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Layers of Yule spirit

“You are a cheater and you cheat,” said son Dylan.

“I am not a cheater,” said cousin Ashton.

“We did not cheat,” said Ashton’s friend  Crystal. “You said there weren’t any rules.”

“Once the competition started,” squawked Dylan. “You built half of your house … barn … whatever it is before you got here.”

It’s the Annual Gingerbread House Building Contest and the competitors are at each other’s throats hurling insults and gumdrops.

Somehow this helps promote Christmas cheer, or so they tell me before they take a swipe at each other’s house.

“Are you sure that is even gingerbread?” said Dylan.

“Looks like plywood to me,” chimes in his sister Sara Beth, who is making a miniature gingerbread village with her partner Ana Tomas.

“It is not plywood,” said Ashton. “It is a gingerbread farm. Since Crystal and I are agriculture teachers it seemed appropriate.”

“You’re still a cheater.”

“Am not.”

“Are to.”

Christmas cheer is filling the air.

“I quit,” said Caitlyn Dugger as all four of her walls collapse the moment she tries to put on the roof.

“You can’t quit,” said her mama Cathy Crews. “I’ll help you and Gary.”

The spirit of Christmas cooperation.

“What? You can’t help her. I need you here. We’re making peanut brittle shingles,” said her partner Cheryl Hart.

The spirit of Christmas cooperation quashed.

“You bit the head off my snowman,” said Dylan.

“No I didn’t. That was a spare marshmallow,” said his partner Sarah Davis.

“Sarah, we’re trying to win this thing and you’re eating my snowman.”

“Is that an outhouse?” said Ashton.

“That is not an outhouse,” said Sara Beth, offended. “I’ll have you know that is the cathedral for our gingerbread village.”

“Looks like an outhouse to me.”

“And what is that in your farm?”

“That’s a wagon made out of sugar wafers.”

“What’s in it?” asked Sara Beth.

“Hay,” said Crystal.

“Looks like chicken manure.”

“Hey!”

“Stop eating my snowmen.”

“I think we’re pushing the rules this year after last year’s candle fiasco,” said Sara Beth.

“You have to admit that was pretty darned awesome,” said Cheryl.

“Until your house caught on fire and had to be doused with water.”

In last year’s competition, Cheryl cut out the windows, covered them with paper and put a lit candle inside the house for added affect. It was very impressive until we had to call out the gingerbread fire brigade.

I just want you to understand that I have no stake in this contest. I am merely a chronicler like Mark Twain or Alexander Pope.

My bunch is incredibly competitive. They get it from their Mama who has been known to mope around all day after losing a game of Scrabble. Her progeny have been known to sweep all the tiles off a Scrabble board if they lose. So I choose not to compete. I’m a neutral observer, like Switzerland.

“I think our farm looks pretty good,” said Crystal.

“For manufactured housing,” quips Dylan.

“Doesn’t it look good Uncle Bob?” asked Ashton.

“I’m Switzerland.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

There’s a lot of laughter going on in our dining room. A lot of good natured ribbing and plenty of creativity. It’s a fun time.

It’s become something of a Christmas tradition in our house and though I’m not Bob the Builder and prefer to sit back and watch the competitors at work, I still enjoy it a lot.

Why are we supporting the hospital?

Dear Editor:

A number of years ago, Fraser Hospital made the decision to no longer participate as a provider in the retired military TriCare Prime medical insurance program.

As a result, unless it is a life-threatening emergency, anyone covered under Tricare Prime now has to travel 25 or more miles to receive urgent care. Over the last few years, my husband and I have had to go to a Jacksonville hospital ER or the Solantic/Avencia clinics in Jacksonville for injuries such as broken bones, lacerations requiring stitches, sprains etc.

It is pretty painful to travel 38 miles to the hospital with a broken foot, and extremely aggravating to know that less than five minutes from my home is the local county hospital that refuses to treat  me as a provider with my insurance company. Part of my county taxes go to support this hospital, but I can’t use it. Why are we supporting a hospital that refuses to accept the insurance of many of its county residents?

Debra Milner

Macclenny

The perils of working in fast food

I was employed at a fast food restaurant in Baker County for more than a year, and I have a lot to say about my experience. Let me tell you, it was awful. The only thing good about it was I met some wonderful people and learned how to handle money and deal with customers.

It was a long year of never being able to count on hours. You can have 20-25 hours one week and 15 hours the next, and when you’re already making minimum wage, that’s definitely not okay. And how is it fair that the only raise I got was 6 cents when minimum wage was changed?

I worked when I was there, and I came in countless times to cover for other people. I worked Friday nights on the cash register by myself with rude, impatient customers who wanted their food immediately. They didn’t understand that food takes time to cook, and many times, there’s only one person making sandwiches for both the lobby and drive-thru window. When customers get impatient, and your coworkers get stressed and snap at you, it all makes for a stressful environment.

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Molded and shaped young lives

Dear Editor:

Recently we were guests at a reception in honor of Mr. Tom Covington. Coach Covington was at Baker County High School from 1957 to 1968. He and his lovely wife Joanne were among those educators for whom teaching was a “calling” rather than a job.

They sowed seeds of encouragement and discipline that demanded the best of their students and influenced lives far beyond the high school years. They showed by example how to be men and women of integrity, how to love others as you love yourself.

Even after over 40 years, a majority of former players were there to honor this couple. A successful group of men, husbands and fathers, and now grandfathers, whose own lives have left indelible marks on our community. They are men of business and education, government leaders, and professionals, all who played for “T.C.”

What was then all about the Friday night game or track meet was really about the molding and shaping of young lives.

Thank you, Coach and Mrs. Covington, for your loving investment in us. May we be as diligent to pay it forward.

Gary and Kathy Barber

Glen St. Mary

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