“Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning”

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but our friend we were caring for (lung cancer) passed away, and to be completely honest, I just didn’t feel like writing on the blog until a very nice fella by the name of “Jim” left a comment, and asked me if I have a comment on the TV show “Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning”.  As a matter of fact (as you all probably figured) I certainly do.  I originally wrote this about a week or so ago, but I just realized that for some reason it didn’t post, so here we go again…

First of all, let me point out once again that the Hatfields and McCoys are no longer feuding – far from it, in fact, no matter what anyone may say on this “reality” television show.  We get along just fine, and many Hatfields and McCoys are good friends.  No “reality” TV show is ever going to change that, no matter how much they try.  And boy, does that show try to give the impression that we’re still feuding.  In fact, they come right out and say that the Hatfields and McCoys have been “feuding for over 100 years”.  That is an out-and-out lie, and anybody with an internet connection knows it.  In real reality, the feud ended over 100 years ago.

Now, let me also point out that while there are still very real feuds in West Virginia, especially in the southern part of the state where the family clans live in close proximity, none of those feuds involve the Hatfields and McCoys.  Sure, sometimes Hatfields or McCoys might disagree, with each other or with another family, and they might even cuss each other or get into a fist fight, but that’s not a feud.  That’s an argument, or at worst, a fight.  A feud is a full-out armed war between families, and if our families were feuding, believe me, I’d definitely know about it.  So I can say for an absolute fact that there is no feuding going on between the two families, regardless of how many times this television show states otherwise.

We learned our lesson about “a-fightin’ and a-feudin'” a very long time ago.  We just have no interest in feuding with anybody, not only because it’s stupid, but also because it’s far too easy for little feuds to become big feuds, and in real feuds, people die.  Nobody knows better than we do that, by the time people are getting killed, chances are nobody even knows why they’re feuding.  They just are.

That, of course, brings me to this television show which claims very specifically that the Hatfields and McCoys are still feuding.  While some might view that as entertainment, and some may like to imagine it’s true, those of us who lost family to that infamous feud don’t find it quite so entertaining.  This show, which claims to be “reality”, in real reality is nothing but pure Hollyweird exploitation of the Hatfield and McCoy family history.  The History Channel is just continuing to line its pockets with the blood of our ancestors, and personally, I am not at all amused.

You may not realize this unless you live in southern West Virginia, but last year there was a “casting call” for Hatfield and McCoy descendants, for an “upcoming reality show” (which is now known as “Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning”).  Someone actually asked me whether I was going to try out for it, but I thought the whole idea of a reality show based upon feud descendants was both idiotic and insulting, so I had no interest in it whatsoever.  As far as I was concerned, the only reason anybody would ever in a million years be interested in a “reality” show about the Hatfield family is due to the feud, and I have a real problem with people being led to believe that the Hatfields (and our friends the McCoys) are still feuding over 100 years later.  Of course we’re not, that’s ridiculous.

Even if I didn’t feel that way, though, I was never the type they were looking for.  For one, I have absolutely no interest in having cameras shoved in my face; I don’t even like for people to take regular pictures of me.  Yet they needed people who were not only willing to do that, but also willing to trade their dignity for a few dollars, which is something I will never do.  They needed people who were willing to act like idiots on television, which is something I will never do.  They needed people who didn’t care how their family was portrayed, or that their family was being shamed in front of the entire world, and I do care about those things or else I’d have never spent my time correcting the stories from the miniseries on this blog, when I could be out target shooting or riding my four-wheeler instead.  So no, that person is not me.  How do I know that’s what they were looking for, you may ask?  Well, it’s because I used to watch the Real Housewives, among other reality shows, and I was amazed (and sometimes shocked) that people acted that way until I did a little research, and realized there’s nothing “real” about reality shows.

Reality shows are like regular television shows, except people portray an exaggerated and scripted version of themselves.  Producers cast the most outrageous people possible (though they also need the “straight men” to carry the main storyline), and they already have their story figured out before they start filming.  In this case, they needed a patriarch for each side.  They needed a matriarch too.  They needed people to create drama, as well as filler.  They needed to create a storyline for each character, they needed filler in between the main storyline so it seems more real, and they needed a main storyline for them all to play out in the end.  Most of all, in this case, they needed to make it appear that the families were feuding, because otherwise, no one would ever watch their show.

