The blue people of Kentucky

So I guess real-life blue people once frolicked along the banks of eastern Kentucky’s Troublesome Creek like so many carefree giant Smurfs. Is this a thing people know about? Am I late to the game?

During a boring recent afternoon, my friend the internet alerted me to something called methemoglobinemia, a condition that can give the blood “a bluish or chocolate-brown color,” according to the Book of Wikipedia. A nearly 30-year-old article by Cathy Trost in Science 82 says the Fugate clan of East KY — aided by some good old-fashioned inbreeding — had it bad. Trost wrote:

“They’re known simply as the “blue people” in the hills and hollows around Troublesome and Ball Creeks. Most lived to their 80s and 90s without serious illness associated with the skin discoloration. For some, though, there was a pain not seen in lab tests. That was the pain of being blue in a world that is mostly shades of white to black.”

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