"The Devil's Son" imagines Cap's experiences at the school, and what might have caused Devil Anse's favored son to back away from the patriarch's feuding ways. Gray depicts Cap arriving on campus, revolver hidden in a shoulder holster, his shotgun back at the boarding house in a cardboard box. He has hidden his identity as a Hatfield since newspapers nationally -- this part is historic -- would breathlessly report the latest news of the bloodthirsty hillbilly feuders.
Hectored by some urban classmates, Cap scares them off by shooting his revolver over their heads, immediately landing in hot water for his lawless country ways. The university president, a man named Dabney, wants to expel him. Cap tells him:
"I've never been to a place where a man didn't consider it his duty to carry a gun. Before this week I'd never seen a college or a library or a bookstore."
Dabney's angry expression softened to an attentive one.
"Pappy is a good man and did what he had to do to take care of us when there were animals and robbers and Union soldiers and other kinds of varmints about with nobody around to look after us but him. But now the soldiers and many of the animals are gone and the mountains are full of another kind of robber -- men dealing in land, money, coal and timber. They tell us we're backwards, uneducated, uncivilized hillbillies. And they're right to say we don't know the things they do. But do they help us understand? Do they teach us? Do they invite us into their society so that we may learn?"
Cap goes on to say something that speaks to the widening of focus Gray's book attempts:
"No, they do not," Cap continued. "They take advantage of our lack of education. They cheat us in business, they trick us in the courts, they treat us so bad we can't hold up our heads in our own mountains. That is why I came to Knoxville, to your school -- to become educated and civilized, to learn to be nobody's fool."
Gray picks up the thread, noting that the Hatfields lived in the West Virginia outback. Devil Anse was trying to make a go of a timbering business even as times were changing and railroads and other business interests were eyeing the same land, but concerned about its lawlessness.
The family's Scots-Irish roots had bred in them a distrust of formal society, she said.
"They were out in the wilderness where the sheriff wasn't," Gray said. So they took the law into their own hands."They didn't like being overseen by the establishment. They felt -- you buy from them, then you had to work for these people and you became indentured. It was all one establishment -- the churches, the schools and the government. And they moved into the wilderness where they were in charge of themselves, as their ancestors had been."
That's not to whitewash the manner in which Devil Anse and family settled matters when they felt they'd been crossed, cheated or dishonored, she said.
Devil Anse, Gray said, "was maybe like a Mafia man." He looked out for the best interests of his extended family and business confederates, paying his bills and -- when they arose -- settling disputes with the business end of a gun.
Yet even Devil Anse went through changes as the feuding wound down. In one of several Woodland Press titles devoted to the feud, Devil Anse is depicted later in life as a member of the Masons in the Logan area, said Gray.
"I thought, my goodness, he would never have been caught in such a thing at the beginning of his life, or even mid-life," she said. "I think even he became not so rotten a character. In some ways, he was not rotten -- he took care of his family and loved his wife."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.