The mail is only part of what draws Keller and other residents of this rural nook to the post office, which is among 2,000 nationwide that the U.S. Postal Service says it might close to help stem losses of $23 million a day.
Keller is also here for the possibility of conversation, which she finds when she notices Yvonne Renner, 78, the post office's landlord and next-door neighbor. Renner's grandfather once served as postmaster. He was succeeded by her mother, Edna, whose photograph still hangs on the wall, 27 years after her reign's end.
"Hi, Helen," Renner says.
"My son just had knee surgery."
"Seems to be popular these days."
"It's always something."
" 'Tis that."
Ninety miles west of Washington, at the foot of the Shenandoah Mountains, Star Tannery's main attractions are its church, which hosts an annual picnic on the second Saturday in August; a bar with $2 drafts and karaoke every Wednesday; a fire hall, home to the annual farmers carnival in July; a lone market that serves sandwiches on white - and white only - and does not have a toaster; and the post office, all of 308 square feet, which has been in the same white clapboard building since 1923, when Postmaster Hesler Himelright opened it in his general store.
Take away their post office, Star Tannery's residents say, and they will have to make a 20-mile round trip to Strasburg for that basic service. As much as inconvenience, they fear losing that inky black "Star Tannery, Va." on their postmark, a celebration of their place on the map.
"We'd lose our identity," says Eleanor Himelright, 76, a distant cousin of Hesler's who lives on Himelright Lane, just down the road from the cemetery dotted with Himelright tombstones.
About noon, Himelright dropped by the post office to mail her phone bill, just before Anne Repaske, 85, a retired microbiologist and cashmere goat farmer, who sent a $100 birthday present to her grandson, $50 to her granddaughter to help pay rent, a $1,260 quarterly tax payment to the IRS and three pairs of underwear back to the company that sent her the wrong size.
"Closing the post office would be one step toward eradicating small-town life in America," Repaske said before heading back to her goats.
More than a century ago, as Americans migrated west, the Postal Service opened offices seemingly everywhere, fulfilling its mission, as stated in federal law, to provide "services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary and business correspondence of the people."
At its peak in 1901, the Postal Service maintained 76,945 branches across the United States - sometimes in stores, barbershops and the occasional church. That number dropped as letter carriers began to deliver to homes in rural areas, making offices less essential as pick-up points for mail. Today, as Americans increasingly communicate electronically, the volume of mail has plummeted by more than 20 percent in five years, leaving the country with fewer than 32,000 post offices.