I have been a basketball aficionado since age four. I have played, coached, been athletic director and even refed once in a while Last night was the best game that I have ever seen high school, college or pro. Maybe because I do really know many of the players from our work at the Ridgeland Hardeeville High School in Jasper County, South Carolina.

I have seen the young men play for the past three years. The coaching is excellent. Coach Faber has won over five hundred games and is still going strong. He is a master of instilling a winning spirit among his players. He talks about commitment and the guys do understand what he means. Last night was an example of how the team puts forth a super human effort to win.

Each Christmas Season there is a holiday tournament in Beaufort County. That’s right next to Jasper. While Jasper County is the 3rd poorest county in SC. Beaufort is the third wealthiest. This is a round robin tourney with six teams. Two of the teams were from the Charlotte, North Carolina area and the other teams were from the host Beaufort County.

Ridgeland Hardeeville played their first game against Piedmont High School, one of the NC schools. We had been told ahead of time that this team was really good and that they had some exceptionally tall players. When Piedmont came out for warmups, the predictions were all true. You could see that the players were skilled AND tall. One of the guys was about six foot seven, and as we learned later was given an athletic basketball scholarship to Clemson.

Most of the Piedmont starting squad was seniors. The RHHS players were pretty much juniors. However, they had not lost a game since the beginning of the season. Most folks do not realize that RHHS had to play in a school division, based on number of students, where they were up against much larger schools. That was because they were not able to get schools of their size to play them in non-conference games.

When the RHHS team came out to practice, you could see how much smaller they were than their opponents. The first part of the game was what might have been predicted. The Piedmont boys rebounded, scored threes from all over the court. Even with a full court press, Piedmont was overwhelming the guys from RHHS.

In the first half Piedmont had leads of both eleven and thirteen points. You could see both the players and Coach Faber being frustrated with their inability to break through. The RHHS team saw the very tall player on Piedmont throw down some “thunder” dunks that excited the crowd. At no time did the RHHS team have a lead. By the beginning of the second half, the Piedmont players seemed to be bothered more by the full court press. There were more interceptions, more infractions, and more fouls on the Piedmont team.

One could see a diminution in the frustration of the RHHS team as the second half proceeded. There was now somewhat of a formula in stopping the tall player, as he was boxed into corners by the RHHS guys.

Coach Faber exhorted his team to play defense and substituted liberally from an offensive mode to a defensive one. The Piedmont coach did not substitute as freely. As a casual observer, I understood that all of the tongue hanging out practices of Coach Faber were now having a positive result. One can always tell when a player is “gassed,” when you see them with their hands on their hips.

The RHHS starters played most of the second half with help from some of the substitutes. Coach Faber would call individual players over during foul shots and instruct them about the next play, either offensive or defensive.The RHHS players listened intently and then went about their plays as instructed.

As the second half proceeded, RHHS started to crawl down the necks of the Piedmont team. At no time did they lead the game, but the margin slowly crept lower and lower. With about 2 minutes left in the game, it was obvious that Piedmont was frustrated. They threw in some threes and blasted through the RHHS defense. However, RHHS always answered with their own shots and scores.

The last minute had my heart pounding. Either team could have won the game with either a foul shot or a two or three pointer. They did not. The score at the end of regulation was tied. However, there was a feeling, at least on my part, that the end of the overtime would be in the control of the RHHS team. The first few minutes of overtime were fairly even. However, as the defensive noose applied by the RHHS players descended on Piedmont, it was evident that the game had really ended before overtime.

The RHHS team extended its lead during overtime and won, going away 71-65. They were so excited, but retained their gentlemanly ways as they shook hands with the Piedmont players. This is a tradition at Ridgeland Hardeeville. Whether they win or lose, they are gentlemen. They are that way because Coach Faber trains them. He does not tolerate any arguments with refs or trash talk or disconsolate looks. Our kids just turn around and go on with their playing.

I cannot tell you how proud I was that a number of the players belong to the group that I work with, The Jasper Gentlemen. I know them and admire their successes, in academics, as well as on the basketball floor.

