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Harold F. Hester

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Books by Harold F. Hester
Southpaw
By Harold F. Hester
Saturday, April 19, 2008

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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A small percentage of the US population is left-handed. Their lives are made special because of that fact that they are in fact a bit different then "Righties". This story mearly says what many of us do not consciously realize that actually we are all equal.

Dedicated to all those that have signs displayed somewhere over or around their work area that says “Special” - You are correct.   

The life of the left-handed person is not always easy. Social stigmas still prevail, and many everyday tasks that right handed people never think twice about are difficult for a leftie. With only small percentage of the population on their side, left-handed folks tend to be male which means that left-handed females are truly a minority. But whoever said there weren’t any benefits to being left-handed? Especially in today’s society, left-handed individuals have banded together to not only remind the world that they exist, but that they thrive as one of the most elite clubs in existence. The best part? If you’re a lefty, membership is free and guaranteed.
 
Before we get started, in my heart of hearts I know there is one statistic you are curious about; how many or what percentage of people are Left-Handed? The most recent study, by Prof. Chris McManus who has conducted widespread research into the genetic causes of handedness, has concluded that 13% of the population are currently left-handed. And of that number 1 out of 5 are female.
 
There’s something singular and wonderful when you are left-handed. And yes, being left-handed does make you a special person.
 
My challenge: Write a short story about being left-handed.
Your challenge: Read and enjoy this story.
 
I was challenged a couple days ago to write a short story about something I did not have a clue about. (“…clue about…” is a southern colloquialism meaning “…dumb as a stick”).  I have been challenged before but this time I was stumped. Most authors can, and do write stories on subjects they are not expert in and actually do not even have a working knowledge. It’s call writing BS. There’s a lot of BS out there but many authors are skilled enough to make the stories enjoyable and believable – The DaVinci Code comes to mind – damn good story; very readable but enough BS to make a very rich man out of Dan Brown and fertilize a 144 square hectare corn field. I should be so lucky.
 
My first instinct was to hit the Internet, which in the past has been most friendly. I know several left-handed people and in the back of my naive mind I thought, “I’ll just ask them about being a ‘lefty’ and write what they tell me.” Well, that proved to be more difficult then it sounds. I talked with a bit over three dozen ‘lefties’ and I got more then three dozen stories and each one could have been a novel in itself so I then asked myself a major question. “What is it I want to say in my ‘lefty’ story?
 
Differences?
 
Facts?
 
Righties or better than lefties or vice-versa? 
 
Humor?
 
Tragedy?
 
Pity?
 
I found myself in a pickle which translates to a bit of a problem as I am a straight male that happens to be right handed, bald, overweight and other then ‘wonder’ about being a lefty or southpaw never really gave the subject that much thought. I did however give it a lot of thought once – long ago. In my youth playing AA baseball I could never hit a ‘lefty’. A right handed curve ball I could see, gauge and most time, connect. The curve ball coming at me from a southpaw always did magical things and, for me, un-hittable (the reason I chose architecture over pro-ball). In the back of my very young brain was telling me the reason was because their arms are ‘different’ and I just never questioned different.
 
Southpaws are in fact different. I tried throwing a right-handed curve the same as Frank’s left-handed sharply breaking magical baseball and my best efforts always went either into the dirt or over his head.  Frank patiently showed me over and over the motion, the twist, the finger placements, the release but the ball just never left my right hand the same as it did his. Frank was dissimilar then many of us that ran together but I always just assumed it was because he was unabashed, could talk with girls, work on jalopies, was a big kid and above average in school and absolutely  nothing seemed to ever bother him. He was always ready to go and always gay, care-free and cheerful.
 
It wasn’t until college I learned he was gay for more then one reason but that wasn’t related to his dominate hand.
 
