Everyone, I assume, has heard the story of the family feud between the Hatfield and McCoy families back in the late nineteenth century in Kentucky and West Virginia. Some people even know about how the feud started and how it ended or dwindled out. Each side had a leader or patriarch who fanned the flames, or perhaps lit multiple fires.
William Anderson Hatfield, or “Devil Anse,” as he was called was just what you think he would be – a backwoods fellow who lived and worked hard in the mountains. He was a successful timber merchant, who in fact, employed some of the McCoy family. His nemesis on the other side was Randolph “Old Ranel” McCoy. Old Ranel was not as prosperous as Mr. Hatfield, but he did own some land and some livestock.
Some say, the first event that led to the long drawn out feud was actually a murder of Old Ranel’s brother, Asa. It had to do with Asa’s loyalty to the Union during the War Between the States. Historians bicker about whether or not this actually started the feud, many holding to the “Brother Asa Theory,” while more pointing to the “Pig Theory.”
It seems McCoy accused a Hatfield cousin of stealing his hog. Pigs and hogs being a valuable commodity in this region and folks being so poor; one could kind of see how this would lead to the mess that followed. There were trials, crooked judges, folks getting away with things they shouldn’t have and then the fighting and killing just kicked in.
Over the years, they fought, died, were put in jail and even sentenced to death. Honestly, it was just a mess. They say that “Devil Anse” Hatfield found Jesus at age 73 and lived about ten years more in peace until his death in 1921. Old Ranel McCoy became a ferry operator and died at age 88, in 1914.
Whether the feud was started by crooked judges, being on the side of the north or the south, or about pigs, the fact is, it was just a big mess. A mess that brought on a lot of sorrow and death and things that could have been avoided. Also, they wasted a lot of time fighting, when they could have been cutting trees or raising hogs, or just plain working.
I think about this because of all of the bickering we are having all around us after the latest round of politics. It seems like folks are always wanting to start a feud or a fight without realizing the consequences or the waste of time. I understand being upset when things don’t necessarily go your way, but I don’t understand wanting to hurt people and tear up other folks’ stuff. I just don’t understand what is proven when you smash stuff and burn things that are not yours. I understand putting the old Christmas tree in the lake in hopes of drawing a few more fish closer to the bank or cutting it up and putting in the fireplace. They snap, crackle and pop and smell kind of good while burning.
Like the Hatfield and McCoy situation, it seems some folks waste a lot of time tearing stuff up, lighting fires and making messes when they could be cutting trees, raising hogs, or just plain working. This is America and we have the right to voice our concerns out loud, but more importantly we have the right and the obligation to build things up and make things better for our family, friends and future generations. Most folks understand this and go about their way doing just that, but it seems like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s of the world are those who seem to get on the evening news. The news folks seem to think their audience enjoys seeing these feuds and that it is necessary to give blow by blow commentary.
I just don’t… Let the feuds dwindle out, maybe a few of them will find or Jesus, take up woodworking or some other line of work that will contribute to the overall good of our wonderful country. I want things to be good for my children and yours. I want them all to have the opportunity to learn, work and prosper. Last time I checked, those were the things we were guaranteed to be able to do… And if you have time, you can go down to the courthouse and shout at the city council about your property tax, or leash laws, or whatever you want to shout about.
CMT Column from the week of January 23, 2017, All Rights Reserved and Stuff like that...
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I'm BN Heard and I like semicolons, dogs and folks finding Jesus.
I will be back on stage April 30th hosting the show at Jammin' Java in Vienna, Virginia.