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Left Handedness 

Michael Hillman

Organization has never been one of my strong points. Not a day goes by that I don't misplace something or other and every morning is started off with a ritual of asking Audrey were I left my wallet, glasses, and car keys. Over the years I've gotten used to my absentmindedness and now when I misplace something, I just shrug my shoulders and figure whatever it is will show up eventually. For example, Audrey's car keys, which I lost a year ago, have just been discovered in my winter coat jacket.

Always looking to put a positive spin on something, I look at lack of organization as being an outgrowth of my 'spontaneity', i.e. 'Comp-de-un' attitude. Audrey however has another definition of what happens around me and it includes words like confusion and chaos.

I've always heard that opposites attract and in this one area that old saying couldn't be truer. I half jokingly tell people that Audrey is so organized that she has lists of her list. Her daily to do list begins with 'Get up' and ends with 'Make list for tomorrow and go to bed.' In between is a catalog of her activities which I've been retrieving secretly from our well kept trash can to sell to an alien race studying the day to day habits of competent earthlings.

While Audrey's organization does sometimes impact on my spontaneity, it definitely has its up side, like coffee every morning, bills being paid on time and the lawn being mowed regularly. More important, however, is the effect it has had on creating an excellent environment for our animals. Under her daily routine, they always know when they will go out, when they will eat, and when they can sleep. Of course, having things so organized makes this place a real zoo when she goes away and things shift over to my way of doing things.

The Friday before Thanksgiving, I took off to do some research on the valley. Before I left however, I decided to let my horse, Worf, out for some hand grazing. Now Audrey's routine for hand walking Worf, who was extremely fit having just come off the competition season, was very particular and, as I would soon learn, for just cause. My routine is casual enough not to be classified as a routine at all.

After grazing for 15 minutes on the front lawn, I headed towards the gate into the field next to the barn. Unbeknownst to me, Worf had been pulling some antics at this gate recently and as I went threw it, he jumped into the air, twisted and kicked out with all four feet. His kicks were not out malice but at the happy thought that he was going to be turned out. Unfortunately, one hoof made contact.

The kick came so fast and so hard that my arm never moved. Audrey, hearing the commotion and figuring something had gone wrong, came running to put things back in order. Two operations and a steel plate later, I found myself suddenly having something new in common with Audrey, being left-handed.

My mother, who is left-handed, blames her poor penmanship on nuns, who hit her with a ruler every time she tried to write with her left hand. I too have bad penmanship due to ruler blast, but they had nothing to do with trying to write left-handed. Since marrying Audrey, I thought I had come to appreciate the difficulties left-handed people have in this world but, as I recently discovered, you really can't unless you live it.

Using regular scissors, for instance, is a nightmare. While they do have left-handed scissors, they are limited in shape and size. So, instead, left-handers end up using right-handed scissors, albeit upside down; no mean feat when done routinely. Audrey's favorite pet peeve is the coffeepot. To read the fill level marks, left-handers must hold the pot with their right hand, and only a right hand can put it under the coffee maker properly.

As I began to get used to doing things with my left hand, I mentally noted the daily inconveniences we right-handed people throw at left-handers. For instance, stick shifts, unless youíre a mailman, or in England, require the right hand. Opening doors, well letís just say, try opening doors with your left hand for a week or two. The only thing I can figure is that only having right-handed doors is part of a deep, secret conspiracy to make the left- handed race feel inferior.

Now while there are many downsides to breaking my arm, e.g. pain, doctor bills, pain, and pain, it provided me the perfect excuse for ignoring Audrey's honey-do list, and got me out of performing my barn chores. As I sat in the hospital waiting for the doctor, it occurred to me that this would be an excellent time to make a final push on collecting the material I needed for my stories on the valley of Stony Branch [every dark cloud does have a silver lining]. Which brings me back to the opening topic: Organization.

When I first set out to uncover the history of our farm, all the material collected was piled wherever I last sat, which was alright, when my focus was on just the farm. As time went on however, I began to wonder about the history of the people who one lived on this farm, or owned the land upon which it sits. Families like the Zacharias', who as I discovered and you will soon learn, settled here in 1754, bought the land upon which half of our farm sits and then over the next 140 years, bought or controlled half the land in the valley and, in doing so, set the pace of life here. I was inundated with family names such as Biggs, Diggs, Sebold, Troxel, Whitmores, Martin, Valintine, Close, Schealy, Forney, Maxel, Fuss, Baumgartner, and Welty, and faced with hundreds of land transactions on well over 2600 acres of land over a 245 year time period. Suddenly, I had a very real appreciation for library science and Audrey's organizational skills.

The first task before me was to organize my piles of deeds and records into distinct entities. Surprisingly, with just few exceptions, the boundaries of the original large land grants still form boundaries for many present property owners. As a result, each of the piles now bears names such as 'Better Then I Expected', 'Black Flint', and 'Single Delight'. Next everything had to be put in chronological order and then, and only then, read and analyzed along with a host of material I've collected over the past year.

In spite of all my efforts however, I'm still not any closer to knowing how old my house is, which is what got me studying the history in the first place. The key to uncovering this lies in finding descendants of William and Mary Welty, and Albert and Mary Welty Valintine, both of which are children of a Casper Welty. Any help in this area would be greatly appreciated as would any stories or information relevant to this valley or the families that lived here.

Over the past year, many people have given me information or leads to sources. These include Eugene Zacharias, the great, great, great, grandson of one of the first settlers, Mary Krom who provided stories on going to school in the Stony Branch School house which once stood next door, Rick Yinger and Joe Wivell Jr. who have humored me by walking old boundaries, Betty Six Glass, who provided me the history of her family's life in this house, as did Anna Bollinger who bought the farm in 1940 and now resides at St. Catherine, and Bonny Fuss who has been an enormous help and a constant source of smiles.

 Read the first installment of the History of Stony Branch Valley

Read other stories by Michael Hillman