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Accepting or Rejecting Ancestral Hatreds

June 28, 2003

"Feudin', Fussin', Forgivin' " (editorial, June 21), about the Hatfield-McCoy feud, evoked memories of a long-since abandoned Appalachian mining camp and a wide-eyed little boy listening to an old man's tales of his youth.

During that notorious vendetta, my grandfather joined a Kentucky posse that crossed the Tug fork of the Big Sandy River to arrest some Hatfields in West Virginia. After various hair-raising adventures, they brought their captives back to Kentucky for trial.

However, and this part is right out of today's headlines, West Virginia did not honor their warrants and the Kentuckians were charged with kidnapping the Hatfields. For several years, Granddaddy had to hide out from West Virginia bounty hunters until the two states finally settled the legal issues.

One cogent lesson of the feud and its cessation is that the hoary myth about "ancient hatreds," whether in Appalachia, the Balkans or the Middle East, is a cop-out. Each generation is responsible for accepting or rejecting the hatreds of its ancestors, and if people choose to embrace a vengeful inheritance, the onus is squarely upon themselves.

Gilbert Dewart

Pasadena

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