Civil War re-enactors give students a blast from the past as they muster forces for today's skirmish.
Clad in gray wool uniforms, the men of Hardaway's Alabama Battery sat, singing, next to a massive wrought iron ordnance rifle, a cannon that can propel a shell a mile across the valley.
After the final chorus of "Goober Peas," they were happy to talk about the artillery piece they have dubbed Sophia Antoinette Barksdale.
"And boy does she bark, real good," said Ken Janson, a former teacher from Chiloquin and member of the Cascade Civil War Society who heads up the battalion in charge of the big gun.
The living history organization, which includes members from across the Rogue Valley and Klamath Basin, will re-enact scenes from the Civil War and share details of daily life from the period today at the Wood House on Highway 62 just north of Eagle Point.
On Friday, the group imparted its lessons to about 300 students from White Mountain Middle School, St. John's Lutheran School and Armadillo Technical Institute, as well as a collection of homeschoolers. The students visited stations around the historic home to learn about medical care, clothing styles, firearms and other weapons, infantry drills, engineering, camp life and more.
"I've learned a lot," said Dakota Summers, 13, an eighth-grader at White Mountain.
"They told us how long it took to reload and clean a weapon, and they had to do it on horseback," he said.
Dakota said he also liked hearing the history of the Wood House and pondering the tools and techniques of surgery at nursing centers in the field.
"There's always something I didn't know and it's good to learn," he said.
Yolanda Rambo de Ortega teaches eighth-grade U.S. history at White Mountain and her classes won't get to the Civil War until spring, but she's glad they are getting a real-life look at the period now.
"We're doing lots of current events right now with the elections, so this is a nice break," she said.
She and other teachers chaperoning the trip noted that this first historically accurate glimpse could help spark an interest.
One student, Devon Wright, a 13-year-old with skinny black jeans, a painted jacket and bright magenta hair, surveyed the "old hats and old guns and lots of old stuff" with a skeptical sneer. But he acknowledged, "It's better than a book."
Kit Barlow, a Cascade Civil War Society member from Medford, put groups of students through the paces of an infantry drill, calling out orders with crisp precision.
"When we're doing the kids' drills, there's some smart-aleck remarks and squirming at first, but soon they are marching like an infantry," he said.
"I marched with a rifle in my hand," said Chasten Milam, a 14-year-old from White City. "He showed us how to be in one line and to turn and march."
White Mountain's Crystal Bates, 13, liked the presentation on the era's clothing, including complicated corsets and long dresses for women.
But the lady who spoke the loudest to all the students was Sophia Antoinette Barksdale.
After Janson and his men explained the care in cleaning the cannon, the types of shells and the loading of the charges to each student group, they fired the weapon in an ear-ringing percussive blast.
Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.