The True Story of the Hatfields and McCoys

the Hatfield clan

How could the History Channel get the legend of the Hatfields and McCoys so wrong? They would like you to think that the feud started over a pig.. Well that's sort of true, but it wasn't a pig with a curly tail.

It was a Hog, a Hog with two wheels. Yep, it wasn't about a stolen pig at all and it didn't date back over a hundred and fifty years ago it was much more recent; about 90 years ago.

It seems the McCoys were racing their Harley and doing well at most of the local race tracks. Randall McCoy was riding his tail off and winning some pretty good money. This got the attention of the local press and he got to be a well known local celebrity.

One day Anderson Hatfield was reading his morning newspaper when he saw how much money McCoy had won at just one race. It didn't look all that difficult to him so he decided that he would give motorcycle racing a try.

Hatfield made a special trip into town to visit the local Harley Dealership. When he arrived the whole place was a buzzing about the weekends race and how great McCoy was and how he could beat anyone at any time no matter what they rode. The sales people were all in a huddle around Randall McCoy in the show room and didn't pay any attention to Hatfield at all.

Hatfield decided that these Harley folks weren't the best people to talk to; seeing as they were all McCoy fans. It didn't seem to Hatfield that they would be interested in sponsoring or helping anyone else to race against McCoy. Anderson walked out of the Harley dealership, disappointed like many others. As long as there wasn't any competition their motorcycle would always win.

Hatfield left the Harley dealership unnoticed, once out on the street he noticed a sign. The sign he saw had a golden Indian head with the words Indian Motorcycles emblazoned beneath it. Once he entered the Indian dealership he noticed how different the mood was. Sales were down and it seems that even though the Indian was a better motorcycle, they just didn't have anyone able to give old Randall McCoy a run for his money.

Randall McCoy
Very rare picture of Randall McCoy on his race ready Harley Davidson

Anderson listened to the dealer complain about business and McCoy and Harley's success. Anderson told the dealer he would race McCoy and win or die trying. And if he didn't; he could still make money using the motorcycle to deliver moonshine throughout the county.

The Indian man took Anderson out back and had him suit up and take their bright Red Indian out on their practice track. To everyone's amazement Anderson Hatfield was a natural, not since Mike the Bike Hailwood has there been a racer of this ability and daring…

The Indian man immediately signed up Hatfield and entered him in Saturday's race. He was already counting money from motorcycles he would sell; of course Harley's fall from grace just sweetened the pot…

Saturday the two riders lined up on the track's starting line, the race was touch and go. No one could clearly call the winner at the end. A fight broke out between the race marshals over who crossed the finish line first. Yes the racing was that close. It also didn't help that the group of racing officials were members of both the Hatfield and McCoy clans and had been consuming large quantities of shine.

Mike "the bike" Hailwood
Mike "the bike" Hailwood

The two riders raced each other over thirty times in that race season. The winnings were split between them with 15 wins each; there was no clear cut champion. Once again fights broke out over who was the better rider and which one was the actual champion. The McCoys claimed that because Randall had more race wins over his career he should be the Champion. The Hatfield clan pointed out those previous years didn't count because there wasn't any competition; only one of them could be the champion.

There was only one way that the championship could be decided. Both teams had to travel to a place that was neutral, that neither clan had members involved in the officiating. But where could they go…the Isle of Man. Neither the Hatfields or McCoys had any kin or family members on the English Island.

Both teams were excited about the race and it was decided that whichever rider would come in first would be the new champion. The only problem they faced was raising money to cover the cost of the trip to the tiny English island.

A barn dance and poker run was organized by both the Harley dealer and the Indian dealer. Everyone in two counties showed up for the dance and to help out. Between paying to get in and buying fifty fifty tickets, bidding on the auction items and paying for the consumption of large quantities of moonshine most folks had a good time and enough money was raised to send both teams overseas.

Sometime during the partying it seems Anderson Hatfield's oldest son had disappeared with Randall McCoy's daughter. Jonas and Roseanna didn't return until the next day… this didn't set well with either clan. When the dust settled from the fist fighting, stabbing and shooting one of the younger brothers of Anderson Hatfield was lying dead in the street; his head had been bashed in by a ball peen hammer.

At first it was blamed on the local chapter of the Hells Angels; the angels loved using a ball peen hammer to TCOB (take care of business). But being as how they hadn't been invented yet, it wasn't them. It had to be one of the McCoys in the fight. The three sons of Randall McCoy were all swinging ball peen hammers during the fighting, so it was rightly assumed that one or all of them were responsible for the death.

The local Sherriff had already arrested all three men and had them in lockup when the Hatfields showed up demanding that the McCoys immediately be taken out so they could hang them; "Right and Proper like". Lucky for the McCoys there wasn't enough time, the race teams had to leave to catch the boat heading for the Isle of Man.

