A recent episode of PBS’ “American Experience” focused on “The Feud,” as in the infamous Hatfields and McCoys. Their legendary feud lasted almost 30 years along the Tug River between West Virginia and Kentucky.
The division between the two families was fueled by rumors and innuendo. It still depends on who you talk to as to what actually started the bloodshed.
When Confederate Capt. Anderson “Devil Anse” Hatfield, the patriarch of that family, died, he was living in a community named for one of my ancestors in my home county in West Virginia.
The McCoys, led by Randall “Ran’l” McCoy, were primarily based on the Kentucky side.
This isn’t a story that can be romanticized, but its continued grip on those parts of West Virginia and Kentucky finally took on a different slant: tourism.
I was working in Williamson, West Virginia, when the two families started having reunions (for lack of a better word) with competitive games crossing the Tug River. Events took place in many of the same areas where gunfire had rung out all those years before.
Despite having served on the Board of Directors of the Hatfield-McCoy Trails system, capitalizing on such a horrific time in that part of the country has always made me cringe.
I’ve been supportive because of the tourism opportunities in areas that have lost income due to the failing mining industry.
The History Channel aired a series starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton in the lead roles in 2012. I couldn’t speculate as to what opinions were developed after watching the miniseries.
I guess it’s obvious the feud still irritates me as mountain people are viewed as ignorant, toothless, and barefoot. What I do know is that there’s a loyalty among those who have called those lands home that is remarkable.
As I write, and think about the feud, I’ll try to be optimistic about the tourism factor. The last time I heard numbers about the trail system found mostly out-of-staters bringing their ATVs to travel throughout those hills.
I guess the only way to close this is to say that I’m related to the Hatfields by marriage. But, no, I’m not looking for a fight with a McCoy.