Life is too short for fussing and feuding

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MIKE RAINONE/Hammertime

Most folks have likely heard about that wild and long-standing family feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys from 1878 to 1891. This legendary and often deadly confrontation took place in the rugged backcountry of West Virginia and Kentucky, near Tuck Fork, along the Big Sandy River.

So how did this classic hillbilly family war get started, you might ask?

Believe it or not, like most spats between neighbours or kin then and now, it quite simply began over the ownership of a hog that wandered into the wrong farmyard, because someone drew water from someone else’s well, and feuding and over bootlegging rights.

The chicken feathers really hit the fan in 1888 when sweet little Roseanne McCoy dared to begin a secret and sizzling relationship with a burly Johnson Hatfield. This really stirred up the dander of the elders and eventually resulted in the infamous ‘New Year’s Night Massacre,’ where a dozen family members were killed and many others injured. Needless to say, the law was finally called in to put a stop to this out of control bush party, and by 1901 after many trials and hangings, the feud finally came to end and there would peace in them there hills.

In fact, as the new generations of Hatfields and McCoys continued to thrive and multiply, they would even get together for family picnics, but there was absolutely no guns allowed. These social get-togethers eventually grew so popular that they decided to hold an annual convention, which now attracts over 5,000 fun-loving and peaceful family kin, A highlight of the gala occasion came a few years ago when these former sworn family foes went head to head in a friendly session of television’s famous ‘Family Feud.”

Now let’s fast-forward to today where these same types of feuds, big or small, still carry on, and in most cases likely started for the same silly reasons as those proud but stubborn hillbillies? Once upon a time, two brothers who had lived on adjoining farms for 40 years and shared machinery, labour, goods, and ideas without a hitch, suddenly fell into conflict. It began with a small misunderstanding, then grew into a major indifference and finally exploded into a bitter exchange of words followed by weeks of silence.

One morning there was a knock on John’s door, and he opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days’ work, and perhaps you would have a some small jobs here and there that I could help you with?’ he inquired.

“Yes,” said the older brother, “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighbour, in fact, it’s my stubborn and bull-headed younger brother. Last week he took his bulldozer to the river levee, and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this just to spite me, but I will do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a 10-foot fence so that I won’t ever have to see his place or his face again.

“I think I understand the situation,” the carpenter quietly said. “Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.”

The older brother helped the carpenter get the materials ready, and then was off to town for the day while the carpenter worked very hard measuring, sawing and nailing. About sunset the farmer returned, just as the carpenter had finished his job. It was then that the farmer’s eyes opened wide, and his jaw dropped, as he saw that there was no fence there at all.

Instead, it was a bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other, a fine piece of work with handrails and all. Then coming toward them from the other side was his younger brother with his hand outstretched, and as they met in the middle and shook hands, they apologized and forgot their silly indifferences.

Looking back at the carpenter, they asked him to stay and do a few more jobs for them, but with a twinkle in his eye he answered, “I’d love to stay on, but I know that I will have many more bridges to build along life’s way!”

We must all patiently try to never forget that:

• It’s a whole lot easier to forgive someone than to forget them!

• Your neighbour will never return your lawn mower if you quit being his neighbour.

• Holding a grudge is like having a big pimple that won’t go away!

Whatever the case, live life to the fullest, make love not war, and have a great week, all of you!

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