There are multiple takes of each scene in reality shows, just like on regular television shows.  Each cast member has a particular role to play, and they are very well aware of that role before shooting begins.  Producers play cast members against each other, giving information to some but not others, and even lying to cast members in an effort to get them to react a certain way (in this instance, they want the two families to fight).  Producers then edit the footage to give viewers the impression they want them to have.  They take events out of chronological order to make more drama and tell the story, and even insert words where those words were never spoken (called “frankenbites”).  So no, the cameras don’t just follow them around in their real lives, because if they did, it would not only be boring, it would also be a documentary, and not a “reality show”.  Unlike documentaries, “reality shows” are a full-blown television production.

In other words, the only difference between reality TV and regular TV is that people are playing characters loosely based upon themselves, rather than playing a completely fictional character – I’d compare it to the characters on those crazy “ripped from the headlines” episodes of Law & Order, in that they take a little bit of truth and a whole lot of fiction, to make it dramatic.  In this case, the show is loosely based upon the Hatfield/McCoy feud (they even have a Hatfield and a McCoy dating, and of course there’s lots of drama surrounding that because their fathers don’t want them to be together – sound familiar?)  They stress the idea that we’re still feuding, and they found a few Hatfields and a few McCoys willing to play along.

I’m not offended really by the people playing on the show, mostly because I know that it’s all nonsense and so do they, whether they’ll admit it or not.  Plus, when it comes down to it, they’re the ones who have to live with their decisions, not me, and I would never tell someone not to do whatever they want to do to make a legal buck (especially in this state, where the economy is very bad).  I am however VERY offended by the producers intentionally painting a lie which has affected the reputation of my family.  I’ve had several people ask me whether I know that the feud’s on again, and I’ve had people ask if I’m making money off the “White Lightning”.  I just look at them like they’re crazy.  Therein lies the problem: people hear the word “reality show”, and they think it’s reality.

Look, I’ll admit that some parts are real, or at least real enough.  Are there old women here who hit people with their cane and yell about another family being “cheaters”?  Oh sure, but you can see that anywhere you find half-senile old women, especially ones having to deal with out-of-control teenage boys (by the way, there’s no doubt in my mind that the boys’ fights are set up by the producers, not only because they’re too old to still be acting that way in the house, but also because the fights don’t even look like real fights – plus, why are the cameras always conveniently there when they come in fighting?  Think about it.)  Are there men here who get into fist fights?  Oh sure, that’s common, but nobody really takes it seriously.  Unless someone actually gets injured badly enough to need a hospital, which most people here don’t intend to do even when they do fight, chances are you won’t even be arrested for it.  However, men fist fighting is also a universal problem; always has been, always will be.

Do the Hatfields make moonshine good enough to be marketable?  You betcha, but we’ve been doing that since long before the feud, so it’s hardly a secret.  Are the Hatfields forced to get together with the McCoys to get a still, in order to make moonshine?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  The Hatfields have enough stills between them, usually passed down through generations and hidden in sheds, barns and garages (or out in the woods somewhere), that we don’t have any problems finding a still; that part of the “reality show” is downright laughable, a real knee-slapper.  Are the Hatfields and McCoys feuding over moonshine and potential profits?  Absolutely not.  I don’t know even one person in either family who cares about it one way or the other, except insofar as how this show makes us all look like incompetent idiots.

The truth of the matter is that moonshine is extremely common in West Virginia.  It’s also known as “shine” or “white lightnin” (bear in mind that the “g” is always dropped when real West Virginians spell or pronounce it – if I were to spell it as we actually pronounce it, it would be spelled more like “whiaht liahtn’n”, but spoken very, very quickly).  It’s perfectly legal to make moonshine here as long as you have a license.  Truth be told, you could drive through West Virginia right this minute and buy yourself some fine moonshine, it’s sold in liquor stores (usually behind the counter though, to keep it from being stolen by teenagers).  I don’t think it’s as good as Hatfield moonshine, but obviously I’m biased and in truth, there’s really not that much difference.  Besides, people don’t really drink shine for the taste.  They drink it to get drunk, because it’s 150 to 200 proof (which is 75-100% pure alcohol).

So making “white lightning” is really and truly not the big deal this show is making it out to be, and the Hatfields and the McCoys aren’t feuding over it.  Truth is, most of us don’t even care about moonshine one way or the other, with the exception of those who like to drink it, and those who actually make it (usually illegally, but like I said, the only difference between legal and illegal here is a license – the state has to have its fingers in everything, as usual).

