Tag Archives: feuds

Don’t let him shoot me again; he’s got me

For many years Ira Butts and neighbor Clifton Pitts had been arguing over the boundary line of a small piece of property. The land was separated between the neighbors by a small creek, which headed on property owned by Butts. Each neighbor suspected that someone had channeled the branch to run opposite its original location. […]


Book Excerpt: ‘Blood in West Virginia’

Before Hollene had time to react, a single shot from a high-powered Winchester rifle exploded into the air. Al’s startled horse jumped and spun wildly.

Another shot. Hollene fell to the ground, her face torn to pieces, black from powder burn and smattered in blood.

Dave Dingess, riding nearly beside Al and Hollene, had also spotted the two men hiding among the rocks. He had put up his hand before the second shot, then felt it go numb. Feeling little pain, he had quickly turned his horse and slid over toward its side opposite the shooters, and clung to his saddle, keeping his arms around the horse’s neck, until he maneuvered to safety. He and Harve galloped back up the creek toward home and help. No shots came their way. But Dave’s hand was covered in blood.

Al, meanwhile, tried to regain control of his horse. He looked down at his wife, then up toward the rocks.

Another shot—this time finding its mark.

Al fell to the ground, rolling in the dust. He felt pain at his right elbow and all through his arm, then numbness. His arm was covered in blood—shot and broken—useless from the fall.

His horse sped away down the creek.

Al crawled toward Hollene, reaching under his jacket for a pistol. Then came another shot, this time grazing his breast and ripping the fabric of his vest. The pressure was intense.

Al followed his horse downstream to safety.

For a brief moment, the scene was completely quiet.


Curt Jett, the wild dog of the mountains

“Curt Jett was a member of the Hargis clan in the Hargis-Cockrill feud. Once he was under sentence of death, but the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed the verdict and he accepted a life term without appeal. That was for the killing of James Cockrill, July 20, 1902, near the courthouse at Jackson. He claimed […]


Dean King’s Feud Fable

Of the scores of whoppers in Dean King’s ‘Feud’ book, some are extremely maddening to me, as a descendant of both Hatfields and McCoys, while others made me literally laugh out loud. Many of King’s yarns conflict directly with the sparse documentary record, while others are so egregiously exaggerated that they could not be believed by any sentient reader.


Bloody Breathitt Finds Its Scapegoat

In the past, violent death had been a divider, but now it was a uniter. Bad Tom Smith had been a “feudist,” but as part of an affair in another county, and it was probably a relief to many that the crime of passion for which he was hanged was unconnected to past power struggles. Unlike so many killings before it, Bad Tom Smith’s execution was a civically consensual, apolitical killing. Almost no one questioned it as a legitimate form of violence.

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