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Daniel Matthews

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American Gothic: Father and Son

American Gothic: Father and Son

Daniel’s Ark

“Heroes Are Everyday People, Who Believe in Something and Hope for More.”

It was one the hottest summers in over twenty years, or so the old timers kept saying. We were in a drought and every Sunday as the preacher prayed for rain, though my head was bowed, I hoped against it. For us, rain wasn’t what we needed most. We were in a race against time. We had no home to live in. It was one of the most defining points of our life that far.

Luck had been against us for the past few years, reducing us to the point of near poverty. It was only because of one man’s devotion and determination that we were able to keep our heads above the drowning waters known as life. That man was my father.

Daniel’s ark began as a hay field. I cried the first day I saw it. How could we make a home in only six weeks? How could we dream that big and hope that strong? Well maybe we couldn’t but he could. To this day I can still recall the mindless jesting of people passing by, our so called friends. “When it finally rains, will it float?”

But he would keep swinging that hammer like there was no tomorrow, and for us there wasn’t going to be, unless he could make it so. The land in a normal year would be swampy; we could see that, so our home had to be built on stilts to keep us out of the water, because the rains would come. Mama made a map of how it should be built. It was drawn on our school graph paper with pencils. My father would go off in his little black truck, which was nearly rotting into the ground, and he would bring the boards, and plywood, piece by piece, as the days got hotter, and hotter.

The House that Dad built

The House that Dad built

I thought about the pioneers I read about in books. How they cleared the land and made homes in the middle of the wilderness. They contended with nature in all its extremities. Our ancestors were among them and, somehow, I wondered if they were looking down on us that summer long ago. Were they proud?

There were eight of us kids, little brats that we were. But we were filled with a sense of pride when that first wall went up. Ma said the prayer that would bless our new home.

It amazed me that no one offered to help. Maybe it was because of my father’s determination and endless labor, which caused them to shy away, or to stand back in awe. I will never know for sure. But I will remember those six weeks until I am old.

We moved in with blankets for inside walls, and by that time it was getting cold. Somehow my father had managed to gather a woodpile that kept us warm that winter. That first night as we sat around our table, in our brand new home, it began to rain. It was then, at that moment, looking across the table at my father’s sun burnt face and calloused hands, that I fully understood what a hero really was. They didn’t always come in books or in the movies we watched. They are everyday people, who believe in something and hope for more. They make that dream possible, not for themselves but for those around them.

Dad rests while the family tills the land

Dad rests while the family tills the land

My father didn’t just give us a home; he taught me something that will last longer than those walls or even the land. There is something that we all carry with us deep inside until it is needed, and then the hero in us awakens it and draws it forth to the light of a new day.

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13 Comments - (Leave a comment! »)

  • Daniel Rhode Island said:

    This is very inspirational. Determination and purpose. He knew what needed to be done and he did everything he could to obtain it. Alex I love your magazine and what you do to inspire people.

  • Angela – California said:

    I like that the story was told from the point of view of a young boy watching his father become his hero. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of one young boy praying the opposite of every other person in the church.

    This story touched my heart. More than anything, I enjoyed the uplifting nature of the content on your entire site. You are highlighting famous heroes as well as local heroes, and I applaud this approach. Both deserve more press than they get.

  • Dale -- Washington said:

    I love the story on daniel and the house his dad built. I foud it so heart warming. One thing though. I found the site a little hard to navigate and clumsy to find where I was going at first. but all in all this is a great site.

  • Eryne said:

    I enjoyed the article, “Daniel Mathews” by Vickie Mathews. I was touched by the simplicity of the story. In a clear and articulate style the author outlays a very simple tale of a family’s struggle to build a home. There are obstacles and derision, which the family, led by a strong and persevering Father, overcome. The article highlights the everyday hero, celebrates family, and is a touching tribute to an amazing Father. This story was beautiful and relate able, a powerful combination.

    I am grateful to have discovered this magazine, and plan on visiting the site regularly.

  • Rob said:

    I feel that your magazine is a substantial source of inspiration to people everywhere. To hear local’s stories from your community strikes a normally unknown motivation from within our heart that can be encouraging to give and accept hope that can be life changing. I
    Reading over several of the articles posted on I came across this Daniel Matthews story as a winning father. My emotions were greatly moved by that man and his sheer determination. He not only built a providing home for himself and his family with utter perseverance but he struggled through extreme heat and drought to make it possible. The author was able to invariably realize he was a hero and in addition explain why. I very much enjoyed the way the author portrayed the father figure and the unconditional love within the family.
    It was a great article that on top of making sense, it was written quite sufficiently.

  • Irene Saah said:

    Truly heartwarming story! This is the blessing of life, sharing our own stories and by this simple act, being afforded the chance to make a difference to others. Loved the author’s choice in telling this story. Perfect!

  • Claire Campbell said:

    Winners Within Us, Inc. seems to embody many of the principles that I have as an individual. I hope to contribute in some small way to make this world a better place. Stories on your website about Daniel Matthews and Ann Evans are completely inspiring.

  • Polly Cappalo said:

    Built with his own hands for his family. Your father truly is, an American Hero. Very well written, I was wishing that I had more to read of your inspiring story.

  • Janice said:

    What an inspiring story. I actually felt myself in the story. I felt as though I was within the story instead of reading. And what a message it gives to one that reads it. I think this story gives a very good message and one well meant.

  • Jenn Sharp said:

    The story of Daniel Matthews reminds me of my own father. Many children are very lucky to grow up with wonderful men, who teach them life-long lessons about respect, hard work, appreciation and humanity. It’s a tough job, inspiring youth and it looks like Daniel Matthews succeeded simply by doing what needed to be done for his family. Heroic no doubt, but I suspect that Mr. Matthews would say he’s just a regular human being.

  • Jasmaine said:

    This is a really heart touching story. Well written and told.

  • Dagmar said:

    This is beautiful! It is very inspiring to me, when I look back on the memories of it all. It’s amazing how we often look to the stars for our heroes, and yet all we really have to do is look around us to find the true heroes in this life. I walk away truly inspired by this!

  • Tyler S said:

    This is such a powerful memory. Its concept is so simple, yet the resolve, dedication, and love behind it is awe inspiring.

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