Hello Internet. Queried Southpaw.  Before getting to Southpaw I ran across this site; http://www.anythingleft-handed.co.uk/lefty_myths.html#1 which is too detailed and boring to write about in a short story but if you have a few minutes some stormy spring evening the site has some interesting facts. While you have your computer turned on, look up also; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-handed
 
Back to being a Southpaw, A left-handed individual may be known as a southpaw, particularly in a sports context. It is widely accepted that the term originated in the United States, in the game of baseball. Ballparks are often designed so that right-handed batters are facing east, so that the afternoon or evening sun does not shine in their eyes. This means that left-handed pitchers are throwing with their south-side arm. I am about as gullible as the next person but when I read that ballparks are designed for right handed players and to favor the home team I had to go back to the Internet and a bit beyond, to GoogleEarth.com.
 
If you are not familiar with Google Earth, it is satellite imagery and is a place to visit when you have a few days and nights to kill looking up stuff and looking for places only accessible thought the magic of flight and science. I looked up the house I grew up in, the place I got my first kiss, my house I now live, my son’s house, the Google campus, the Green zone in Baghdad, the Eiffel tower in Paris where, more then once, leaned way out over the railing on the third tier to get terrific pictures of space and vertical curving steel; the Chicken ranch in Nevada… well you get the idea.
 
Back to the main reason I opened Google Earth in the first place – Ball parks.  I looked up each and every professional baseball stadium and - It’s TRUE. Our major league ball parks are in fact designed to favor the right side and the home team.  Profit and politics aside, you have to remember in professional sports teams have such parity you need any advantage you can get. The next time you are listing to someone espouse home field advantage, that’s what they are talking about. With only one exception the major league baseball parks are laid out so that the pitchers mound pitches toward the SW direction or if you are more compass rose oriented then degrees, pitchers toward 260 degrees. The one exception ball park is close to the others but pitchers due W (90 to 270 degrees). If you have not been paying attention then that has your right handed batter never facing into the glare of a late afternoon sun.
 
Little League and sandlot field are helter-skelter with the only design criterion being correct base dimensions and a place for parents to potty. The difference in professional sporting fields and fields for fun are strictly dollars and education. I could be wrong here but if you ever hear of a LL kid being paid $126 M for playing baseball please drop me a line.
 
Speed and reaction are first cousins. Speed alone can and does kill – on the highways. Speed kills when you’re doing something dumb on today’s highway but the one place speed, and reactions is beneficial is in the world of professional football. Ever hear of Steve Young, Frankie Albert, Bobby Douglass, Boomer Esiason, Kenny ‘The Snake’ Stabler or Jim Zorn? They set the standard for innovative football pass plays. Reasons; they were all left handed and it is a known fact the brain of left-handed people processes data a mille-second faster then righties. How fast is a mille-second? Not that long but when you have a 330 pound lineman looking to make mince-meat of you, a mille-second can be a life time.
 
I would like to impress upon you more facts and figures but I am limited to this being a short story
 
The more I found on the Internet and the more I chatted with lefties, the more convinced I became some of this story will be just stuff you may not be aware of but actually is good information and fun conversational data.
 
For example:
 
Lefties or southpaws are not unique throughout history but just different enough to make this list:
Albert Einstein, Alexander the Great, Angelina Jolie, Babe Ruth, Ben Hogan, Bill Gates, Buzz Aldrin,Winston Churchill, Carol Burnett, Celine Dion, Cole Porter, David Bowie, Earl Anthony, F. Lee Bailey, George Michael, Hans Christian Andersen, Jack the Ripper, James Michener, Jay Leno, Jim Corbett, Jimi Hendrix, Joan of Arc, John Dillinger, John McEnroe, Judy Garland, Julius Caesar, Kermit the Frog, Leonardo da Vinci, Lou Gehrig, Marie Curie, Mark Twain, Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Morgan Freeman, Napoleon Bonaparte, Oprah Winfrey, Osama bin Laden, Pablo Picasso, Paul McCartney, Pelé, Prince Charles, Prince William, Queen Victoria, Reggie Jackson, Robert De Niro, Rudy Vallee, Sandy Koufax, Ted Bundy, Tiberius, Whoopi Goldberg and June Allyson.
 
