Tomas Hardin, the 9th of 11 children from a poor, violent family, was shaken as a three month old, causing blindness and brain damage. Relegated to a state institution, he was put into the foster care system, where he stayed for 6 years before he was adopted by Zina Hardin. Tomas was unable to talk or walk, confined to a wheelchair and staring at a blank wall when Zina first saw him at the state foster care facility. Zina adopted Tomas into her home which included a down syndrome sister and a ADHD younger brother. Tomas has since thrived in the Hardin home, he now walks and eats on his own, and is attending a specialized school where learns life skills. "I had three wishes for Tomas when I adopted him", Zina said, "For him to walk by himself, for him to be able to drink from a straw, and for him to one day become Governor of New York".
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Arthur Conner took a fiddle down from a pine-paneled wall and cradled it in both hands like a baby.
"Ricky Skaggs played this a right smart of a while," he said as he plucked the instrument's strings with his thumb.
The fiddle gleamed with the colors of a sunset -- reds and oranges emanating from a body of maple and mountain spruce. Conner doesn't have to explain how he ended up with a fiddle that once belonged to a country music superstar. He built it for Skaggs more than three decades ago. He took it back to do some work on it and kept it.
By his own reckoning, Conner has built nearly 100 fiddles in the basement of his Floyd County home and in a sawdust-coated workshop next to it. In 45 years of instrumentmaking, Conner has produced fiddles so fine, they have been played by the country's top musicians on the recordings of major stars.
George Strait, Lyle Lovett, Joan Baez, Ricky Skaggs and Lucinda Williams are among those whose works have featured an Arthur Conner instrument. That means millions of music lovers worldwide have heard Conner's music, even though many folks