Oh and, by the way, the narrator on that show sounding like the narrator from “The Dukes of Hazzard” is just plain insulting.  That’s the way people sound when they’re making fun of “hillbillies”.  Don’t even get me started on that…

All in all, my opinion is quite simple.  Why is this mess of a fake “reality” show on The History Channel?  Well, I guess when answering that question, we have to bear in mind that they also air shows about extraterrestrials.

The problem is not only that their statement – that there’s a current feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys – is a complete lie, it’s that they’re seemingly trying to provoke the two families to feud again, this time for entertainment.  So I find it despicable.  It’s offensive, it’s wrong, and if I had my way, it wouldn’t be on television at all, and certainly not on The History Channel where most viewers just assume that what they air is true.  People should be able to assume it’s true if it’s on The History Channel, but in real reality, no one can make that assumption about that network anymore.

All in all, I think it’s long past time The History Channel changed their name to “The Make-Believe Channel”, or maybe the even more accurate “We Just Pulled It Out Of Our Rear Ends Channel”, because that certainly would be a far more accurate description of this show (and much of their other programming as well).

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24 thoughts on ““Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning”

  1.  Hello,   I just want to thank you for the update and allowing your readers to know the truth. I find it quite fascinating, and thank you, as one reader. I know it takes time and effort, which I know it was difficult for you to find either, after the death of your friend. Sorry for the passing, but remember this:    It is not :” good-bye”    It is…….’until we meet again.”

       You shared that you took care of your friend. The Lord Jesus tells us.. If you give a cup of water to someone, in His name, it is like giving it to Him.You must be a dear, precious woman, taking care of your friend. They left the body..(the house) to be with the Lord.. just like a person leaves a house. The real life… went to be with the Lord. The body was just a house. No more sickness..no more crying.. no more sadness.. no more pain. Isn’t that wonderful what Jesus did for each of us. We just have to trust Hm and give Him our heart. How wonderful.

      I hope you are not sad, even though we do miss those who pass on. A Christian never dies… the soul continues to live with the Lord for eternity. I hope you find comfort in that.

      I know you do not know me, but I just felt ” led” to express those things of a spiritual nature, since you shared your friend passed away. I find comfort knowing what God has planned for us, and our love ones, who know Him. The cross is not meaningless, just as the truth you share is not. 

     Thank you again for the article and God bless you.( I am glad to know there is no more feuding between the families.)

    God bless,   Cheryl Coker 

           CHERYL C.          

    ________________________________

    • Thank you, Cheryl, for your very kind words. Yes, our friend was indeed saved, and I have no doubt that he’s in heaven, reunited with his longtime girlfriend who he absolutely adored (she predeceased him over ten years ago, at a fairly young age, due to an automobile accident). I picture him riding his four-wheeler with her on the back, and waiting for us to go fishing and target shooting with him again. 🙂

      I think I might write a post about why it’s taken so long for us to come to terms with his death, since it’s a long complicated story. Maybe, just maybe, what we’ve experienced (and how we got through it) will help someone else. Thank you for giving me that idea.

      You are clearly a very sweet lady, and I thank you for your words from the bottom of my heart. I hope you don’t mind, but I shared them with my husband, who also found comfort in what you wrote.

      May God bless you too, my dear. 🙂

  2. I know one thing,if it was me i’d sue the pants off of them,who the hell makes these damn things anyway,excuse my language but it just tans my hide that someone thinks it is entertaining,but what they do is all make alot of money from advertisement and if one channel or company get revenue from it the other are out there to outdo them with more discusting shows,i have never liked any of them,i tried with amrican pickers becuase i love antiques,but i don’t think they evr drive out of thier town,they fly,film and scadoodle and they have made the price of antiques go way up and most of them are so called actors looking for work and they get a card from the actors guild for retirement money they have to have so many hours of air time so to speak to keep it,that’s why you see alot of older one doing commercials,Henry Winkler,Sally fields,that goof ball senator,and such..As usual it’s all about the money.

    >________________________________ > From: Appalachian Lady >To: rson754@yahoo.com >Sent: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 6:13 PM >Subject: [New post] “Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning” > > WordPress.com >Appalachian Lady posted: “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, but our friend we were caring for (lung cancer) passed away, and to be completely honest, I just didn’t feel like writing on the blog until a very nice fella by the name of “Jim” left a comment, and asked me if I have a ” >

    • Nah, I’m not out to sue anybody. I just want The History Channel to stop lying about my family.