What does this list show? Read over some of the names again and you will see you can be a serial killer, a bowler, a scientist an entertainer or a muffet – being right or left handed does not make a hill of beans difference, or does it? I wonder.
 
However and but…
 
Do you believe in reincarnation? Fortune tellers? Tarot cards? Crystal balls? Palm readers? Tea-leaf readers?
 
Nope? Me either – however….
 
There is that one unexplained part of my life when Lois said she knew more about me then I knew about myself. Lois was a Tarot card reading neighbor that would come over week-ends and ‘entertain’. Her Tarot cards were large and so worn they didn’t click-click when shuffled but silently just kinda flopped and folded themselves. As Lois would prepare the living room coffee table the lights would be lowered a few watts and her stories began. As each picture card was ceremonially cut and reveled then placed with much theatrics in its prescribed position in her pyramid, her stories unfolded. To me, a picture card of a devil was one thing while the knives, kings, clouds and sun’s could mean most anything. Lois’s stories were mostly different but they all seemed to have that one thread of maybe or wow or your kidding that in your gut you knew could not the true , BUT there was that doubt and what if it is – merd.   
 
The cards of the Medieval Tarot recreate the Middle Ages (5th to 16th century) of Europe with symbolism, costume and setting. The gold backgrounds of the court cards and the Major Arcana recall the great tarocchi of 15th century Italy, and many images on the cards are inspired by masterpieces of the Renaissance. The symbolism combines medieval icons with the esoteric traditions that became publicly known in the 18th century. Alchemical processes color the cards. Many clues - often humorous - to the meanings of the cards are half-hidden in the intricate pictures of The Popess, The Fool, Death, Stars, Sun and even The Devil.
 
Lois spun wonderful and believable tales.
 
One Friday evening Lois came over; we had a few beers and a pizza and out came the cards. About the time she had the second row in place the evening ski’s split open with a thunder and a lighting show that turned the blackness to daylight and the house into a bass-drum at a rock concert. We had the house to ourselves, the beer had gone to my head and the pizza sat like a ball of lead in my gut. Lois began telling me about our other lives together.  She had been alive eight other times dating from 32AD to the 1920s to the present. She had mostly been female but twice a man. With each card placed in its pyramid she began bringing me into her sordid past lives. She very convincingly detailed how in a 16th century Russian breeding farm she and I had made three beautiful children – together. One of them was Ivan IV, first Russian Czar or you may know him better by the name Ivan the Terrible.
 
Ivan was blood thirsty and ruthless that even killed, accidentally, but still killed his first born son.
 
Ivan was left-handed. Lois’s cards showed his hatred of being left-handed and blamed his parents (Lois and me – at that time period Lois told me I was know as Basil III) with that affliction that pushed him from being normal to needing blood and violence to satisfy his quest for life. And I wondered…
 
Take a few deep breaths and we will move to more pleasant tails.
 
A couple of left-hand observations:
 
Modern day sonograms of ladies seeking information as to the sex of their fetus, some say, may be a factor in the unborn child dominant hand. I feel this is just some of that BS we talked about earlier.
 
How do you hold a pencil when writing? Do you know what a Monkey-grip is?
 
“That was a left-handed comment.” A compliment with two meanings, one of which is unflattering to the receiver: “The senator said that her opponent was quite competent for someone so inexperienced; you hear nothing but left-handed compliments during elections debates.”
 
The Left-Handed Whopper; In 1998 Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a "Left-Handed Whopper" specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans. According to the advertisement, the new whopper included the same ingredients as the original Whopper (lettuce, tomato, hamburger patty, etc.), but all the condiments were rotated 180 degrees for the benefit of their left-handed customers. The following day Burger King issued a follow-up release revealing that although the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax, thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Simultaneously, according to the press release, "many others requested their own 'right handed' version."
 
OR
 
Left-handed monkey wrenches.
 
