Gut Rumbles

December 07, 2006

Relatives you never knew

Originally published August 20, 2004

I received a couple of emails lately from someone named Clyde Benge, who appears to be the son of my mama's cousin. (if so, his grandfather was Newton Benge) He's living in Washington state now and asked me what I knew about the Benge-Philpot feud in Clay County, Kentucky. I met his daddy several times and I heard a lot of stories about that feud. Newton Benge was the first person killed in it, shot through the head with a .45 during a card game at a sporting house frequented by drinking men and staffed with loose wimmen.

Other people heard about it, too. (Just scroll down that page.) It was a lot bloodier and it lasted a lot longer than that pissant fight between the Hatfields and the McCoys. All in all, more than 50 people got killed.

The first woodworking job my grandfather ever had was building a coffin for one of the people killed in the feud. Papaw told me that the man was shot outside a school house in the summer and nobody could retrieve the body for several days because of snipers looking for somebody else to shoot.

"By the time we could get to him, he was swollen up so bad that I had to knock the sides off that coffin and make it bigger. He wouldn't fit in what I first built."

Yeah. I have a fascinating family history. And somewhere in my pedigree, I think I'm kin to both sides now.

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