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by Frank Shortt
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Felton and Ike fight it out
2014 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
Southwest Virginia has always been behind the times. Civilization had a hard time creeping
up on the denizens there, especially in Buchanan County. Many family feuds, lasting well into the twentieth century, would flame alive
at the drop of a hat. Sometimes it would be over the price of a pig, the cost of a jug of moonshine liquor or most occasionally young
men fighting over young women. Sometimes the young woman cared not for either of the men.
The Henekers and Chalmers’ were relatives. They were much alike in many ways. They all held grudges for many years, they all had very
bad tempers, and they all liked to fight. These were bad combinations at a time when tempers flared easily and men were subject to
terrible passions. Usually moonshine liquor was all it took to give men bravado enough to start a fight.
Felton Heneker worked as an attendant at the local railroad tipple where all the truck miners (known as scabs) dumped their loads
of coal. This tipple lay in a little hollow known as Fork Ridge. If there was mischief to get into or moonshine to be had, just take
a short ride up Fork Ridge Hollow.
Felton was a friendly sort of fellow, when not riled,
and was a right handsome fellow also. He had married Bella Shert, a local dark haired beauty, but he seemed to never be satisfied
being tied down to a wife and children. Felton had been raised in violence. All his brothers were either in jail or on the way. He
had probably never known any love at all in his life except for Bella. His father was a very harsh and cunning man. Felton had a mean
streak and manifested it in several ways. He would tease a young child until the child ran from him screaming. He especially loved
to tease animals until one day he teased a very gentle Beagle. He harassed the animal until it could ‘stand no more’ then the dog
turned on him, teeth bared, and treed that pesky fellow up a dogwood tree.
who’s a comin’ up the hollow,” Felton said casually to Anna Rudy McCree.
Ike Chalmers to me”, Anna replied.
Felton had been talking to Anna, the weigh in girl,
for quite some time. Anna was a fairly decent looking woman and had all the men at the tipple falling all over themselves for her
favors. Both Felton and Ike had designs on her and both were married men. This didn’t seem to bother Anna very much.
Ike Chalmers was a hard man. He was both young and stubborn and only knew violence to answer violence. He would tear into his stepson
with all fury at the slightest provocation leaving deep, bloody welts all over the boy as he twisted and squirmed trying to avoid
blows. Ike didn’t use any discretion as to what he whipped the boy with. He tried to raise the stepson just as he was raised, with
the force of brutes. His father even beat him with the swingletree of a horse. Both men were a lot alike in many ways. Just as Felton
started back to his work, Ike drove up to the weigh-in scales.
“What’re you hanging around
here for”, Ike quizzed Felton.
“What’s that to you, Ike? I can talk to whoever I’m a mind
to”, Felton replied with anger in his voice.
There was no love lost between Ike and Felton
as their families had been feuding for many years. Somehow things had lain dormant for a few years, and this incident seemed to drag
up the old devils.
“I’ll thank you to mind your own business, Felton continued. You don’t
own this tipple and you surely don’t own Anna Rudy”.
“We’ll just see what I own”,
was Ike’s quick reply. I’ll stomp you in the ground if you don’t start mindin’ your business. I’m gettin’ tired of seein’ you here
talkin’ to Anna every time I drive in this yard”.
“Well, get outta that truck and do somethin’
about it then,” Felton invited.
And that is just what Ike did.
The first to strike a blow was the handsome Felton. He landed a blow on the side of Ike’s head that would have felled a steer. Ike
only staggered backward a little and rushed headlong into Felton slugging as he came. He cared not where the blows landed just as
long as he inflicted pain on his opponent. As they came into a huddle, Ike said through clenched teeth,
“This fight is a long time coming. I’ve been wantin’ to tangle with you ever since we were just boys, you with your swaggerin’ ways
and thinkin’ every girl is in love with you”.
“Well, you have the opportunity to do your
desire”, was Felton’s quick retort.
There ensued the worst fight, anyone who witnessed
it, had ever seen. It seemed that neither body was ever touching earth. Blood gushed from wounds inflicted by both men and as they
continued, the ground around them became a bloody mess. Felton’s groomed, black hair was flowing all over the place and Ike’s sky
blue eyes were both nearly closed. Both their fists were beginning to look like hamburger from hitting each other in the teeth and
bony protuberances. This fight occurred over a woman who cared little for either man.
as both men became so tired that neither could raise their arms, some men from the tipple rushed in and caught them from behind and
held them from hurting each other more. Witnesses said that “trying to hold them was like holding a raging bull”. Their adrenalin
was up so high that it took several hours for them to regain their composure. Each slunk away, crestfallen, thinking that this fight
was not over.
As time went on Ike ended up with Anna Rudy McRee. Felton just faded
off after that and eventually began to stay at home more. Both men carried revolvers for many years. It was a blessing to both their
families that their paths never seemed to cross until cooling down completely. It was a matter of avoidance and ignoring each other.
It took many years for these two men to finally grow up. After all the old feudists
had died off, the cauldron of hatred settled to a slow simmer. These two made amends for all that their families had put them through
and all that they had missed not talking all those years. No one seemed to remember what had caused the original feud. The local gossips
speculated but could never come up with a concrete solution.