To readers of " Stringtown on the Pike," the boy "Red Head" needs no introduction. To the author, the study of this mountain lad was intensely interesting, as a part of old-time, local conditions, familiar from childhood. But he hardly dared hope that the fragmentary description of his homely life could afford more than a passing. interest to others, who might find it difficult to believe that a character so unique was drawn almost from life, as typical of a class still lingering in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.
And yet he did hope that some would perceive that behind the story rested a serious attempt to preserve for students of Americana some bit of that primitive colour which, so far as its lawlessness is concerned, it is to be hoped, is destined ere long to fade away.
As a pleasant surprise came, then, many cordial letters of inquiry for further information regarding this little-understood people, and many appeals for the whole story of" Red Head," apart from the setting in which he was formerly placed. As a result of these letters and inquiries has come the evolution of the present volume.
In order to bring the reader into sympathetic touch with the conditions surrounding " Red Head," of which he was a part by heritage, as well as by training in traditions held sacred by his people, it was found necessary to place the events narrated in Part I, in a time long preceding that of " Red Head " himself. For so strange is the code still main- " trained in its lurid integrity by some persons in the land of his birth, that only by a comprehension of its ideals and responsibilities, as accepted by them, and which made " Red Head" what he was, can one properly understand this lonely mountain boy. Inured to dangers and deeds of violence, and hunted like a wild animal from his tenderest years, he came at last to be the sole survivor of his faction, on whom alone it devolved to maintain their honour, in the only way recognized by them.
For one familiar with life such as this, it would have been an easy matter to fill these pages with the scenes of cruelty and vengeance that shadow the feudist's way. More difficult it was, but the author hopes more useful, and not less interesting, to portray the home life of this misguided people in such a way as to give touches, by inference alone, of the pain and sorrow that has ever been their lot. Tracing the origin of the feud back to mediaeval English warfare may be criticised as far-fetched, and lacking historical proof.
With this, the author takes no issue. It may be considered in the light of an imaginative touch, intended to show the trivial nature of events which have more than once involved families of wide relationship in warfare lasting till the very tradition of the origin of the difficulty has been lost in obscurity. And yet it must not be overlooked that in many rural sections of our country are still preserved customs, traditions, superstitions, and words once common in England, but long since become obsolete in that land. To an unusual degree is this true of certain localities in Kentucky.
Fifty years ago ballads were still sung there, very like the famous Old English Ballads. The cross-bow was not unknown in the hunting of small game, where the author was reared. Clannishness was prevalent throughout the Cumberland range to a degree perhaps unknown elsewhere in the United States, and religious discussions were carried on with an intensity that can hardly be realized. Customs have changed much since then, but secluded places may still be found in which these very conditions prevail.
Beautiful story and full of illustrations. looks like a Graphic novel in 1903
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