Famous Feud Resolves
During the relentless winter we just came through in New England, a half dozen Nor’easters blew through here, several times leaving 4–6” of treacherously heavy “mashed potatoes” clinging to the stands of mature oak, white pine, and maple that surround us. In other seasons, our area is sometimes referred to as the “leafy green suburbs” west of Boston. All those big, old, leafy trees during a winter like this become monsters, looming over the landscape with their frightening coats of concrete.
My lot took the most damage it has in the 40 years I’ve lived here. Huge branches came down, one leaning on the house, getting ready to break a window. A burley neighbor and I took that out Christmas Eve with a chain saw. Even so, it gave me a hernia. And the season was only starting.
Six or so storms later another big branch came down and whacked the condenser on my air conditioning system, turning it from a cubic structure into something with oblique angles. After I cleared out all the deadfall, I got to wondering whether insurance would cover my unit. It certainly wouldn’t help with the trees, but I could mostly handle that on my own.
So, I called my insurance company, and they sent an adjuster named Brian Hatfield from United Claims Service out of Garner, North Carolina. A compact man with regular features, blond hair, blue eyes, and a sunny disposition, his accent — with a much wider array of vowels than we New Englanders use— was distinctly Hillbilly.
“Appalachia?” I asked.
“I’m from there,” he said.
I put two and two together and asked him, “That Hatfield?”
“The same,” he said.
I asked him if the clans were still fighting or whether they’d managed to work things out to a satisfactory resolution.
He laughed and described the quintessential American story: “They’re making money on it.”
He reeled off a dozen enterprises, and I followed them all down, brushing up while I was at it on the story of the warring clans. They practically defined the meaning of the word “feud.” But today, they have more in common than dividing them.
First off, there’s the trail. With 2,000 miles of off-road vehicle terrain, this institution is a Hillbilly dream. According to trailsheaven.com, “The Hatfield~McCoy Trail System is a statutory corporation created by the West Virginia Legislature to generate economic development through tourism in nine southern West Virginia counties. The Hatfield~McCoy Trail System covers hundreds of miles of off-road trails in six of its nine project counties. All of the trail systems are open 365 days a year to ATVs, dirt bikes, and utility vehicles (UTVs). Many of the trail systems also offer community connecting trails that allow visitors to access “ATV-friendly towns” to experience the charm of southern West Virginia.”
Of course, along with the trail comes the gear — T-shirts, hoodies sweatshirts, jackets, toddler apparel, youth apparel, head gear, novelty items, long-sleeved shirts, and ATV, UTV, and dirt bike accessories, all available on site as well as online. There are machine rentals, repairs, and sales as well as guides for participants unfamiliar with the territory. There are ancillary hotels and eateries. There’s even insurance. In the literature, earplugs are suggested.
In 1999, a large project known as the “Hatfield and McCoy Historic Site Restoration” was completed with a Small Business Administration grant. You can spend some dough on the Hatfield–McCoy Feud Driving Tour, a self-guided exploration of the restored feud sites, which includes maps and pictures as well as an audio CD.
In 2011, the families launched The Hatfields and McCoys Dinner Show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, near the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The all-you-can-eat menu features local specialties, includin’ “Feudin’ Fried Chick’n, Open Pit Pulled-to-Pieces Pork Barbeque, Southern Style Creamy Soup, Smashed Mashed Taters, Buttery Corn on the Cob, Ma’s Hot Homemade Bread, No Tellin’ What’s In It Coleslaw, and Granny’s Famous Specialty Dessert.”
Now, any respectable franchise in a America has to have a movie, and the Hatfields and McCoys have a movie, made in 2012.
And on the small screen, the families had one season on the History Channel in 2013. They made it through three episodes. I didn’t ask, and you probably shouldn’t, either.
On the human resources side, the families first held a joint reunion in 2000. More than 5,000 people are said to have attended. One thing these families did was proliferate, with not a few intermarriages.
Ever since that first reunion, “The Hatfield and McCoy Reunion Festival and Marathon [has been] held annually in June on a three-day weekend,” according to Wikipedia, which goes on: “The events take place in Pikeville, Kentucky, Matewan, West Virginia, and Williamson, West Virginia. The festival commemorates the famed feud and includes a marathon and half-marathon (the motto is “no feudin’, just runnin’”), in addition to an ATV ride in all three towns. There is also a tug-of-war across the Tug Fork tributary near which the feuding families lived, a live reenactment of scenes from their most famous fight, a motorcycle ride, live entertainment, Hatfield–McCoy landmark tours, a cornbread contest, pancake breakfast, arts, crafts, and dancing. The festival typically attracts thousands with more than 300 runners taking part in the races.”
The way these things go, the Hatfields and McCoys figured out where their common interest lies. If you listen to their videos, they seem to be all about keeping the myth of the feud alive. Really they’re delighted with each other’s company.