The Old Geezer's Shadow
By Jim Mann
(Looking at a picture in my family album of an old man); The old geezer wore a black Stetson, a long white beard hiding an expression, and a ruffled three piece suit. Squinting into the direction of the sun, he cast a dark shadow onto the ground behind him. It has been said, "Our days on the earth are like a shadow." With this thought in mind, the story I am about to tell is called, The Old Geezer's Shadow. The old geezer in this picture and in the story was my great, great grandfather. The Old Geezer's Shadow was co-authored by my grandfather (Joe Boyer) who more respectfully knew the old geezer as his grandfather. And, separated by four generations, I wrote the rest of the story. Our story begins with my grandfather's words in our family album.
My grandfather, Elias Franklin Yeager, was born on January 10, 1839, in White County, Tennessee. In 1859, in Sandhill Arkansas, he married my grandmother, Arty Mincy of De Calb County, Alabama. When they married, Arty was 13 years old and Elias was twenty years old. When the Civil War broke out, the couple owned a small home in Sandhill and had two small children. The husband went to war on the Southern side. Many of their neighbors fought on the Northern side.
Arty was left to take care of the home and children. She milked the cows and grew a garden from which she expected to feed herself and family. Her brother Jim, a small boy, stayed with her. When the corn was ready she would thresh it herself and take it to the mill to be made into meal. Many times her small garden was raided by the northern soldiers. One day a troop of them came and raided the place again. As they were leaving the Captain, a former acquaintance of the family, turned to her and said, "I guess we had better take Jim with us." Arty had taken all that she could. She took her gun in her hand and told the Captain, "Take Jim over my dead body!" The soldiers left Jim and rode away. One night, some Southern soldiers brought her brother Tom home. He had been shot in the hip and needed special care. Arty hid him in the bluffs close to her home. At night, about 2:30 A.M., she would go to him and dress his wounds. She was afraid the Northern soldiers would see her and follow so she would watch and try to make no noise. She took water and food enough for the next day to him at this time. Uncle Tom always limped badly from his wounds but owed his life to his sister who watched over and took care of him at this time. Arty told her children, "I hope you never have to live through a war like that!"
Grandfather was a bushwhacker for the southern army. His main job was to steal back the horses the Northerners had stolen. Look up and roll my eyes. After the war they settled down for a short while in Sandhill. The family had all been left destitute after the Civil War. In order to eat they decided to come West. Grandfather and Arty had four children by then. Their caravan crossed the plains by covered wagons drawn by oxen. It took six months to reach Eldorado, Oregon. At one place they were forced to let their wagons down a high bluff with ropes. They reached Eldorado in Malheur Co., Oregon some time in the year 1869. Grandfather and his family stayed here for awhile. He worked his oxen in the timber surrounding Eldorado.
While he still lived in Tennessee, Elias Franklin and his family had many slaves. The court records of White Co., Tenn., show that he, his brothers and father all took contracts to survey and construct roads in that county. The work was probably all done by slaves. Grandfather told his children that his father was very kind and considerate of his slaves. But in the West, they lived with no conveniences. Grandfather worked hard and supported his family with the best the West could give. But, it was not equal to that of the South before the Civil War.
After sometime in Eldorado, the family moved to the Pocohantas district, a short distance from Baker, Oregon. They made a home on Marble Creek. In 1954, the old rail fence that grandfather and his sons built was still standing in some places. It was here in the fall of 1890, at the age of 44, that Arty died of Typhoid fever. Samantha, being the oldest daughter at home raised the other children. Grandfather's sons were natural acrobats, especially Joe. He could do all the acrobatic tricks known to anyone. After work was done, they would romp and play until they would get so noisy no one could have listened. Grandfather would just look at them and say, "You had better go out to the barn." Once to be told was enough. He seemed to have the controlling hand. When grandfather died in 1929, he was 90 years old and the last confederate veteran in Baker County."
Until recently, the nagging mystery in The Old Geezer's Shadow was that we only knew what the old geezer told his family about his Confederate Army service, that he was a bushwacker and stole horses. What did he really do during the Civil War? Now, for the rest of the story.
These materials could help me tell a dark chapter of The Old Geezer's Shadow about the fighting and horrible carnage that the old geezer and his infantry unit were involved in at Port Hudson and to trace his later Civil War experiences. But after reading these materials, I've begun to understand perhaps why the old geezer never spoke to his family about the killing and suffering. This is the mystery that remains for our family today, the mystery behind, The Old Geezer's Shadow.
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