I wanted to begin my reading of short stories for this year with a new to me writer. I looked at some of the web pages I have found productive for this in the past. On Classic Reader I found a link to several stories by an Ellis Parker Butler. I had never heard of this writer so I did some quick research. It turns out Ellis Parker Butler (1869 to 1937-USA-Iowa) published over 30 books and 250 short stories. In his day he was the most published short story writer in America. His work must no longer be in fashion as I could find no book blog posts on him. His short stories were published in inexpensive publications called "pulp magazines". According to my research, his most famous short story, and perhaps the only one likely to be anthologized is "Pigs are Pigs". His stories were published in the same magazines as Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edgard Rice Burroughs.
"Pigs are Pigs" opens in a train station. One of the two main characters has two guinea pigs that he wants to ship. The shipper says they are his pets and the station master says they are pigs as in "Pigs are Pigs". Pets can be shipped for $0.25 and pigs for $0.30. The station master insists on the higher fee and the owner of the animals won't budge. The owner leaves the animals with the station master. He tells the station master he is going to contact the higher authorities at the railroad and he warns him that if his animals are not there when he gets back he will sue!.
A comic set of delays occurs and months go by. Different departments of the railroad insist it is not there job to make a decision. In the mean time back at the station the male and female guinea pigs do what they are famous for and, not to tell too much of the fun plot, by the time the man makes his first return trip to the station 2 pigs are now 36. But it gets worse now, much worse (and funny also). This is a funny well written story with a bit of annoying dialect in the conversation. (Maybe that is part of why is work is no longer much read.)
Some how as I was reading this story it made me think of the Star Trek episode, "The Trouble with Tribbles"!
"Pigs are Pigs" is a funny story very much in the O Henry mode. It can be read online. Maybe he did not survive as a canon status writer because his other stories are not as good as "Pigs are Pigs". I would describe "Pigs are Pigs" as good entertainment. It is rooted in its time and place and perhaps his stories do not appeal much to those culturally remote from the period he wrote about. He published his stories in magazines like "The Saturday Afternoon Post", not in literary magazines edited by Ford Madox Ford or John Middleton Murry.
If anyone has any suggestions for short stories I might like and can read online please post a comment.