Standing behind the hardwood counter of the Philomont General Store, under hanging sugar-cured hams, rubber work boots and multicolored tractor caps, Stanley Lickey figures he knows how his Loudoun County crossroads will vote Nov. 4.
"Everybody around here wants the Philadelphia Phillies to be president," says Lickey, the owner of Philomont's only business and chief of the volunteer fire department.
The 120 people in this picture-perfect farm hamlet live on the western edge of the Washington suburbs, but like to think they are much further removed from city ways.
In Philomont, where Mosby's Raiders took refuge during the Civil War and moonshiners set up stills during Prohibition, politicians are about as revered as tax collectors. Daily life is still ruled more by seasonal changes than legislative decrees.
"People here are just not into politics," says postmaster Laura Pearson who dispenses stamps from the back corner of the 67-year-old general store that was once known as "Loafers' Paradise" and still serves as the community's main gossip parlor.
As a topic of conversation, politics follows far behind the weather and local gossip, both of which have been exceedinly dry this year. The race between Carter, Reagan and Anderson has prompted little besides apathy and antagonism.
"I don't have any time for politics," says 54-year-old John Klappert. "I work on a farm and move those goldurned cattle from one day to the next."
"What does it matter what they say now," adds John Fisher, a local junkyard worker stopping by the general store for an RC Cola. "They're going to do what they want to once they get in office anyway."
Part of Philomont's political disinterest is traditional. Though the town is set in some of Loudoun County's prettiest hill country, it is also half a dozen miles between both Rtes. 7 and 50. Outsiders who do find Philomont are usually lost.
But this year, say old timers, the crop of presidential candidates has left residents shaking already skeptical heads.
"I am really so disillusioned," says Charles Underwood, a 68-year-old farmer whose chickens, turkeys and pigs share a barnyard with French carrier pigeons, guinea hens and peacocks. "I thought Mr. Carter was such a basically good person."
Underwood has nothing better to say about the other candidates. Anderson he calls a "straggler" and the prospect of Reagan as president prompts an expression of mock horror.
"A movie actor in the White House is an awesome thought," says Underwood, who is known throughout the area for his homemade wine, cider and relish as well as the annual hog slaughter he hosts on his farm.
"I don't know who to vote for, everybody running seems like such a clown" says 24-year-old Paul Roxenberg, who moved to Philomont six years ago from Silver Spring. Paul's wife Beverly, who was born and raised in Philomont, thinks President Carter has been catching too much of the blame for inflation, but she stops short of saying she'll vote for him.
"I keep waiting for somebody better to show up," laughs Beverly, who works as a kindergarten teacher and waitress in nearby Purcellville while her husband commutes to a fire-fighting job in Fairfax County.
Most of Philomont's working residents travel no further than nearby farms or small businesses. But in the last 10 years, a significant number of new residents have been moving into the area from Washington and its suburbs. Locals say the new commuters, who have helped push real estate prices higher than this year's corn, have brought a Republican bias to this once Democratic stronghold.
"We are having a lot of higher-class people moving out here from Washington. Most of them seem to be Republicans," says Postmaster Pearson whose ancestors have been postmasters in Philomont for most of the last 100 years.
Many of the older residents still identify themselves as Democrats. Robert George, a retired C & P Telephone worker, says he has always voted Democratic and will again this year.
But younger farmers, upset with Carter's agriculture programs and foreign policy, are looking for a change.
"We need someone like Reagan to make America great again, or at least try to," says Tom Gray, a 25-year-old farming son of a local farm family.
R. W. Irwin, a retired plumber and official poll watcher in Philomont, says the town has voted Democratic in every election he can recall. But this year, says Irwin, "I wouldn't bet a nickel on which way it will go."
"The political split in Philomont has created little ill will. Politics pales in comparison to the really essential things in the little town's life, such as Sunday night turkey shoots, Sunday potluck dinners and country dances in the volunteer fire department.
Stan Lickey and his 21-year-old son can sit on the front porch of the family store and disagree about candidates without losing their smiles.
"Carter just hasn't done a good job against inflation," says Stan Jr.
"If Reagan gets elected you'll be going over to fight China and Japan," answers his father.
Later, inside his store, which is stocked with everything from Boraxo hand soap to leather belts and lard cans, Lickey concedes that his political affection is still unwon.
"I might just vote for Anderson," says Lickey. "I know he can't win but at least I won't have a guilty conscience."