A Story by Mike Keenan



‘Morning William. Where’s my birthday haiku?


WORD OF THE DAY- add to your list. Define & place in a sentence to show its meaning.




(noun) A maneuver, stratagem, or ploy, especially one used at an initial stage.


tactic, move, policy, scheme, strategy, trick, device, ploy


They said the plan was no more than a clever political gambit.

The Canuks used the gambit of shooting the puck in and chasing it against the Leafs.


Quote of the day


See May 19, 2020



Did you ever see the movie, “Home Alone?” If yes, what’s funny about it?


The short story we will read today might have inspired the movie. The tables get turned against two fumbling thiefs.


Please read


The author is “O. Henry.” (William Sydney Porter)

Born in the American South during the Civil War, William Sydney Porter worked variously on a ranch, in a land office, and as a bank teller. He married in 1887, began writing stories, and in 1894 he started a short-lived humorous weekly, “The Rolling Stone.” Porter joined the Houston Post as reporter, columnist, and cartoonist. In 1896 he was indicted in court for misappropriation of bank funds. Many believed he was innocent, and he fled to Honduras to mount a defense. Unfortunately, his wife fell gravely ill, and he returned to Austin before arranging a full accounting. He was convicted and sentenced shortly after his wife passed away. He served three years and three months in prison and wrote stories of adventure based on his experiences in Texas and Honduras under the nom de plume (pen name) O. Henry. Upon his release, he went to New York City and continued writing for magazines and newspapers. Despite his popularity as a writer, he suffered from financial struggles and alcoholism. He married a second time in 1907 and died in 1910. His posthumous stories, translations, and adaptations for film and television attest to the enduring appeal of his work.



Historical Context of “The Ransom of Red Chief”

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. was the President of the United States from 1901 to 1909, and he was famous for his "cowboy" image, embracing a strenuous lifestyle of robust masculinity. In addition, the scouting movement, as it was called, including the founding of the Boy Scouts in England in 1909 and the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. This is particularly relevant to the simple outdoor living and camping featured in this story. “Teddy” Roosevelt was also known for championing a progressive vision of fairness for the average citizen, including conservation of national parks and breaking up trusts, and these concerns are all consistent with the cave-living rough men of this story who do battle with the prominent money lender in town.


Let me know when finished


“The Ransom of Red Chief” is a fine example of O. Henry's use of irony. First published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1902. Characters Bill and Sam, two thiefs,  didn't anticipate the lesson they learned, "Crime doesn't pay!" In fact, it'll cost you plenty.


William, what is irony? Occurs when you say or do one thing and the opposite happens.


Okay, our story-

Genre: short story/humor

Setting: Rural small-town America

Climax: Ebenezer responds to the ransom demand with his own demand for payment.

Point of View: First person from Sam’s perspective

When I was a kid, everyone played “cowboys & Indians”




The Ransom of Red Chief:

Let me know when finished




Okay, let;’ see how O. Henry made this a good short story.


Why do Sam and Bill decide on Summit? Be specific.

Okay. The answer should include -


The narrator, Sam, and his friend Bill are pick Summit, Alabama (a town as “flat as a flannel-cake”) with the idea for the kidnapping. The two men need two thousand dollars to pull off a real estate scheme in Illinois. They’ve noted that “philoprogenitiveness” is “strong” in these semi-rural areas, so a “kidnapping project” ought to be a success - especially in a town small enough to lack interfering local journalists or a well-trained police force.

Why is the story immediately ironic?

1.     From the very beginning, the story shows irony, as the setting is a flat town whose name is “Summit” (evoking mountain peaks).

2.     The crooks think they are better than the townspeople, assuming that they are backwards and incapable of thwarting the kidnapping scheme - reasoning that proves just as delusional as the town’s name.

3.     Furthermore, Sam’s use of the word “philoprogenitiveness” (meaning the love of one’s children) shows his silliness and pretentiousness. Sam wants to appear serious and intelligent, but he just comes across as ridiculous.

© 2022 Mike Keenan

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Added on March 16, 2022
Last Updated on March 16, 2022


Mike Keenan
Mike Keenan

Kanata, Ontario, Canada

A retired English/Phys-Ed-teacher-Librarian, I write primarily poetry, humour and travel, published in many newspapers & magazines. For poetry feedback, please read my 'Poetry Evaluations' and 'Poetry.. more..