Meeting the Neighbors by Talking about History

Yesterday, I stopped at a yard sale about a mile from where I live. There was nothing I wanted to buy (although I discovered that it is legal to sell guns at yard sales in West Virginia!). Anyway, I introduced myself as a new neighbor from down the way, and that I had purchased land from a particular family. An 80-year old woman sitting nearby, looked over at me and said “Oh honey, I was born on that property before electricity came through these parts.” So, naturally, as a historian, I respond “Oh reeeeeaaaally?” and ask if I can sit in the lawn chair next to her. For an hour, she told me about milking a cow in my barn, hoeing the cornfields next door, living in a one-room milkhouse on the property, about how her side of the family lost the property in an inheritance dispute. This Tuesday, the 80-year old lady and her older brother are coming over for a visit. She was so excited on the phone just now. It’s just the “dardnest thing, honey” she said in the most excited-est cadence I’ve ever heard.

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