The Hatfields and McLongs

Did you watch it?  Of course, the history nuts that we are were panicking over whether we’d get the History Channel’s The Hatfields and McCoys  DVR-ed from the first commercial that marched across our screen.  Normally, I’m not one for that graphic of violence, but this story had me at first blast.

First of all, my assumption that these people were from the Dog Patch side of the mountains was dead wrong.  Bedraggled hats, corn cob pipes, moonshine, shot guns, and a lazy old hound dog gracing the sagging cabin porch was what I had in mind.  Ok, so that part was still correct, but these were intelligent people who had each other’s backs in the Civil War and their property separated by only a river running through the backyard.

Next to catch my attention was Mr. Twister/Titantic, Bill Paxton and always the sterling hero, Kevin Coster,  who would  step out of their career comfort zones and turn into embittered scallywags.  But the real intrigue for me was how seeds of resentment grew into something so powerful that it dramatically tore them apart for generations.  Who was at fault to let the impossible happen?   Did innocent simple acts spiral into a blood bath? How dangerous can passion be when fueled or spread to others?  What would it take to finally end it all?

On the final night our son came in from being up to his eyeballs in wheat at the elevator due to a rain shower.   His new cell phone had arrived and he had a date with a Verizon lady named Yolanda to get him back on the air waves.  A couple times I was interrupted  to agree to contract terms I have no clue on, because I had to get back to the story.  Some interesting faith lines had formed as well, mixed with what happens when justice is ignored or not accepted when verdicts come down.  Truly serious incidents had taken place where no one was innocent.  The match that lit the gasoline was a dispute over a pig. Yes, a pig with a notch in his ear. From then on an avalanche of anger fueled passion resulted in 15 freshly dug graves and cement hard hearts.

Following the ending credits, a time of discussion sprung to life in our living room on how easily things can get out of hand with disastrous results.  A shocking lesson we should all learn from, although none of us could ever be suckered into letting anything go so far.

Until 15 short minutes later.  A very uncharacteristic brouhaha broke out dealing with an unlimited data plan.  Tempers flared since everyone was ‘right’.  Voices were raised, and maybe even a door or two slammed-over something intangible that you can’t even fry in pan with eggs.  So much for the lesson learned.

A couple of nights later we trekked south to visit family from Oklahoma and Arkansas.  A discussion ensued with sprinkles of the same points we had shared at home.  Truly, this was extreme and a rare incident we should all take heed of.

Until the next evening.  I bebopped out of a back bedroom to Cliff asking me “Kelly, what’s the name of the river that runs through Kansas, coming through Wichita, and then goes into Oklahoma?”   “The Arkansas”, I say to a chorus of groans and huffs from rest of the family.  You see, in Kansas, it is pronounced Ark-kansas until it crosses into Oklahoma.  For some reason, baffling loyal Kansans, the pronunciation changes to Arkansaw-like the state.

“Oh, it isn’t either!”

This fired up my husband’s hackles and he charged in, a little more bruised than I had realized.  “That’s how we were taught in school.  Right, Kelly?  (I nod because its true and I think it’s stated in the wedding vows somewhere that I’m required to agree with him-even if he says the sun comes up in the west.) “Watch any news out of Kansas and that’s how newscasters pronounce it.”

Eyes roll from the scoffers.  Cliff makes contact with a native Kansan for support and realizes his own flesh and blood has  to Teamjumped the creek to the Arkansaw’s side.  Betrayal right up there with Benedict Arnold  (or possibly Benedict Arkansaw depending on where you are from).  A newly married-into-the-family member starts to sink farther into the couch cushions, trying to avoid any shrapnel.

“That’s what they call it in Colorado, too,” I say as I hand my husband more ammunition.  I actually don’t know this for sure, but am setting at 80-20 on the Confidence Meter that I’m correct.  But not even the truth matters at this point.  It’s about winning. “Because that’s where the river starts and since Kansas used to go all the way to the mountains…”  This really fires up the border war, and they sound like I’ve launched a grenade of ridiculous in their foxhole.  “Really.  Denver would have been in Kansas had the state lines not changed.” More huffs and screeches at at that.  I Google it, because who can argue with googling.   A map lays out the old Kansas territory, thus getting us off the pronunciation issue that started this battle.

From another room enters the Sweet and Shy Shelby, our high school Okie, who loves history and politics.  “Yes, the Kansas-Nebraska Act came into effect……” which began a jaw-dropping account of Kansas history including sovereignty and John Brown that would make any Jayhawker break out singing Home on the Range at the top of their lungs.  The Okies and Arky’s can’t help but be impressed and are secretly signing her up for Jeopardy’s Student Days.

Finally, the steam goes out of the great debate with no one winning anything.  No even a ham. Family has turned against family with a river cutting the dividing lines.  How silly.  No one was innocent, except for maybe the Couch Crawler.

And we fell into it so easily and shot volleys with skill of Pa Yokem knocking a squirrel out of an oak tree.

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care.  Turn away from godless chatter, and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed in so doing have wandered from the faith.  Grace be to you.  (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

I used to think the last line was Paul signing off, but after this, I wonder if that is the entire point.  Grace. Because when it comes down to it, that old river doesn’t care what it’s called.  Its job is to keep flowing, much like ours is to flow with grace for others.


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