      You’re right, though, that they’ll do and say anything for a buck, and they don’t care who it hurts. I guess that’s just the way Hollyweird works, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

  3. Well put, AL!

    “Reality shows are like regular television shows, except people portray an exaggerated and scripted version of themselves.”

    I would go so far to say that reality shows are even contrived – faked. I know for a fact that the Barter Kings (A&E) are created in such a way. My friend “played himself.” Whenever one sees the words Reality Show, think simply Hollywood fiction.

    My good high school friend rests in the hills of Barbersville, WV. I miss you, Charlie Adkins…

    • Very interesting, and I’d agree that they’re fake. I was just trying to say it in a nice way, LOL

      Are you talking about the Charlie Adkins who owned the exhaust shop and worked on classic cars, who passed just a couple of years ago? If so, I knew him, he was a super nice guy. Where did you go to high school?

    • Haha, yep, ol’ Popcorn was quite the character. He wasn’t doing anything I’d consider particularly abnormal though, to be completely honest. He just made the mistake of flaunting his moonshining, which is something most moonshiners would NEVER do. Once you cross that line, the government is going to feel like they have no choice but to come after you.

      As I see it, so what if he made moonshine? It’s not exactly the Crime of the Century, and he wasn’t hurting anybody by doing it (except the revenuers, of course). He wasn’t even hurting anybody by having a gun (though that’s obviously illegal, since he was a convicted felon). I’ve never even heard of a moonshiner who didn’t have a gun though, for obvious reasons, so it doesn’t surprise me that he had one.

      Besides, pretty much everybody in rural Appalachia has a gun, it’s normal. I’m sure that a lot of them are convicted felons, but as long as they’re not shooting at people with it for no reason, again, who cares? I sure don’t.

      That judge should have just given him home confinement since he had cancer anyway, plus he was getting up in years, and there was no shortage of people willing to vouch for him. For that reason, although Popcorn committed suicide, a lot of us blame the government for his death.

  4. I gave up on the “History Channel ” years ago. Reality shows are garbage. Sorry for the loss of your friend and please keep the true history coming.

    • Thank you so much. I like to believe he’s in a better place, where he can fish and ride his four-wheeler all he wants, never to worry about pain again. 🙂

      Whenever I think of The History Channel, I also think about that guy, who looks like he’s wearing a black wig, on the show about aliens who says, “I’m not saying it’s aliens, but… (it’s aliens)”. Hahaha!

      Even the most mundane true history is far more interesting than fairy tales, at least in my opinion. 🙂

  5. Was this picture taken at Chief Logan State Park?

    Also, do you know of any one back there who knows the old ways of healing with herbs? I want to learn the ways. Thank you, Sheila

    • I’m not sure where that photo was taken, to be honest. I think it is at a state park, but I can’t say definitively which one.

      Ol’ Catfish Man Of The Woods was the greatest Appalachian herbalist of all time, combining old-time Appalachian and Native American remedies, and I’m sure he would have taught you since he didn’t even try to make a secret of his knowledge. However, he passed away, bless his heart, and his son doesn’t practice herbal medicine (if I recall correctly, he’s a very talented wood craftsman). I’m honestly not sure if anyone would even come close to Catfish’s encyclopedic knowledge of medicinal herbs, but give me a little while to ask around, and I’ll come back and let you know.

      Incidentally, do you currently live in West Virginia? I’m asking only because if there is someone here willing to teach you, they’d undoubtedly want to do so in person. Unfortunately, the kind of detailed knowledge you probably seek (where to find the herbs, how to recognize them, how to properly prepare and use them, etc) was mostly just handed down from generation to generation.

      I also have a post about Catfish here, by the way, in case you haven’t seen it. He’s the one who invented Bitters, which you may have heard of since you have an interest in healing with herbs (and I listed what’s in it, which you may find interesting). I also have a video there so you can see and hear Catfish for yourself; he was quite the character! You can read about him at

      http://appalachianlady.com/2012/06/29/catfish-man-of-the-woods/

  6. I watched it maybe for 30 secs just to see what it was. It was stupid and insulting to the families. Just making a show using the popular names. It has nothing to do with the history or current conditions of the actual families and is an insult to history buffs who do care about the actual historical feud. Needless to say, I don’t watch it and hope it flops.

    • You hit the nail on the head, Susan. It IS an insult to history buffs who care about the feud. It’s a slap in the face to history itself, to intentionally spread lies disguised as “history” just to make a few bucks.

