For better or for worse, the Hatfield–McCoy feud remains one of the most notable historical events in Kentucky history. Between 1863 and 1891, these two clans along the Kentucky-West Virginia border fought a bitter and bloody family feud that involved everyone from the elders to the toddlers.
Though there’s a tendency to classify the Hatfield-McCoy generational war as a lone aberration, such feuds were actually more common back in the day than one might guess. And I’ve often mused before on the peculiarly Kentuckian penchant for drawing philosophical lines in the sand rather than compromising. Bill Monroe wasn’t the compromising type, and neither were the Everly Brothers. They both dug their heels in for the long term with McCoy-Hatfield sort of feuds – Monroe with the Stanley Brothers, Phil and Don with each other – and though part of me loathes the negativity of the grudge-clinging mud-slinging involved, another part of me respects their determination to stand up for whatever it was they thought was right.
Now, on the heels of the success of The History Channel’s Hatfields & McCoys miniseries starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, Kentucky’s seeing a boost in feud-related tourism. History buffs already make pilgrimages to eastern Kentucky to visit the feud territory, but now great improvements have been made to various feud-related tourist sites, and historical markers now commemorate many of the spots.
There’s also a new audio CD called the “Hatfield–McCoy Feud Driving Tour,” which provides a self-guided tour of the restored feud sites. It also includes accompanying maps and pictures to view while driving and listening to the audio CD. (Okay, well, don’t look too closely at the pictures while you’re driving.) You can order the driving tour kit by visiting tourpikecounty.com on the web or by calling 1-800-844-7453.
But if you’re looking to find the exact spots where stars Costner and Paxton stood during the filming of the show, you’re out of luck. For reasons opaque to me, the producers chose not to shoot it on location in Kentucky, but rather in Romania. Romania. Seriously.
Meanwhile, with fortuitous timing, Lisa Alther‘s new book Blood Feud: The Hatfields and the McCoys: The Epic Story of Murder and Vengeance went on sale last Tuesday. Its attention to historical detail, combined with the somewhat fast-and-loose cinematic style of the TV show, has many pundits unfairly wielding Alther’s book as a cudgel against the show. To me, expecting historical accuracy from a fictional TV show is a little like complaining that the events in The Wizard of Oz aren’t scientifically possible. Lighten up and eat your popcorn.
On June 5, you can meet Alther and have her sign your copy of the book at Morris Book Shop in Lexington. And in late July, expect the History Channel miniseries to appear on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Jeffrey Scott Holland is a native Kentuckian, painter, writer, actor, musician, paralegal – and interested in all things. He joins a growing stable of talented, interesting regular columnists for KyForward.com, bringing his gift of a well-turned phrase, quirkiness and humor to entertain and enlighten — and sometimes provoke — our readers. He can always be reached at any time, by anyone on the planet, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Kevin Costner as “Devil Anse” Hatfiled