Mystery ham .... Our neighbors in Quail
Valley , Jeannie and Jim Hilliard, are really nice neighbors.
(They will probably want to kill me for writing this. Theyíve
always feared I would write about them one day. Sure enough!)
Anyway, we get together over the back fence
once in a while to grouse about our grown kids all of whom keep
returning home and occasionally playing loud music around our
pools in the summertime. For a while, both families had several
generations living in their respective properties since Jeannie
and I were both hosts to our aging mothers.
Jim Hilliard keeps his property neat and
repaired. I am also conscientious about hiring someone to keep my
property in pretty much the same condition.
The last loud party we had, an engagement party
for the mean son, I invited them to attend which they did. We had
a nice visit.
We also occasionally get each otherís mail. I
get theirs more often because I live on the corner of the
cul-de-sac and it seems that UPS, Fed X, and the post office use
my house as the dropping off point.
Anyway, the point of the story is that a Honey
Baked ham showed up on my doorstep during the Christmas rush.
Since my printer normally gives me a ham every Christmas, and the
day it arrived I was hosting a dinner for the newspaper staff, I
jerked off its wrappings without looking at the address or sender,
and immediately popped it in the refrigerator to use as a backup
in case my dinner was shy of something. My hair was on fire that
Well, we had just enough ribs for our Rib-A-Rama
so the ham was still untouched. A couple of days later, I sent the
ham to the office to use as a birthday celebration entree for
several on the staff who were Christmas babies.
As we are sitting around the office chewing on
our ham, someone asked if the ham was from Jake (the printer), and
if so, why was it only half a ham as he usually springs for a
"I dunno," I replied. "I guess itís the economy
(explaining the half ham), and I wonder why he mailed it this year
instead of sending Jimmy the driver to pick one up and deliver
it?" I questioned.
"Jimmy said last week that he would be in with
our ham later," someone reported.
"But I got this ham in the mail," I explained.
"It appeared on my front porch and I assumed it was from Jake (the
"Then whoís ham is this one?" Ann Sturrock, a
member of our sales staff, asked as she contemplated spitting out
a mouthful of ham.
There followed such a twittering and
speculating and phrases of "political enemies," and "poisoned,"
floating through the air.
"Well, if Jimmy shows up with a whole ham
later, weíll just call it Ďthe mystery ham,í " someone opined.
"Maybe itís supposed to be the neighbors," my
mean daughter, who knows the neighborhood history of misdelivered
"Ooh, stolen ham. Tastes even better," I said,
ever the devil and continued to chow down on the ham.
Well, nobody got sick and sure enough, the
economy must not be that bad as Jimmy, the driver, showed up with
a whole Honey Baked ham a couple of days later.
That night when I got home I found another
misdelivered package which belonged to the Hilliards. Now Iím
starting to feel guilty.
I send my mean daughter over to deliver the
Hilliard package. "Ask them subtly if they are expecting a ham," I
"Now how can I ask subtly about a ham?" she
From my upstairs office window which looks out
on the Hilliardís driveway, I heard her ask (subtly) "Do you know
if youíre expecting a ham?" as she delivered the other misdirected
Jim Hilliard replied that he didnít think so,
but some of his business professionals really hosed him this year
so maybe they sent a ham to placate him. From my perch, I chimed
in that it was a spiral-cut, honey-baked ham. He seemed more
"Check around," I said, promising to cut Jakeís
ham in half and deliver it to him.
Actually, we are about hammed out around here.
We really enjoyed the mystery ham and would like to know who sent
it. Mind you, if you call and take credit for the ham, I will want
to know the reason why you sent me a ham. So donít 20 politicians
start shining me about a ham. And we promise to inform you as you
are probably just as intrigued about the sender as we are (Ha!).
And the fun continues ..... As you
remember from last week, I was making a cursory examination of the
Fort Bend Justice of the Peace work habits. The complaint was that
their salaries continued to rise, while their duties continued to
decrease and that they were never in their offices or on the bench
As you may also remember, I made some phone
checks to see who was in and who wasnít. I continued with that
chore while I researched some other things about the office.
JPs make $65, 376 annually from the county.
They also get paid for weddings that they conduct on county time
and on county property (their courtrooms) and they get to keep
every penny of that. They are paid between $35-40 for each wedding
which they have to report on their income tax, but for which the
county does not participate in any of the profits.
For off premises weddings, they receive
whatever the traffic will bear or whatever the groom feels like
contributing. Many years ago, Judge Adolphus, himself a JP at the
time, testified before a salary grievance committee that he
reported about $20,000 on his income tax. He didnít say what he,
or any other JPs received in cash for weddings and didnít
FYI: JPs car allowances were rolled into their
salaries many years ago, so they only receive payments for mileage
driven outside the county. (This is also in addition to their $65K
plus salary.) So far, they have kept to that gentlemenís
agreement, unlike the commissioners who were supposed to observe
the same agreement but who turn in mileage every month for miles
driven both outside and inside the county.
Nevertheless, you can see the JPs potential for
a six figure income and can start to see why attorneys are willing
to run for the office. Currently, we have two attorneys serving as
JPs -Faye Dettling and Jim Richards.
Since this is getting too long (I shouldnít
have spent that space telling you about the mystery ham), I will
continue the JP story next week with more phone calls and even
more details, including who brings in the most money and who has
the most dismissed cases.