Well, I just finished the book and it turns out Mr. Slater finds God. His conversion story is interesting as well. After he shoots his chickens (every single one of them - chickens his wife used to pay for necessities because the cow money mainly went into alcohol), Mr. Slater ditches his family for a while. His wife and kids get deathly sick, the Boyer family take care of them and literally nurse the Mrs. Slater her young girls and little newborn back to health.
When Mr. Slater returns, he finds that the Boyers found it in their heart, despite all of the trouble he caused them, to save his family's life. Something he was unwilling to do himself. That humbles him. Coincidentally, just days before his return, a traveling preacher comes by the Slater's home and Mrs. Slater tells the preacher all of the trouble alcohol has caused her husband.
Shortly after his return, the Slaters go to church and the preacher especially gets after Mr. Slater. Already humbled by the Boyer's kind and forgiving acts, his heart is softened (like mud he says) and he changes his ways.
Just thought I'd let you know. There's always hope for everyone. And when we can find it in our hearts to be kind to everyone, even those folks we don't particularly like, and most especially, even those folks who don't particularly like us, you'll never know what kind of effect you might have on another person.
I guess this is all too simple and tidy (its a book for kids after all), but the book does a masterful job of brining you into a world that no longer exists (as far as I know), of families scraping by, living off the land, shortly before the industrial age is about to take over.
The last chapter also talks about a new Phosphate plant moving in that'll fence in a bunch of land so they can use dynamite to extract the phosphate for fertilizer manufacturing.
Mr. Slater's meager livelihood will be threatened since he depends so much on access to an open range. Boyer's fence drove him into a rage that lead him to increasing violence.
In this case his response is different:
"'That makes it mighty bad for you, if they fence in your range,' said Boyer. 'What will you do?'
'Sell out,' said Slater. 'Can't do nothin' to stop it. Citrus people are fencing, too. Got to quit the cattle business, I reckon.' A week before, Slater would have ranted with furious anger. Now he spoke quietly and peaceably. Every one noticed the change.
'What you fixin' to do?' asked Boyer.
'Take a job with the phosphate company, I reckon!' Slater laughed heartily. 'Ain't nothin' else to do. Hear them loud booms goin' off early every mornin'? They're dynamitin' the stuff out of the ground. I went over to tell 'em what I thought of 'em forr fencin' my cows out, and I come home with the job of dynamiter! Hit will jest suit me. Grandpa was an old Indian fighter in the Seminole War. He liked nothin' better than firin' off a gun, and I favor him in most ways. I reckon' hit'll jest about suit me to touch off a fuse in them pits, then run as fast as I can, and listen to it go BOOM and blow the whole place up!'"