A story about trust and faith, that begins with a train ride.
|Chapter One of Matthew's Legacy, the first book in the Haunted Memories series.|
It started with a dream. The dream was of moving to a remote area in
Montana and running a ranch. My husband and I were separated and I
wanted to get away from all the memories that surrounded me at the farm
we had started together.
After searching for a ranch and finding what seemed to be the perfect
place, I travelled by train to a little town in Northern Montana. True, there
were days of bitter cold in the winter, on paper at least, it
After a long and uneventful ride, I stepped off the train and into the
wide open expanse of Montana. In the distance the silhouette of a windmill
rose from the horizon. It’s paddles turned on a wind that carried the scent
of rain .
I called the owners of the ranch a month before and made
arrangements to see it. My ride was to pick me up at the station, but I didn’t
see anyone matching the foreman’s description. Pleased to have a chance to
look around before the ride to the ranch, I took a seat in front of the station.
In many ways the small town reminded me of the community I grew up in.
Men and women called out to one another as they passed. Their greetings
ranged from the simple nod of the head, to a quick wave, to the happy
hello’s between friends. Several of the locals nodded, or waved, as they
Slowly, as the peace around me sank in, I began to relax. I closed my
eyes when the sun peeked through the clouds, enjoying the warmth of its
rays on my face, and in doing so fell asleep.
While I slept, I dreamed of my sheep back at the farm. In the dream I
was sitting with my husband. We were watching the lambs jump and play
as we often did before things began to fall apart. My Siamese cat was in my
lap, a yellow tabby was in his and the sheep dog was laying between us. It
was from this dream that I was pulled by a melodic voice.
I opened my eyes and tried to make sense of where I was. As I woke
more fully, I remembered where I was and why I was there. I felt sadness
descend upon me and I realized the voice that woke me was still speaking.
While I struggled to put my thoughts in order, I saw that the man in front of
me was tall and slender with the build of a man that works outdoors for a
living. He had dark hair, near black eyes and skin that was tanned by the
sun and wind. It was the expression in his eyes that finally reached me.
The look he gave me was one that combined worry with laughter, giving
him a rather quizzical expression. I must have laughed, because the worried
look gave way to a beautiful, much relieved, smile. The smile lit his face
like the sun lights up a dark and dreary day, having much the same effect on
me. For where only moments before I felt sadness, I now felt joy.
Smiling back at him I realized that he was Matthew, the foreman,
and my ride. I laughed and apologized for falling asleep; admitting to him
that between the long train ride, the warmth of the sun, the cool breeze and
the pleasantries of the town people, I had succumbed to several weeks of
fatigue. At my confession, he laughed aloud and reached down and picked
up my duffel bag.
When he grinned at the silly fish print on the bag, my sadness
returned. I remembered picking out the green fish print fabric and how
much my maritime husband had loved it . Giving myself a mental shake I
whispered, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. (footnote 1)”. I met the
question in his eyes with a smile and stood up.
As I stretched the kinks out of my body, his laughing smile made me
realize that I was in a public place and with a stranger. Feeling the blood
rush to my face, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of first impression I
was giving him. The feeling was especially unnerving as I remembered that
he was the person that I would be working along side of for the next month.
He lead me to a 1970’s model Chevy truck that was worn and
tattered. I managed not to laugh at the questioning look he gave me because
I knew it well. When I told him that I liked the truck and he gave me a odd
look and half way shook his head. I laughed then admitted driving a old
truck that was probably a little more tattered than the one we were getting
into. He stashed my bag in the bed and asked if I needed to pick up
anything from the local store before leaving. When I said no, he climbed
into the driver’s seat and reached over to open the passenger door. Once
we were both seated he headed out of town to the ranch.
As we rode, I considered the enormous decision I was making. I
wondered how the sheep and goats were doing and worried about them a
little, even though I knew that they would be well taken care of in my
absence. I watched the fields of gold we were passing. It was so flat here,
unlike home with it’s green hills and valleys.
I was returned to the present when Matthew asked me what I thought
of Montana. Laughing, I told him that it was beautiful. He asked me about
my home in the Carolina’s, and wanted to know how it differed from what I
was seeing in Montana. Realizing that he was serious, I told him about my
home, about the green hills and valleys. I described the abundance of trees
in the area I lived in and the creeks and springs that ran on my farm.
I told him about a dead tree on the edge of my driveway that broke
off in a high wind and how it was covered with lichen and wood duck holes.
At his questioning look I attempted to explain why I felt that I needed to
leave it there, how the bareness of it’s leafless, limbless form gave me hope
each time I saw it; the many lichens growing on it representing the hope that
springs from dispair, the insects showing how without death there would be
no life and the pock marked wood showing that life goes on even in the face
of destruction. Matthew smiled at my descriptions, then he told me a little
about the area we were driving through.
