I vaguely remember a particular cartoon I watched as a child. It was a cartoon about the feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. The cartoon characters were running around the forest ducking behind trees and hiding in cabins shooting at one another. I did a little research and found that the feud was featured in the cartoons of Merrie Melodies, the Flintstones, Hanna Barbera , and Scooby Doo. It’s hard to say which cartoon I remember. I only remember that there was lots of shooting.
It seems today you can’t name the Hatfields without naming the McCoys. The tale of their family feud has become a part of our culture. The two families are a part of the culture’s vocabulary and a metaphor for any family feud. It has been suggested that the idea for game show Family Feud may have born out of the family feud between the Hatfields and McCoys.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the recent mini-series on the History Channel, Hatfields and McCoys. The original airing of the series recorded 14.3 million viewers. And, many more have watched the marathons and re-runs of the series. The series has been rated the number 1 non-sports and non-news cable show of all time. I watched the series last weekend and for the first time began to understand the war between the families. It is an interesting tale to watch.
The story began in the American Civil War. Harmon McCoy, a Union Army veteran enlisted from Confederate territory, was killed by a member of the Hatfield Clan by the name of Jim Vance; though, Vance was never brought to trial or convicted of the crime. Thirteen years later, the clans found themselves before the Justice of the Peace over a pig which eventually led to the killing of Bill Staton, a Hatfield.
Then, a Hatfield and a McCoy fell in love which really fueled the fire. Roseanna and Johnse wanted to get married. Roseanna was disowned by the McCoys and the Hatfields wouldn’t have her. Pregnant and abandon, Roseanna went to live with an aunt to bare her bastard child. Johnse married another McCoy but she soon got caught up in the family struggle and abandon her marriage.
With these 3 events, the history of these 2 clans would be forever recorded in the history books as warring across state lines. The governors of West Virginia and Kentucky threatened to call up their militia to restore order. The Supreme Court tried one case. Between 1865 and 1890, more than a dozen Hatfields and McCoys were killed. The feud eased in 1890 when several Hatfields were handed judgments of life in prison and one hanged. (I give you this synopsis of the Hatfield and McCoy feud based on the movie and internet research with consideration of the reliability of Wikipedia and the creative license of the History Channel. )
At the end of the mini-series, the writers have Devil Anse Hatfield ponder how the families’ course might have been different if he had just allowed his son Johnse to marry Roseanna. He wonders what would have happened if he had allowed love to unite the families. I think the real question is, How would the family history be different if they had left a legacy of love rather than hatred?
We have the opportunity to leave a legacy of un-forgiveness, hatred, and unwillingness for reconciliation or a legacy of unity, forgiveness, and love. When we remember Christ each week as we gather at the Table for the Lord’s Supper, we remember hatred so great that it would break a body and we remember love so great that He allowed His body to be broken. Christ’s legacy is one of love and reconciliation. Are we willing to set aside our differences to be united in love?
May your life reflect the reconciling love of our Great God,