Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hatfields & McCoys

History Channel’s miniseries Hatfields & McCoys began Monday. It’s good — damn good. Quality acting, excellent period detail and a respect for the actual history are all here in this depiction of America’s most famous feud.

The yellow journalism of the day (the 1870s-80s) depicted the feudists as exotic primitives, a stereotype that has come down to our day, one which the miniseries effectively dispels. Sure, the folks living in the Tug River Valley in the late 19th Century were rough-hewn; they were living in frontier conditions. But they weren’t all that different than folks anywhere. Some were entrepreneurial visionaries, some just hardworking plain folk, some were ne’er-do-wells.

They mostly tried to settle their disputes in court.  Occasionally, though, a personal dispute would get out of hand. Mix together tangled kin networks (cut my cousin and I bleed), weak law enforcement, easy access to weapons and add a little whiskey and you have a recipe for bloodshed.

It’s only conditions that make things different here in Sisters, Oregon. Human nature still feels that atavistic tug toward the feud.

I’ve seen old men come near to blows in the courthouse over property setbacks; battles over irrigation ditches and water; homeowners association beefs that turn bitter and personal. Passions run high and hot. The only thing that keeps such feuds from spiraling into violence is the overpowering presence of the law, the certainty of punishment.

Devil Anse Hatfield and Randle McCoy aren’t ghosts from a misty past. They’re still around.

Jim Cornelius, Editor

1 comment:

  1. Speaking of feuds and fraud..I sure would like to see the Nugget run a follow up story on the piping of the canals on private property. I have heard some real interesting stories on how the money was obtained, who benifitted from it and that no environmental impact studies where ever followed thru with.Also where there any lawsuits filed by property owners?