Buckhall's bob-tailed mayor yawned and scratched her ear, perhaps wondering what became of her tail. Not that there's any shortage of tales in Buckhall.
Take Her Honor, for instance. A "Democrat" by persuasion, the mayor is the incumbent fat cat of this small Prince William County community whose main claim to fame is a joke it is playing on the rest of the world.
The comedy stems from a bumper sticker seen on hundreds of cars in the metropolitan area: "You Can See It All At Buckhall Mall."
Now there's nothing funny about the slogan, mind you. There is a Buckhall Mall, offering everything from armadillo traps, porcelain slop jars, false teeth and chickens (live, dead, or rubber) to a bust of John Wayne, complete with dangling cigarette.
Each week the bumper stickers -- reportedly spotted as far away as Japan and Yugoslavia -- draw the bewildered and the curious to Buckhall, which is just off Davis Ford Road in northeastern Prince William. They come in search of a concrete-and-chrome paragon of retail, only to discover a modest general store opposite a rural graveyard.
Many's the poor soul who spent more than lunch money in pursuit of what turns out to be small crossroads populated by an assortment of country-wise comedians, three rabbits and a mayor who is nothing more that a "mixed-breed," tailless gray cat.
Buckhall consists of several dozen older homes, some dating back a century, and a new subdivision known as Dozen Mill Acres. There's an old school house, built in 1865 and restored 100 years later by the Buckhall Civic Association, which uses the building for its monthly meetings. Some of the history of the community can be found in the small graveyard, where tombstone dates go back to 1806.
Last but not least is the Buckhall General Store or, as the bumper stickers call it, "Buckhall Mall." It is the true center of the community and, according to resident Joe Kemper, "the center of the universe."
Kemper, who last year married the store's former owner, Hallie Cornwell, has spent much of his life in Buckhall and says he does most of his shopping at "the mall." Kemper, 69, is proud of Buckhall, the store and the school. When it comes to the mayor, Kemper describes himself as the "loyal opposition."
The current mayor took office when the incumbent, Rattler, a blue-tick hound, disappeared. At the end of her first term, the mayor's only opposition was from political lightweights such as Kemper.
"Why, I considered running against her," Kemper said, "and I scouted around and I discovered I'd only get one or two votes. Mine and my wife's. Everybody said I probably couldn't catch mice as well as she can."
Like many of those who hang out at the store, Kemper has a sense of humor, even if many of the visitors do not.
"The other day a fella come in here from Maryland and said, 'Excuse me, where is Buckhall Mall?' We told him. 'You're kidding me, you've got to be kidding me, this is a joke,' he said, and he walked out mad," recalls the owner of the store, Tom De Lavello.
"Most people come in here (in response to the bumper stickers) and think it's quite comical," said De Lavello, who runs the $200,000-a-year operation by the motto, "If we don't have it, you don't need it."
De Lavello stocks a general line of goods and groceries along with the more exotic items and the bumper stickers. He also stocks plenty of free advice, such as "Put all your dollars into taxes. It's the only thing that is sure to go up."
The bumper stickers, which De Lavello passes out for free, are among the hottest items.
"They come in here wantin' to buy 'em," says store habitue James Mathis, who spends a good part of his time at the store because, he says, "it's better than sitting at home alone."
"It all started as a joke," De Lavello said. "Everybody takes a lot of credit for it, but it was only several people who got it started" four or five years ago.
De Lavello, who runs the store with the help of his wife Robbie and two sons, said the remark that started it all came from a friend the first time he stepped on the premises: "My God, you've got everything in here, just like a mall."
Tom Cronin, owner of the National Specialty Products of Manassas, had the last batch of 1,000 stickers printed up for the store. Cronin, who estimates 1,500 to 2,000 bumper stickers have been printed up over the years, claims they now are on the back of autos all over the country.
"Everyone knows everyone at the store. You can go there and ask where your children are if you're looking for them," says Karen Sims, who lives in the Dozer Mill subdivision. Sims' family does a lot of its shopping at the store because "you can get everything there. The children love it. It's very rural."
De Lavello and others at the store return the loyalty to the community. For instance, De Lavello has been known to open the store at odd hours so mothers can make sure their babies have milk in the morning.
One customer, Fairfax County resident Willard Pearson, stops by the store every day. So far, Pearson has only one complaint: "I like a drink of 'likker' every once in a while and you can't get it here (De Lavello is proud of his international assortment of beers, however)."
Few changes have been made at the store over the 77 years it has been in Buckhall. One change is that De Lavello now accepts major credit cards, although a sign reminds customers, "We Accept Cash."
But another sign in the store best sums up the essence of Buckhall Mall: "Cows may come and cows may go, but the bull in this place goes on forever."
"Amen," offers one anonymous patron.