  7. I agree about the show. I stopped watching it. I am both Hatfield and McCoy and feel this makes our families look like the stupid hillbillies that use to be portrayed on the old cartoons and how at one time others thought of everyone from the area. Sadly they do not show the intelligence they actually have. I believe it will only run for one season. At least I hope that is all it gets unless they do some changes. My grandfather was a Hatfield and my grandma a McCoy. I have never heard them fight. They did disagree sometimes but never fought. This show is offensive to me.

    • I agree, this show is offensive to both families. The lies really bother me the most, though. History Channel and the producers could have made an entertaining show about making a Hatfield & McCoy moonshine, since as you know there are some extremely entertaining and interesting people in both families; but instead they chose to take the lowest road possible by lying, and worse, disguising those lies as “history”. Shame on them.

  8. Thank you very much for answering my post. I had a feeling the reality behind this show was as you posted. I have a distant branch of my family that lives in West Virginia and they claimed this show was utter BS, but they weren’t 100% sure since they don’t know the families personally. The only reason they watched the show was to see some of the areas they know well. It all seemed like set-up dribble. I was hoping you were someone that was allowed to comment on the show because you weren’t in anyway part of the show and signed some waiver. Like you said it is a disgrace that the “History” channel makes up things to get ratings, it seemed to start with the Pawn Stars show making up interactions and “sales” in the Pawn shop and keeps getting worse and worse. They got their taste of the profits from made up TV so they kept going.

    • Hi again, Jim! I’d never sign away my right to speak the truth on any subject, especially one which affects family members who are either very young or very old, and can’t defend themselves.

      Bear in mind, it’s not that I’m any kind of spokesperson for either family, because I’m definitely not, and really speak only for myself. However, I feel that I have a responsibility to counter the lies and misrepresentations with the truth, because The History Channel is trying its hardest to make both families look as bad as possible.

      I’ve been asked again and again, “Why are they doing this?” Well, they’re doing it because that’s the best (and only) way for complete strangers to continue to cash in on the feud. Nobody wants to see a show about the Hatfields and McCoys actually getting along and acting very normally, after all. Yet in REAL reality, if you were to encounter any of us, that’s exactly what you’d see.

      What really set me off about the show, to be honest, was the narrator. As soon as I heard that fake “Dukes of Hazzard” narrator accent, I knew their only real intent was to make us look like a bunch of ignorant uneducated hillbillies, who have feuded for over 100 years just for the sake of feuding. That was confirmed with the narrator’s statement that we’ve been “feuding for over 100 years”. I usually just laugh about the “hillbilly” stuff, since it doesn’t reflect negatively upon anyone but them and their ignorance of Appalachian culture, but this show was filled with intentional lies.

      I guess the bottom line is that if someone wants to paint me as a hillbilly, that’s fine and I’ll probably just laugh about it, but only as long as they aren’t lying through their teeth in order to paint that picture. To me, that’s a problem; and it’s an even bigger problem since it’s on a network called The History Channel.

      Thanks again, Jim!

  9. Appalachian Lady, First let me say that I am so sorry to hear of your friends passing. I know it meant a lot to him to have you taking care of him when he needed help, after all, that is what friends are for. He was surrounded by friends that loved and cared for him and were there for him, what more could anyone ask for. Bless you for being there for your friend when he needed it. Your kindness will never be forgotten.

    Now for this new show… Just from watching the commercials I decided I was not going to grace the show with my eyeballs. I could tell from what was being said just in the commercials that it was all a lie made up just for tv and did not think this had any place on The History Channel at all. I felt bad for both families that they were having their family history exploited this way and was not going to make myself a part of it. I hate that the general public is so gullible as to believe that this has any basis of fact to it at all.

    The mini-series taught me, thanks to you, that they could not even tell the full truth about the history of the feud. I enjoyed reading all of your posts on the subject and was thankful that someone was willing to take the time to actually tell the truth about the flaws in the series. It is a shame that this part of your family history has to be continually dredged up and untruths told about it like this.

    I had wondered when this new show started what your thoughts on it were, although I thought I had a pretty good idea and after reading this blog, I was not too far off 🙂 Thanks again for taking the time to compose your thoughts and letting us hear from you.

  10. I would like to find an outlet to purchase the Reality show, White Lightning.
    We watched it then took a trip to WV to see for ourselves how the people were and to buy some Shine. Now would like to see the program again, to see how it was all put together. Since we met and talked with some of the Hatfield’s from the show we think it would be interesting to see it again. What dear people live in WV.

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