"In time we hate that which we often fear" ~ William Shakespeare
“Hatred paralyses life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.
“He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to spare, and he who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Now who's Mom and Dad's favourite kid? Who's da man? Not you, twerp!" ~ Cain, after killing Abel
Blood feuds. They've come down through history and literature, examples of vendettas that by far transcend a minor disagreement. The Capulets and the Montagues. The Earps and the Clanton & MacLaureys. Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.
The place: the Kentucky and West Virginia border. The time: 1865-1891. The two families lived along the border, and the Civil War was a dividing factor. The first murder victim was a McCoy who went off to fight for the Union. Years later, ownership of a hog provided the excuse for the next wave of violence. From that point on, with legal fights, political connections, forbidden love, and escalating hatred on both sides tossed into the mix... you had the perfect recipe for trouble.
It became a national story. Governors had to call out the militia to stop the violence. Massacres were committed. People died. Trials were held. The Supreme Court was pulled in. Men were executed or imprisoned. And finally, in 1891, the families called a truce to stop the war. In fact, in 2003, the family descendants signed a peace treaty.
The feud still has its legacy today. It's a strange source of tourism for the area. People come to West Virginia and Kentucky to see feud sites and artifacts. A recreation area has been set aside as the Hatfield-McCoy Trails.
And the families themselves live on. The metal band Bobaflex features two McCoys. On the other side of the equation, the singer Julianna Hatfield is, well, you guessed it... a Hatfield.
It's astonishing, that hatred can run that deeply between two families. One wonders if the Hatfield and McCoy descendants were looking at each other during that treaty signing, thinking, your great great uncle killed my great grand daddy.
What might it have taken for the old animosity to rise up to the surface?
"Granny! Jimmy Hatfield pushed me!"
"That damned Hatfield! Get my gun! I always knew you couldn't trust a Hatfield!"
Rumors that fictional character Jack McCoy of Law & Order is a McCoy are entirely unsubstantiated. Though it would explain his self righteous tirades.