuce and whitlow grass, and quickly blossomed with prairie stars and daisies and woodsorrel and clumps of copper mallow and bluets and violets and Venus’ looking-glass. The western plains stretch out under the sun, full of small white rain lilies and blue-eyed grasses and purple scullcaps, with here and there a greenish patch of \(If only, if only I could explain that one anecdote to my “liberal friends,” just that one anecdote I could single-handedly, single-handedly, end the Cold War, usher in the new age . of ecumenical progress and peace. But of course I can’t, their fears are too great, like Hubert Humphrey they are Afraid of Being Called Red in the Headlines and like Ronnie, dear precious Ronnie, even dear Ronnie can’t even as the editor of the Daily Texan ask for the campus to be clean without saying: Even though the Communists want it, I . still believe the campus should be clean, I mean he is a Social Democrat, `Who Cares?’ One time 0. Henry went to work in Austin “with an enthusiasm which quickly began to cool.” \(haven’t we all? I mean, with no reservations, 0. Henry was a 0 Man, I could go on all night about 0. Henry. I mean, how he went to jail and how he lived in New York and one time running away from a trial he went down to Trujillo, Trujillo I mean, man, and how he crusaded against the brutality inflicted on the political prisoners in Columbus, Ohio, when he was in prison theredo you remember a boy named Remington, an economist, sweet darling boy who was absolutely clubbed and stomped to death by his hate-filled fellow-prisoners because they were inflamed by the newspapers who were so piously, PIOUSLY mind you, anti-Communist, and so damned out a purer man, an odd mixture of a Hemingway lieutenant and the young Henry V and still a human, believable character. There are other strong characterizations: Capt. Mann, an uneducated hillbilly, who “had acquired the kind of heroic humanity that made him a real leader of men”; the sadistic Maj. Lester, a type known to all veterans; the stupid Col. Merlin, “trainednot educated” in the best army schools to give “chicken orders.” The enlisted men are not so well characterized, and some officers, like the Plutarchreading, ex-English teacher Giles Granger, are sketchy. The story is primarily of courage that comes \(often slow and them to do what must be done without anyone “urging them on with platitudes.” It reveals, too, and dramatically, the Sweakness of the military systemand even antelope horns. Dozens of kinds of flowers may be found out here, from bold purple horsemint to the feathery thoroughwarts of late summer and fall. In the mountain ranges of the Big Bend , grow scarlet flame flowers and columbines. All the land beyond the Pecos, barren as it sometimes seems, may nonethe less parade vivid coral honeysuckle or pink baby’s breath or blue gilia. Painted cups and dark red prairie sandburs abound here. This is the country for cactus and soapweed and Spanish dagger and a surprising variety of ferns. This is also the home of the strange, waxy candelilla. The coastal plains along the Gulf offer lilies, marsh pinks, amaranth, wild indigo, pink bluebonnets, southern leatherwood, righteous and all, an so they killed a boy, even though he was due for parole in a week and had a wife and two kids … \(Those editors, they are good ones, live it, live it up in the Headliners Club, Charlie
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