My wife Carol has become a basketball fan after all of these years. She enjoys the games because she knows some of the players and after the games; they usually come by our seats and shake hands with both of us, or sometimes hug us dripping with perspiration. At that point, who cares?

As an epilogue, the RHHS team won the tournament. Their next two games started off close, but ended in a rout. It was good to see many of the subs get into the game.

Carol and I have great respect for Coach Faber. Yes, he does all of the things most coaches do, but the players know that he loves them. He is very hard on them in practice and in the game. However, whether a win or a loss, he is always concerned for their welfare. I know this because of our conversations about his players both those he has now and former players. RHHS has been lucky to have him all of these 30+ years.



Well, another year has passed us by and I realized that we have had no communication with you’uns this entire time. We write these Christmas letters so that you will know what we have been doing and maybe get a card with money in it in return. That’s mostly from our families. Always good to ask. All they can say is no.

Lucky for us that we kept our jobs. Vance is still doing his two jobs of opening bottle caps at local bars and freezing off gum and the local movie theater. I am still at K-Mart being a greeter and helping disabled folks while they are in the bathroom. You meet such great people there because you get close to them as you help them take down their panties and then pull them up. Them poor folks just have no abilities to do that.

Our kids are doing real well. Honeybottom just graduated from 6th grade. She was the oldest kid in her class and she was so proud of that. Not often that a 15 year old is in 6th grade. That’s quite an accomplishment. She also has a job now after school and during the Summer. She works at the mall near here pumping up tires on baby strollers what needs it. She doesn’t really get paid, but gets tips from people who are passing by. Must be her personality that gets her all that money in the cigar box she has out front. Last week she made 15 dollars.

Piebrain, our son, has enlisted in the military. We are not sure which of the branches. He didn’t tell us before he went. He said he would write to us when he got stationed or something. I believe he will not be in this country after his training. He was told by his recruiting guy that he would probably be stationed permanently in someplace called North Korea. Never heard of the place, but it sounds exciting.

Did a bunch of traveling. Now that we have some extra money because we are working. Got some freebies in the mail advertising a free meal if you went to some kind of money management thing. Arrived at this motel and sat down with a bunch of people we didn’t know. The guys running this show were really friendly and asked us where our investments  were. We told them that we had most of our investments in our mattress . Probably shouldn’t have told them that. They looked kind of clean cut, but you never know.

We also visited auntie Fern Farkas. We hadn’t seen her in a long while. What with all of her problems and time in jail for shoplifting in a Dick’s sporting goods store. She and her boy friend Needles Narishkeit seem to be doing well. They still live in half a mobile home near the town dump. They are pretty good at finding stuff there that they can use and sometimes sell.

They were so glad to see us. Fern is my mom’s sister from her father’s fifth wife (girlfriend). She has always been the closest to me in the family. Being as she is older than me, I always looked up to her, especially when she taught me things like lifting things from the dollar store and putting on clothes under your coat when you go into a changing room at a clothing store. Those lessons have really helped me through my life.

Yes, and our dancing has really improved. Vance and I turn on our Philco radio and wait for some old timey dance music and cut a rug (that’s what my grandma used to say). We are thinking of going onto one of those dancing shows on the t.v. We saw the program a couple of times when we walked past the appliance store. If things continue to go well, we might get a t.v. this next year.

Well, we hope that you’uns have a great new year and hope that we can link up with you sometime soon

Vance and Verna Feldspar



We just got back from Puerto Vallarta on the west coast of Mexico. The place has been a pleasant interlude in our lives for fifteen years. When we got there in 2002, we were struck with the people, the traditions and the real Mexican flavor of the area.

Why would I say that a Mexican city has a Mexican flavor? The old town, as it is called, is more in the Mexican tradition that the new giant hotel, Walmart, Costco part of the city. If you want to visit Mexico why go to the section of the city that is a duplicate of the U.S.? I can’t really answer.

