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Real McCoys, Hatfields Reunite

June 7, 2000 GMT

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ A hundred years after the end of their legendary feud, the Hatfields and the McCoys are getting together this weekend for their first reunion _ and they will be leaving the shotguns behind.

``We are going to be on our best behavior,″ said reunion chairman Bo McCoy, a Waycross, Ga., minister whose ancestors took part in the 19th-century shooting war between the two families that left 12 people dead and cemented the image of Appalachia as a place full of hillbillies with guns.

Two-thousand descendants are expected to attend, as well as thousands of others, including the governors of Kentucky and West Virginia.

The only confrontation this time will come during a tug-of-war and a softball game between the families.

The families say the goal is to learn about their shared history. There will also be banquets, bus tours to feud sites, bluegrass and gospel music, an arts and crafts festival and lectures about the feud and how it helped perpetuate stereotypes of the people of Appalachia.

``We want people to see where the families have actually gone,″ said Sonya Hatfield, a storyteller and teacher from Belfry, Ky. ``We are not ignorant, illiterate hillbillies who killed each other over a pig.″

It was the McCoys who made the first peace overture _ though, in truth, hostilities ended in 1900 and any hard feelings were long gone.

Last year, Bo McCoy and his cousin Ron McCoy, a music engineer in Durham, N.C., began planning a McCoy reunion. They extended invitations to the Hatfields through tourism officials in Kentucky and West Virginia, and posted information on the Internet asking the Hatfields to come aboard.

A news story about the reunion also caught the attention of many of the Hatfields.

``I want people to realize that what happened, happened,″ said Bucky Hatfield, who runs a horseshoeing school in Bloomington Springs, Tenn. ``There’s no ifs, no ands, no buts, but we are a new future, and I want everybody to come and have a good time.″

Descendants on both sides are scattered all over the nation and include a home nurse aide in Evansville, Ind., a truck driver in Wausau, Wis., teachers, students, government workers and a barber.

It’s not clear what started the feud between the families of Randolph McCoy of Kentucky and William Anderson ``Devil Anse″ Hatfield of West Virginia. But competition over timber in the mountainous area and a pig a McCoy accused a Hatfield of stealing escalated the tensions.

On Election Day 1882, three of McCoy’s sons fatally shot and stabbed Ellison Hatfield. Devil Anse Hatfield and others got revenge by tying the three McCoys to pawpaw bushes along a riverbank and killing them.

The last victim of the feud was Ellison Mounts, who was rumored to be the illegitimate son of Ellison Hatfield. He was hanged in Pikeville in 1900 for taking part in a raid that left two McCoys dead.

East Coast newspapers sent reporters to cover the conflict, and mountain folk were often portrayed as illiterates who carried pistols and settled things with violence.

``I think probably more than any other single event it helped to set the stage in the popular mindset for many of the negative images that have persisted,″ said Ron Eller, director of the Appalachian Center at the University of Kentucky.

After the fighting ended, many family members were left feeling ashamed, and the feud was treated with silence.

``They’d been really berated and degraded in the press as being wild, backward hillbillies,″ said Altina L. Waller, author of ``Feud: Hatfields, McCoys and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860-1900.″ ``They wanted to wipe it out and not talk about it.″

Now, Bucky Hatfield calls Bo McCoy ``little brother.″

With the reunion open to the public, Bo McCoy predicted the Hatfields-McCoys softball game will be the biggest attraction. He likened it to auto races where spectators come to see a crash.

``I think they want to see us slug it out,″ he said.


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