All the way over on the boat there was tension between the teams, not just over the upcoming race; but if the three sons of Randall McCoy would be still be alive to help celebrate McCoy's expected win.

Weeks at sea didn't help the McCoys or the Hatfields which were now suffering from sea sickness. At one point there was a hell of a fight on the main deck over who had the right to through up upwind. The smell of puke, blood and moon shine filled the ships companion ways making the crew of the ship greatly relieved to reach the island and discharge their feuding passengers.

Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield
Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield

Neither team was fully prepared for the racing at the Isle of Man. It was different from the American races on large oval tracks. This race ran throughout the island, it was 37 miles to complete one lap of the mountain course. It wound through sleepy villages, the major cities, up the mountain and back down to the sea side. They would race on a narrow road, one at a time against each other and the clock.

On race day McCoy's Harley rumbled off the starting line. Five seconds later the Red Indian of Anderson Hatfield roared away from the starting line. Down the road both of them went as fast as their motorcycles would go. The speeds they were reaching were a lot higher here than they had experienced back home; 45 and 50 mph on the straight sections.

As the race progressed Hatfield slowly started to gain ground on McCoy. He was only a second behind McCoy after completing the first 37 miles. McCoy knew he had to pull out all of the stops to win and on the second lap he somehow managed to set a new personal best by pushing his Harley to 50 mph. When McCoy looked back he couldn't believe that the Indian was still behind him, somehow Hatfield managed to match speed with him. The gap between them was slowly disappearing. Hatfield's Indian was running fast and he was doing everything he could to go even faster.

On the third lap, Hatfield finally made up the last of the gap and pulled up alongside McCoy. They raced alongside of each other, the hedge rows and the stone walls along the road passed by in blur, neither one of them realized they existed. They were all absorbed in their racing. Both riders were tucked down on top of their machines; one hand twisting the throttle wide open keeping it pinned against its stop. The other hand would pump the oil plunger to keep the engine lubricated. With eyes fixed on the road and each other they rumbled along side by side, mile after mile, corner after corner.

The strain was getting to both riders, what McCoy realized that if they finished like this he would lose. He started 5 seconds ahead of Hatfield; but, Hatfield had made up those 5 seconds and he was actually in the lead.

They headed up the mountain still side by side. When McCoy figured there weren't any spectators except for some goats and sheep at this part of the race course; he reached into his jacket pocket reaching for his pistol. As he pulled it out, he caught the front sight of his old Navy Remington revolver on his shirt and it went off. He put a large hole in his gas tank, straight through the top and out the bottom. With gas leaking out and covering his legs and the bike's back wheel, he lost traction and it started to fishtail.

The sound of the gunshot got Anderson's attention and he found more speed. He managed to pull away ever so slowly from McCoy, and then all of a sudden he shot ahead. He didn't' realize that McCoy's bike stopped running from the lack of fuel caused by his inept gun handling.

McCoy was now really pissed off; not only did they have his sons waiting to hang; he was going to lose the race. In McCoy's mind it was all the fault of Anderson Hatfield. As McCoy's bike came to a stop he leveled his pistol and took careful aim. The shot sounded like a cannon in the quite Manx country side, birds took off, the goats and sheep stopped eating and looked up in shock…The ball from the pistol traveled its course.

McCoy shook his head when he realized he missed; he didn't yet smell the fire he started.

Anderson Hatfield tucked down on his bright Red Indian and with throttle twisted wide open never heard the shot; he didn't even feel the buzz it made as it passed over his head.

Randall McCoy got off the bike and felt the pain of the burning flesh…. He jumped around screamed and yelled but no one could hear him. It was going to take some time for help to arrive…

Anderson didn't have a clue that his rival was on fire or that he wasn't in the race until he crossed the finish line.

Anderson Hatfield went home as the first AMA Pro champion and he also established the Indian racing heritage. He raced for many years before retiring to compete as a pro bass fisherman. He wasn't very successful as a pro fisherman and was killed when his bass boat hit a duck blind and blew up. They suspected he was carrying over 100 gallons of moonshine on onboard.

They hung the three McCoy boys for murder after they appeared in Judge Hatfield's courtroom.

Jonas Hatfield and Roseanna McCoy never did get married. They did shack up together and ran the best whiskey still in West Virginia for several years. Jonas was killed by Roseanna when she caught him trifling around in her Cousin Susan's panties; with her still in them.

Randall McCoy never raced again; he went on welfare because he couldn't hold down a job due to the burns he suffered. Three years after the famous race he succumbed to his injuries. His loss at the Isle of Man, the hanging of his three sons ended the open hostility between the families.

The famous feud slowly became history, but the Harley vs. Indian feud had just begun.

Back to the Index of Stories