We have three weeks of a time share in a place called Costa Sur. It has had other names, but that’s what it is known as. The people who work there treat us as family. It feels more like a second home than a tourist place. Their treatment of us is in stark contrast to the “Welcome Tourist” lines from other hotels and time shares. They have treated us properly and have been amazingly helpful.

Therefore, when we went there the first time, we were greeted by the salesperson with great thoughtfulness and equanimity. Hugo D’Alba became a friend of ours. When the property was sold, Hugo found himself out of a job. The new company had a different way of doing things and Hugo was not a fan of the high pressure sales.

We became friendly with Hugo and his two children, Alexei and Irina. Fifteen years ago they were twelve and ten. We visited with his family, went out to restaurants and made home visits. Later on, when the kids got older, we brought them up to PA and to New York City. They were so anxious to see snow.

Irina is a card, so we brought along two of our scholarship winners from rural areas to hang around with Irina. We knew that something was wrong the first day they were together. We had them ensconced in a hotel, while we slept in a hostel in Washington D.C. When we went to pick them up in the morning, Carol and I were informed that we were not going to the Air and Space Museum, but that we were going to an outlet mall. Irina needed jeans and they were so much less expensive here than in Mexico.

Through the years we visited with Hugo and his children. During the early part of our relationship, Hugo and his wife Connie separated and divorced. She had been going to law school and met a professor and got involved. Their relationship produced a son, Ian, who is now nine years old.

Of course Hugo was divested, as were the children. They continued to live in Puerto Vallarta, while Connie and her husband lived in Guadalhara, about five hours distant from PV. Eventually, things started evening themselves out, as Hugo got a job in a curio shop in town, run by some of his friends.

Hugo’s living conditions were less than acceptable. We visited him often and wondered why he and the kids were living there. We found out later that was because the house was owned by a friend who either did not charge rent or very little.

Hugo passed away about five years ago. We visited him at a time when he was not in good shape. Hugo was not accepting of any kind of help, but we insisted and took him shopping and suchlike. He hinted that we should keep an eye on the children when he was gone.

The kids lived with Hugo’s friends for a while and when their secondary schooling was done, they moved to Guadalajara and lived with their mom. We are still not clear about that time in their lives. We tried to help out with some resources and kept in touch with both Alexei and Irina.

Things worked out well for both of Hugo’s children. They completed what we would call a college education (so much less costly than in the U.S.). They now have great jobs; Alexei is a computer person who travels around for his company. Irina is an expert at medical equipment and advices hospitals and medical facilities about such things as MRI’s and other electronic gizmos.

Alexei introduced us to his steady girl Daniela, a few years ago. She is a sweetie and is presently working toward her PhD. She is a perfect combination of kindness and gentleness and a wonderful intellect. She speaks English very well, as do Alexei and Irina.

Last year, Alexei notified us that he and Daniela were going to be married in December of 2017. We usually go to PV in March, but we changed our times and came down in December of 2017.

The wedding was at a beautiful place, trees and flowers and open air. We were delighted. Our appearance there seemed to be welcomed by both friends and family. There were about 80 folks there. The wedding was not religious (Hugo had always described himself as a heretic). It was done by a government official. Each wrote their own vows.

The most surprising thing, to us, was that we were seated at the family table with Alexei and Irina’s mother and step brother, aunts and uncles.  Carol spent most of the night talking to Connie, the kid’s mom. She was not with her professor anymore and when he showed up she kind of disregarded him. The bride and groom sat alone in the front of the gathering. We were introduced as Alexei and Irina’s god parents. That was a surprise to us.

The evening was a blast. There was lots of music, singing and dancing. At one point Alexei broke up when the DJ played “The Piano Man.” That was Hugo’s favorite song. His wife, sister and mom comforted him and he was o.k. after that.

We sat next to Irina and her friend, who was also an attorney. Irina is still the laughing silly person she was always been, with a mature veneer layer over. We love her dearly and invited her to come up and visit with us. We hope that we will continue our relationship with both of them.