OR
 
Left-handed sugar: Don’t shake your head like that…. Ever since I heard about this product my ears perked up and I began reading all the sugar labels in the super market. Left-handed sugar is sugar with the same taste and properties as you now know them but without the calories. Left-handed sugar is not processed by your body the same as regular sugar, does not stay in the body as long so is not as fattening. Its DNA is backward from normal sugar – left-handed.
 
Everyone is now familiar with what Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) looks like. We have all been exposed so many times to the swirling, rotating nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms and some viruses. DNA is RIGHT-HANDED. The next time you see the double helix being displayed, notice the whole mass is rotating clockwise. Counter clock-wise would be left-handed.
 
While we are talking about clocks or circle did you know - most left-handed humans prefer to draw circles clockwise and traverse buildings clockwise?
 
Left-handers have been linguistically abused for centuries! There are hundreds of (mainly abusive) terms for left-handers.
 
There are a lot of sayings where "right" is good and "left" is bad e.g., "being in your right mind", "the divine right of kings", it will be all right in the end" as against being "left out", having "two left-feet", "a left-handed compliment" (one that is not really meant!).
 
Even the word for "left-handed" or it’s connotations in many languages are negative. Some left-handed people consider themselves oppressed, even to the point of prejudice. Etymology often lends weight to the argument:
 
The next few paragraphs are a bit boring and detailed but is stuff I never knew or even thought about. If you read the following just store it away for the next cocktail party when you are locked into conversation with no way out. Have a few sips of your martini and bore the folks around you to tears until they change the subject.
 
Ready? Here we go - - In Hebrew, as well as in other ancient Semitic and Mesopotamian languages, the term "hand" was a symbol of power or custody. The left hand symbolized the power to shame society, and was used as a metaphor for misfortune, natural evil, or punishment from the gods. This metaphor survived ancient culture and was integrated into mainstream Christianity by early Catholic theologians as Ambrose of Milan to modern Protestant theologians such as Karl Barth to attribute natural evil to God in explaining God's omnipotence over the universe.
 
Meanings evolved from use of these terms in the ancient languages. In many European languages, "right" is not only a synonym for correctness, but also stands for authority and justice: German and Dutch recht, French droit, Spanish derecho; in most Slavic languages the root prav is used in words carrying meanings of correctness or justice. Being right-handed has also historically been thought of as being skillful: the Latin word for right-handed is "dexter", as in dexterity; indeed, the Spanish term diestro means both "right-handed" and "skilful". In Irish, "deas" means "right side" and "nice". "Ciotóg" is the left hand and is related to "ciotach" meaning "awkward"; in French, "gauche" means "left" and is also a synonym of "maladroit", meaning "clumsy". Same for the Italian "maldestro" and the Dutch word "links".
 
Meanwhile, the English word "sinister" comes from the Latin word "sinister,-tra,-trum", which originally meant "left" but took on meanings of "evil" or "unlucky" by the Classical Latin era. Alternatively, "sinister" comes from the Latin word sinus meaning "pocket": a traditional Roman toga had only one pocket, located on the left side for the convenience of a right-handed wearer. The contemporary Italian word sinistra has both meanings of sinister and left. The Spanish siniestra has both, too, although the 'left' meaning is less common and is usually expressed by 'izquierda,' a Basque word. The left side is often associated with awkwardness and clumsiness, as shown in the French gauche, and adroit, droit meaning right, and adroit meaning skilled. The Dutch expression "twee linkerhanden hebben" and the Bulgarian expression "dve levi ratse" ("to have two left hands") both mean being clumsy. The common phrase, to have "two left feet" means to be bad at dancing. As these are all very old words/phrases, they support theories indicating that the predominance of right-handedness is an extremely old phenomenon. In Portuguese, the most common word for left-handed person, canhoto, was once used to identify the devil, and canhestro, a related word, means "clumsy".
 
Even the word "ambidexterity" reflects the bias. Its intended meaning is, "skillful on both sides". However, since it keeps the Latin root "dexter", which means "right", it ends up conveying the idea of being "right-handed at both sides". This bias is also apparent in the lesser-known antonym "ambisinistrous", which means "clumsy on both sides" and derives from the Latin root "sinister."
 
