You might say I was lead to read "O'Halloran's Luck" by Stephen Vincent Benet (1898-1943-USA-Pennsylvania) by luck. It is included in an anthology of short stories my cousin Bonnie recently gave me and it sounded like it might have an Irish theme so I decided to read it. I was amazed how much fun and how well written and plotted this story was. I will soon read two or three more of his stories.
Benet won the Pulitzer Prize in 1929 for his long poem "John Brown's Body". His best known short story is "The Devil and Daniel Webster". He comes from a distinguished very educated American family. You can read more about his life here.
"O'Halloran's Luck" is about a "wild Irish" man who immigrated half against his will because his family saw him as trouble. He was a fighter, a drinker, a teller of tales with a keen eye for the ladies. He is not terribly fond of hard work but the only place he can find work is on the railroad. He lives his life from day to day with no thought of the morrow. As Benet puts it so beautifully "he would drink with the thirstiest and fight with the wildest-it was all meat and potatoes to him". Then one day to his great amazement he finds a leprechaun. He cannot believe even the leprechauns are leaving Ireland. The leprechaun has his hand caught in a tree and he frees him. This according to long custom entitles him to a share of the pot of gold that all leprechauns have. Only this one lost his in a card game with some spirits from the old country! The leprechaun has no way of taking care of himself so O'Halloran decides he will treat him as his nephew (not an easy idea as the leprechaun might be 100s of years old!). He takes him to the railroad the next day and gets him a job as a water boy. For the first time in his life O'Halloran is responsible for someone. He begins to at last grow up. The leprechaun is not without his powers and he senses that in future path of the railroad tracks there is hidden underground river that can cause huge problems. O'Halloran goes to the manager of the track layers and tells him. He tells the railroad engineers and it turns out to be true. O'Halloran is promoted to foreman with a big raise in pay. Soon he has over 100 people working for him as thanks to his "nephew" his luck keeps getting better and better. His luck keeps getting better and better. The ending is a happy one.
The ending of the story is just wonderful. This is just a story to enjoy and be glad you read. I think it would be a good class room story for those 12 and up. The writing style has a kind of relaxing lyrical cadence I really enjoyed.
This is very good all-American story about the Irish experience in America. I would classify it as fun. I count it a lucky day to have found another wonderful new to me author. I already have plans to read three more of his stories I have found online.
If you have any suggestions for short stories for Irish Short Stories Week or are interested in possibly participating, please leave a comment.