The way Jimmy Earl sess it, "half an inch of rain every week is more important than who gets elected governor of Virginia."

He pushes the John Deere cap back on his forehead, leans up against one of the wide, thick wooden boards that has been laid across two 55-gallon oil drums and wipes the barbeque sauce off this mouth.

"You see all these politicians hustling around," he says. "I don't really pay no mind to 'em. I'm watching those clouds to see if the rain starts coming."

The barbeque sauce, the clouds and the John Deere hats are all part of the Third Annual Virginia Pork Festival, an event that brought about 5,000 people together Wednesday for some serious eating and drinking on the Greensville County Ruritan Club grounds here.

And wherever 5,000 people are gathered in the week before an election, there are of course swarms of politicians shaking hands and kissing babies.

Not that it matters.

Becuase this is not Washington.

Emporia may be only a few hours south of the capital, just below Richmond, but to listen to the people here, you could easily mistake it for the San Fernando Valley. Say Washington in California, and people respond: "Up there? Oh, you mean Washington dee-cee. " Jimmy Earl raises peanuts, and he says, "I bet Jimmy Carter wouldn't know what kind of fertilizer to use on a corp."

Anyway, this is a party. Two bands are cranking out country-western music ("If fingerprints turned out on skin/I wonder whose they'd find on you . . .") and a few couples are grinding away in front of the bandstand.A baby pig named Little Mac, wearing a tiny top hat, is being led around on a leash. Beer is pouring out of kegs, and mixed drinks are being handed around like water, and plastic garbage cans are full of pre-sugared iced tea. Not to meantion food: 20,000 ham biscuits; a ton of barbequed spare ribs; 15,000 sausage-burgers; 20,000 hot dogs; a ton of grilled pork chops, and undisclosed amounts of mountain oysters and chitterlings. Allyou can eat and drink for $5.

A portly man of 68 is stuffing a hot dog in his mouth. He says his father cured hams for Smithfield, and he never heard of anyone dying from sodium nitrite.

"If all them bureaucrats at the Department of Agriculture spent sometime out in the sun on a tractor," he says, "they wouldn't have no problem with all the stuff they say is bad for you."

Chuck Robb, who along with Andy Miller and John Dalton is looking for votes, walks up to one farmer and offers a handshake.

"Hi, I'm Chuck Robb and I'm running for . . ."

He's interrupted:

"Whatta you know about farmers' problems," the man mumbles, and walks off.

Over by the hush-puppies tent, two men are debating the merits of baled vs. rolled hay. A young boy is hitting a dog over the head with a pork chop. A loaded man pours a cup of beer over his wife's head, only to have her turn around and belt him.

"Ain't that just like Rena," an onlooker says to a companion. "Remember the time she konked Billy over the head with a skillet for getting drunk and bringing the pig in the house and sticking it in the commode?"

A stranger puts his arm around Barbara Norman, who's just graduated from high school and has been crowned Virginia Pork Queen.

She smiles and tells the secret of her success:

"We had to give a speech about pigs, and I wrote a sonnet about them."