He nodded towards the golden fields as we passed and told me they
were wheat fields; then he explained how some of the more southern fields
had already been harvested, and how the fields we were passing would be
harvested in the near future. As I listened to him I realized that he loved
this land and that he appreciated the simple miracles that took place each
I asked him if he grew up in the area. He said that he had, but that he
was gone for 16 years while he served the country with a stint in the Army
and that he had only been back in Montana for a little over 3 years. It was
then I noticed the scars on his face and realized that he was probably older
then I would first have thought.
I think he must have realized that I saw the scars as soon as I noticed
them. I could feel him flinch, then draw away. I smiled, then told him that
my father went to war and that he too came home with scars, but his scars
were on the inside and came from seeing his buddies die. We rode in
silence for a while, both thinking thoughts of the past.
I discovered, with a start, that the sun was setting. The sky turned
shades of gold, pink and orange, then as the sun began to sink below the
horizon, the dusky hues of night began to creep across the fields and into
the sky. One by one twinkling stars began to come out, faint at first, but
brighter as the sky darkened. Suddenly it was night and I was out on the
plains of Montana with a man I’d just met and all of God’s majesty.
I closed my eyes and put my head back fighting off tears of fatigue
and sorrow. Feeling lost and alone I pulled my jacket a little closer around
me and began to pray for strength to get through the sadness that was
settling around me, fogging my mind as it sapped my strength away.
Beside me I hear Matthew speak, his voice breaking through the fog of my
mind. I realized that he was singing. I held my breath as I listened to that
soothing voice as it sang:
Draw Though my soul, O Christ, Closer to Thine;
Breathe into every wish Thy will divine!
Raise my low self above, Won by Thy deathless love;
Ever, O Christ, through mine Let Thy life shine.
Lead forth my soul, O Christ, One with thine own,
Joyful to follow Thee Through paths unknown!
In Thee my strength renew; Give me my work to do!
Through me Thy truth be shown, Thy love made known.
Not for myself alone May my prayer be;
Lift Thou Thy world, O Christ, Closer to Thee!
Cleanse it from guilt and wrong; Teach it salvation’s song,
Till earth, as heaven, fulfil God’s holy will.
I was unfamiliar with the song, but it struck a cord deep within me. I
wondered at the man beside me, wondered what sorrows that radiant smile
covered and wondered why he chose to sing that particular song.
Opening my eyes I turned to look at him in the darkness.
His profile looked both young and ageless and spoke of sorrow and of
strength. At my movement he looked over and asked if he had disturbed
me. Finding that my voice didn’t want to work I shook my head. When I
realized that he couldn’t see me shaking my head, I laughed. With the laugh
my voice came back. I told him how much I enjoyed listening to him and
asked him what the name of the song was, telling him that the words had
He told me that the song was written by St. Edmund and that it was
called Draw Thou My Soul, O Christ. With a soft smile, he admitted that
the song had been his Grandmother’s favorite, before telling me that often
sang while he drove.
While I listened to him talk, I noticed that he was as tired as I was and
wondered how much longer it would be before we reached the ranch. As
though he heard my thoughts, he spoke to tell me that we were almost there
and then turned the truck up the next side road which lead to the ranch.
We drove another few miles before he turned onto the drive that lead
to the ranch. In the distance I could see the lights from the house and the
silhouettes of the other buildings. Driving to the back of the barn
containing my quarters he stopped the truck and stepped out.
Reaching into the bed of the truck he got my bag and then opened the
door to the small room that would be mine for the next month. As I stepped
inside and he stepped back outside I thanked him for the ride. Without
thinking, wished him the good night that I always wish my close friends. I
realized that I had told him not to let the bedbugs bite when I saw the
startled look on his face and felt like hiding in a hole somewhere. Instead I
closed the door and turned to look at the room.
There was a long twin sized bed against the back wall, a small closet
to the left of the bed and a small chest of drawers by the door. To the right
of the bed was a night stand that was sitting on the end of a braided rug. To
the right of the night stand was a heavy, oversized wooden chair with well
worn, overstuffed cushions. I decided that unpacking could wait and turned
to the chest by the door and unclipped my scarf.
Putting the scarf and the clips on the dresser along with the bands that
held my braid. I began my nightly ritual of unbraiding and brushing my hair
then dressing for bed. Afterwards, I sat down and opened my Bible to
Psalms 30 and read:
1 I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made
my foes to rejoice over me. 2 O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou
hast healed me. 3 O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave:
thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. 4 Sing unto
the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his
holiness. 5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life:
weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. 6 And in
my prospeity I said, I shall never be moved. 7 LORD, by thy favour thou
hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was
troubled. 8 I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made
supplication. 9 what profit is there in my blood when I go down to the
pit? shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? 10 Hear, O
LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD be thou my helper. 11 Thou hast
turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth,
and girded me with gladness; 12 To the end that my glory may sing
praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto
thee for ever.
As always Psalms lifted my spirits and made me thankful for my
blessings. Closing my eyes I prayed for the situation at home, my husband
and friends. I praised God for his goodness and my safe arrival,. rejoicing
in the beauty of his creation and thanking him for such a pleasant trip.
Turning back the bed I climbed in and was asleep as soon as my eyes