You never know how a plumber might get paid.

Manassas Museum officials are jubilant. It was recently confirmed that a 6-foot-long spear, or "pike," donated to the museum in 1980 is one of 954 that abolitionist John Brown gave to slaves as weapons before the doomed insurrection at Harpers Ferry in October 1859.

The spear was donated by Virginia Henry, who told museum officials that it had been given to her father, a plumber, by a District man who could not pay his bill, according to museum director Doug Harvey.

Officials began checking the authenticity of the item with officials at the U.S. Marine Corps Museum and the Manassas National Battlefield Park and historian Lee Wallace Jr. of Falls Church.

All agreed that the spear, numbered 189, is the real McCoy.

"Did John Brown handle it? And did he pass it out to one of the slaves?" Harvey asked.

"This conjures up some real images for me."

Brown, who hoped to foment a slave insurrection in the South, attacked the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, then part of Virginia, with a small band of men. He was captured by a force under the command of Col. Robert E. Lee.

As Prince William County budget director, Craig Gerhart must sometimes react rather coolly to his colleagues' new spending proposals.

Cool, however, is hardly an apt description of a culinary concoction recently prepared by Gerhart's wife, Marty Reinhart.

Chili was the main course one Sunday last month when the couple invited neighbors, including Planning Director John Schofield, over to watch the Super Bowl. This wasn't chili for the faint of heart, either. The recipe includes tequila, dark beer, cocoa -- and generous portions of chili powder.

"Really potent," reported Schofield of the incendiary entree.

High praise, but it remains to be seen if the compliments will help the planning director at this year's budget sessions.

A thief or thieves may be riding tall in the saddle for the time being.

Two saddles, one English and one western, were reported stolen Feb. 7 from a vehicle parked at Gordon Plaza near the Basics supermarket, according to police.

Sights and sounds from the Feb. 8 Manassas City Council meeting:

Mayor Edgar Rohr, reading an ordinance at the end of the nearly three-hour meeting: "Ordinance #89-78 to transfer $2,000 of police department funds for the purpose of purchasing ammunition. BANG. BANG."

And a bit of rhythm and cadence nearly erupted after 30 minutes of discussion about whether the city should grant a special use permit to Southern Railway Co. for a 30,000-gallon petroleum storage facility.

"Mayors change. Councils change. Trainmasters change," said council member Maury Gerson in an almost foot-tapping beat. "And," chimed in the lawyer for the rails, "Southern Railway keeps tr-training along."