PIKEVILLE, Ky. -- Armed with bats and gloves, the Hatfields and the McCoys are set to face off on an open field near the mountains of eastern Kentucky.
But instead of rekindling the famous family feud, the descendants of the two clans hoped Saturday's friendly softball game would further heal wounds that date to the 1870s.
The softball game was one of the featured events of a weekend-long Hatfield-McCoy family reunion. A tug-of-war will be part of today's festivities.
Many of the feud's modern-day descendants met for the first time Friday and attended a banquet. Handshakes and pleasantries replaced the accusations of hog-stealing and arguments over timber resources that were believed to have started the feud in the first place.
''You're a real Hatfield? Well, I'm a real McCoy,'' said Jeff McCoy, of Ney, Ohio, as he shook hands with Walter Hatfield, of Evansville, Ind., inside the Pikeville tourism office. ''It's nice to meet you.''
The reunion was initiated by Bo McCoy, a Waycross, Ga., minister, and his cousin, Ron McCoy, a music engineer in Durham, N.C. The Hatfields soon came aboard after the two extended invitations through tourism offices in Kentucky and West Virginia, and after word spread about the reunion through a news story.
The feud between the Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky began in the post-Civil War era. By the time all conflict associated with it ended by 1900, 12 people were dead.
Historians disagree about what started the feud, but competition over timber rights and a trial over a stolen pig escalated tensions between the two families.
Many descendants say they hope the reunion -- with thousands projected to attend -- will help bring tourism dollars to the economically depressed region.
Others say they want to help end stereotypes that the Appalachian region is a place full of hillbillies with guns.
''We'd like to show people we're not ignorant hillbillies,'' said Jerry Hatfield, photographer for the event.
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