As Matt made his way back home it finally dawned upon him about half-way back what he was doing. He was leaving all in life he had ever known, all his past was slipping in to oblivion, his father’s legacy was soon to be forgotten and the only one brave enough to stand against the tides of time and defend all that was doomed to fall was Jesse.
The trip home was heavy with thought, fear, regret, and hate, hate of himself and it seemed to rise up within him, more and more, with every step towards a north-bound trip he hated himself more and more.
The sun was low but getting higher, he knew his family would leave in a half hour or so even if he didn’t make it, after all they had a train to catch. But he just couldn’t take it, his raw passion was almost stifling, it was too much to bear. After almost an hour of heavy thought and heedless journey he found himself slumped by an old hickory overlooking the farm.
It hit him like a riled mule; this was his land, his fathers land, southern land, southern land with common sense values, a land wronged by the evils of northern expansion and industrialization. He couldn’t just abandon this land and deprive his son of a proud place to call home, his home and the home of his fathers.
After almost an hour of lying sick to his stomach by the tree, looking at all that was going to be lost to him, he realized the sun was beating down on him, he realized his family was probably leaving now and maybe he could make it but he already knew, what had to be done.
He waited just a while longer till’ he was sure his family was gone, he couldn’t bear to see his mother and tell her he was going to stay and fight, he hated himself just for knowing she was utterly heartbroken by now, there’s no way he could face her.
It was time; he made his way down the hill and through his apple orchard. Looking around at all the land as he continued on his way he was hit with waves and waves of pure emotion. Feelings of loneliness, knowing he was the only one left and doomed to live alone, feelings of hate, for breaking his mothers heart, feelings of loyalty, knowing he was defending what he knew to be true, and feelings of fear, fear of the unknown.
It took him awhile but he eventually got his pa’s rifle ready for battle, it took him awhile of sitting at his kitchen table, cleaning and loading it. Somber was the order of the day as he blankly dressed himself and readied some food for journey he noticed a letter on the counter. He recognized it immediately, it was Mama’s piece of paper, the piece she had been saving for an important occasion to use and there it was, sitting right there staring at him, its mere presence was piercing his heart; there’s no way his heart could withstand reading it. He quickly grabbed it and tucked it into his jacket. It could wait to be read, he would save it for a special occasion.
I guess it was best for Matt not to know what had happened to his family shortly after their parting, it was a horrible occurrence a brutal twist of fate. His entire family was killed in a derailing accident whilst on the train car north.
After he left his house for the final time joined up with the guerillas, and as a rightful result, disappeared from the public eye for several years, reappearing only at the Battle of Red Creek. Little is known of Matt’s affairs during his years of war but what is known is this, that foggy morning on the riverbank as he bled his last and gasped through the gore at that last breath of air, he was seen clutching the letter in his hands. He looked happy, as if he was satisfied with what he had done in life, as if he knew his mother loved him with her last. As the Howard family’s chapter closes in the book of time, we must remember that through it all, GOD’s will is done, and that we are all merely ripples in the stream.