In Russian, "to stray left" is a euphemism for being unfaithful to a spouse or partner.
 
There – feel better?
 
I would be amiss if I didn’t leave you with:
 
Folklore and Superstitions
 
For thousands of years, the Devil has been associated with the left hand in various ways and is normally portrayed as being left-handed in pictures and other images. In the seventeenth century it was thought that the Devil baptized his followers with his left-hand and there are many references in superstitions to the "left-hand side" being associated with evil. As an example, in France it was held that witches greet Satan "avec le bras gauche" or with the left hand. It is also considered that we can only see ghosts if we look over our left shoulder and that the Devil watches us over the left shoulder.
 
Evil spirits lurk over the left shoulder - throw salt over this shoulder to ward them off. In Roman times, salt was a very valuable commodity, giving rise to the word "salary" and was considered a form of money at the time. If salt was spilled, that was considered very bad luck that could only be avoided by throwing some of the spilled salt over your left shoulder to placate the devil.
 
Getting out of bed with the left foot first means that you will have a bad day and be bad tempered . i.e. getting out of bed the wrong side.
 
Wedding rings worn on the third finger of the left hand originated with the Greeks and Romans, who wore them to fend of evil associated with the left-hand
 
The right hand often symbolizes 'male' while the left hand is 'female'.
 
If your right eye twitches you will see a friend, if it's your left eye that twitches you'll see an enemy.
 
When dressmaking it's believed to be bad luck to sew the left-hand sleeve onto a garment before the right sleeve.
 
Near Eastern cultures use the left hand to wipe their bottoms (no paper is used, just your hand and a bit of water – if available). Be careful with long or jagged fingernails during this process. This explains why we shake with the right hand, and why the left hand is considered unclean in some cultures. It's also why they chopped off the right hands of thieves, so you had to eat with the dirty hand.
 
It is thought to be bad luck to pass a drink to another person with your left-hand or anti-clockwise around a table.
 
Passing or pouring wine with the left hand leads to bad luck.
 
A left-handed toast is tantamount to a curse on the victim.
 
Driving on the left - started so that horse riders could use their whips in the right-hand to fend off other road users
 
Christianity is strongly based towards the right hand. It is the right had that gives the blessing and make the sign of the cross.
 
On one count, the bible contains over 100 favorable references to the right-hand and 25 unfavorable references to the left-hand. E.g.: The right hand of the lord doeth valiantly, the right hand of the lord is exalted (Psalm 118 vv15, 16)
 
The figurehead on the Cutty Sark is a left-handed witch.         à
 
The left hand does worst in the parable of the sheep and goats. The sheep are set on Christ's right hand and the goats on the left. Those on the right inherit the kingdom of god while those on the let depart into everlasting fire.
 
The situation is much the same in Judaism and Islam. In Islam, the left hand and everything associated with it is seen as unclean. This stems from the Middle Eastern custom of using the left-hand and water instead of toilet paper.
 
The first recorded Siamese twins born in 1811 were joined at the waist. Their names? Chang and Eng, which simply meant 'Left and Right'
  
Most left-handers, when drawing figures face them to the right.
 
Remember “Monkey-grip?”  The next time your taking the kids to the monkey-house at the local zoo throw one of the chimps a ball-point pen and a piece of paper and watch how it holds the pen as it writes you a note or draws your picture.
 
Why have I been giving you all this data?
 
Simple.
 
Left-handed folks are just as human as the rest of the world and just as superstitious, just as vulnerable and just as gullible and lovable as the next person.  
 
Enjoy life – your partner – the air you breathe and the joy you receive and give others.
 
Makes NO difference which hand is dominant, one day we will all go to that ambidextrous special place in the sky, so enjoy the trip.
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

       Web Site: haroldhester

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Reviewed by Preston Goodman 2/15/2009
Ah, the trials of a lefty. I especially despise the "I didn't know you were left-handed" comments I get at least weekly. Very good work with a lot of interesting info I never knew.

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