"Ishmael" in the Backwoods
WHILE HIS SON was at college, John, more prone than ever to the "blues" and the indulgence of his weaknesses, had fallen victim to the general economic collapse of the early 'seventies: His last acre of land went in 1873. Haplessly he joined the beginning exodus from land to city, moved to Augusta and there opened a combined boarding house and bar.1
The change did not please Tom at all. When a friend, whose father had bought the fine house John had built after the war, called on Tom at the new establishment, he appeared embarrassed and did not ask his friend in.2 Furthermore, he did not feel at home in the city. "I was a stranger in the city," he wrote, "and my clothes and my manner advertised me as a raw country boy." Vainly he tramped the streets of Augusta that summer seeking work, but work he could not find. It was the first of many rebuffs he was to receive from the city. Unlike his father --he recoiled, as he always did, back to the country. This time it was to the real country.
Having found no work by September, he gathered up his books and sold them at public auction. "As each volume was cried off . . ." he said, "a great gulp rose in my throat." That night he made some memoranda for a "letter to T [heodosia?]." "Youth," he said, "is bidding me goodbye forever. . . . Tomor____________________