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.