My friend Dr. Bob grew up in a coal town callednPackard in eastern Kentucky, a place that wasnabandoned years ago. All that is left these days is kudzungrowing over old foundations. He’s a neurosurgeon innLouisville now, and an amateur Kentucky historian, and mynfavorite tale of his is about the blue Fugetts and the blindnFugetts. The Fugetts live in Letcher county, and like sonmany families isolated in a rural area they have in-bred a bitnand linked up two sets of bad genes. One branch starts goingnblind in their 30’s and 40’s — well after they’ve had theirnquota of kids — and the other has a blood conditionn(methemoglobinemia) that prevents them from gettingnsufficient oxygen, rendering the poor Fugett distinctly blue.nWhen it’s cold or the Fugett is stressed he is really blue. It’sngot to be so bad that nobody hardly will marry them, and sonsome of the family have moved over one county to Perry,nand changed their name I think to Thompson. Not that thisnhas helped a lot; now there are blue Fugetts and blindnThompsons.nGrowing up in Kentucky as I did, I heard a lot of storiesnlike that. Wolfe County, in the beautiful Red River GorgenKatherine Dalton is the managing editor of Chronicles.n16/CHRONICLESnVIEWSnLife in the Happy Valleynby Katherine Daltonnnnarea in the center of the state, had or maybe still has thenhighest incidence of schizophrenia (which is a geneticallynlinked disease) per capita in the world, because the samengorge that now attracts the backpackers further isolatednfamilies in an area where isolation was already great, andnsome ancestor had a bad gene. Every or nearly every familynin that county has at least one case of that affliction. Mynsame friend Dr. Bob was out there visiting the gorge one daynyears ago with his wife and two young boys, when a beat-upnstation wagon pulled up beside them at a lookout point. Dr.nBob took one glance at the locals and quietly ordered hisnfamily to get back in their car. The folks in the station wagonnwere each one of them, he says, mad as hatters.nI’m telling you all this not because (or not only because) Inhave that typically Southern ghoulish pride in the distinctivenessnof home, even if home is distinguished in its disease,nbut because there is always another side, even to such anproblem as in-breeding. What people forget when they talknabout the downside of marrying your first cousin, envisioningnas they do the idiot savant banjo picker in Deliverance, isnthat just as in-breeding can group together weak genes ornbad gehes and give you terrible problems, so can it link upngood genes.n