In 1919, Everett H. Thayer was a traveling salesman. He sold kitchen wares and cutlery, in the rural and remote areas of Southern Missouri and Northwest Arkansas.
One day, he stopped along a remote dirt road to relieve himself. He saw an interesting rock there along the edge of a field. He was an amateur rock collector, and often showed the stones he collected on his journeys to his neighbor, a Professor Weinrich, who was retired professor of geology. Everett picked up the rock, which he took to be a moderately-sized piece of quartz, and placed it in a box with some others in the back of his truck, thinking no more about it until returning home.
As it happened, Professor Weinrich was away visiting family when Everett returned and it was some months before he had occasion to share his finds with his neighbor. It was then that the professor told Everett that this stone was in fact a rather large diamond. What became known as the Thayer diamond was the fifth largest diamond in the world at that time.
The Thayers became one of the richest families in the state and remained so until Everett’s death in 1926. At that time, Everett’s son Marvin inherited the family fortune and decided to invest the money in buying up farmland in the areas where he thought his father had found the diamond, in hopes of finding more gems.
The farmers were no fools, and Marvin ended up paying well over market value for all the land he bought. The search was fruitless. By the time the stock market crashed a few years later, property values also plummetted and the family fortune was lost. Marvin was reduced to poverty.
After a few years of struggling and wandering, he penned a book entitled, “A Pauper’s Guide to Prosperity.” In this book, Marvin reasoned that no one who had been successful could ever relate the reasons for their prosperity. He wrote, “…as failure provides the best instruction, the only credible information must come from a man who has failed at everything.”
This tongue-in-cheek semi-memoir became a national hit and rescued Marvin Thayer from his self-inflicted pauper-hood. Though he never returned to the wealth of his childhood, he did well, and amassed some small fortune and fame. For a time, he became the darling of the literary circuit, touring the country and speaking at colleges. St. Louis University conferred an honorary degree upon him in 1938.
By 1940, he was working as a reporter for the largest newspaper in St. Louis. When the war began, he served as a war correspondent. He was killed in a plane crash near the Phillipines in 1943.
I made all this up. The story came to me one day as I was standing in my yard and stooped down to pick up an interesting-looking rock. It was a moderately-sized piece of quartz. At least, I hope that’s all it was. I wondered though, what if it was a diamond?
When an interviewer asks where my inspiration comes from, I never know what to say because of things like this. It seems evasive to say “My inspiration comes from everywhere.” Yet, it really does, doesn’t it? We all find gems of inspiration in the most peculiar places.
20 thoughts on “The Gem of Inspiration”
inspiration is everywhere — all you need to do is open your mind to it
Love this post, Stephen! I will direct anyone here who asks the same question 🙂
Thanks, DV. I’m honored. 🙂
Great story, Stephen…and so, so true. Inspiration can be found in a rock on the ground, a headline, a single word spoken by a character in a movie, novel or short story. Sometimes, it can even be found in the silence that surrounds you at the end of a day. For me, I’ve always found that it finds you, rather than the other way around. If you go looking for it…it’s elusive, like chasing the end of the rainbow.
Great observation, T.A. Thanks for the comment. 🙂
Ha ha. You had me with it, too! Yes, inspiration seems to come mostly when you’re not looking for it and in the most random places.
I love the “fifth largest diamond” detail. It gave the story great credibility, I thought. And you’re right — inspiration comes from everywhere. 🙂
Thanks, Lynne. 🙂
So true, the most minute, mundane things can trigger a good story.
Minute and mundane? If that is the case, I am surprised I am not the subject of many biographies.
The way you wrote this piece seemed so matter-of-fact that I believed it too.
Inspiration can come from looking out your hotel window at night and watching a cat walk down a deserted sidewalk. Got a short story out of that one.
Cool. Thanks, K.R.
Here is a great article Kat wrote on the same topic:
Thanks, Evil Mastermind. That was very kind of you to share.
You had me too, Stephen, in fact as I was reading it I was thinking,
“I think I know this story.” My inspiration, or my muse, is often fickle, elusive and certainly doesn’t come to order. In fact, it will often visit at the most unexpected and incongruous times; like the middle of the night, or while fully engaged in some, supposedly, totally absorbing and, sometimes, intimate performance.
Great post, Stephen.
Thanks, T.D. *resisting urge to wise-crack about intimate moments* 😀
Yeah, I left it open deliberately.
I was in a museum looking at a mummy when the woman next to me said “That’s why I’m being cremated!” Got a whole novel out of that one sentence. And copies of my book in the museum’s store.
Loved your tale. It was a real gem.
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