Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Family Feud

I missed the mini-series but caught the lecture.

Author Dean King was at the Library of Virginia talking about his book, "The Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys."

Of all the unlikely things to come away with, my favorite was about trees.

King showed a wealth of compelling old photographs, including one of a Hatfield patriarch in front of the most massive tree you can imagine.

I'm talking California redwood massive, a tree so enormous (the diameter was 13') I couldn't imagine it was a Virginia photograph.


As King told us, that part of the country used to be covered in massive, old-growth trees, all of which were cut down, floated downstream and used to rebuild the south after the Civil War.

Who knew?

Unlike me, most of the crowd had seen the inaccuracy-filled mini-series, so King set about correcting some fallacies.

With no misinformation, I was just curious about the story, one I knew about only on a surface level.

Like, I hadn't known how politically powerful the families were.

I certainly hadn't known that the Hatfields were one of the first families of Virginia, having fought in the Revolutionary War.

Then there was the media component.

The period when the feud was in full flower was the same as when Jack the Ripper was terrorizing London, so the feud story was the American equivalent, headline-wise.

The New York Times even sent a reporter to cover the story, for crying out loud.

And here I thought they were just a bunch of redneck moonshiners.

Well, they were (with the 20th century addition of ATVs), only now they have a museum in what looked like a double wide trailer and which King described as " a really sad place."

Here's the kicker: after September 11th, the families made peace and now they have a yearly reunion, which King attends.

There's always a tug-of-war at the reunion, and the Hatfields have won the past few years.

How can I miss a noon lecture when I'm all but guaranteed to learn the most arcane stuff?


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