Even though I have lived in the South for a long time, I just never will get over being born and raised in the hill country, right slap-dab where Missouri laps over into Arkansas. This accounts a lot for my interest in the Civil War, I think, because folks in that part of the world were greatly put upon by the guerrilla warfare which took place, and many of my ancestors never got over that, either.
I am fortunate enough to remember four great-grandparents, and each of them had long memories of that horrible time in our history. It didn't take a lot of urging to get them started talking about it, either.
Great-grandfather Bryan was a storyteller without peer when we got him started. He had been in his early teens living in Washington County, Mo., when conflict erupted. His father and older brothers had either enlisted or been drafted into military service, and that left him to care for his mother, his sisters and the farm.
This responsibility proved to be no small chore for a kid because the guerrilla bands -- in Missouri these outlaws were called jayhawkers -- were skulking in the woods just waiting to steal anything they could lay their hands on, and they got just about everything of value these poor folks had.
Christy, my great-grandfather, was determined that such trashy, worthless robbers were not going to get his horse, one of the few members of the equine race left in the county after the men had ridden off to war. When word got out that jayhawkers were in the area, and they came frequently, he would ride his horse into the woods and hide with it until it seemed safe to return.
I loved to hear him tell about that. It seemed so brave to me that a young boy would risk his life to save his horse. Had he been caught it was more than likely the thieves would have shot him, or worse yet, hanged him. It was a certainty they would have taken his horse.
On one of these safety-seeking journeys into the woods Christy heard the jayhawkers noisily following after him, coming ever closer to his hiding place. In order to divert them from the location of his horse, he tied it up and ran wildly through the woods, making a considerable disturbance so the thieving rascals couldn't help but hear him. They followed on horseback, crashing through the thorny underbrush and (I always hoped) damaging themselves more than a little.
After running until he became tired, the boy concealed himself as best he could under a log, and in a few moments one of the searching jayhawkers jumped his horse over it. Don't you know that was one scared young lad?
They never got his horse; it came through the war unscathed.