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BEV'S BURNER
Some's Hot, Some's Not 

by B.K. Carter
This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time and phone number.

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 day.

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 whole one?

"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 printer).

"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 mail, suggested.

"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 ordered.

"Now how can I ask subtly about a ham?" she scoffed.

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 package.

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 interested.

"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 anyway.

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 necessarily report.

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.


B. K. Carter is publisher of the Fort Bend Star. You can e-mail her at bkcstar@earthlink.net


 
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   Last Update:  September 17, 2003