In this one-street town west of Richmond, a former traveling salesman and his sad-eyed horse appear on television each week at 1 a.m. - right after NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
"When they see me and that horse come riding up, they think some spoof is coming on," he says. "You can sneak into a home on a horse. Most anybody will stop and look at a good horse."
For nearly seven years on 12 commercial stations and nearly 50 cable outlets across the South, the sad-eyed horse has held an audience long enough for the Rev. William R. Livermon, the salesman turned preacher, to deliver a low-key message about the Lord.
Livermon, a 62-year-old Methodist minister with a honey-smooth voice and a face like worn leather, calls himself the "Circuit Rider" when he is on television. The horse, a 23-year-old thoroughbred pacer, is called Justice.
At the beginning of each of his more than 60 four-minute "spots" - shown thousands of times to an audience that he says consists mainly of "drunks, dope addicts and college students" - organ music plays and the old chestnut horse walks along a country road beside a white picket fence. The Circuit Rider does a television voice-over:
"Justice is the name of a grand old horse," he says. "Once he paced the race tracks (winning one race 12 years ago in Harrington, N.J.), but now he brings a friend for a visit."
Then, as the organ music fades, the Circuit Rider dismounts Justice, grabs his saddlebags and preaches for precisely three minutes.
The sermons are simple and smoothly delivered. Livermon, before he turned to preaching 37 years ago, was a hard-drinking, poker-playing, dirty-joke-telling man who liked to stay up late. In his television messages on humility and faith, he has not forgotten how to tell a good story.
One of the sermons features a bumblebee tied to the Circuit Rider's saddlebags by a black sewing thread. The camera, which is operated by Livermon's wife, Thelma, zooms in on the bee as the Circuit Rider pets it with his finger.
"Today we picked up a hitchhiker," the Circuit Rider says. "That's a bumblebee. Technically, it's impossible for a bumblebee to fly. Its body is too fat for its wings. Strange thing, though, the blumblebee doesn't know that."
The Circuit Rider then goes on to make the point that if a man has faith that he can manage with his problems, he probably can manage.
Every time Livermon gets off Justice, he had something different in his saddlebags. Sermons have been based on a gypsy moth, a sponge, a nut, an oyster, an empty plate, a child's running shoe, a ladybug and a Tidal Basin cherry tree.
One sermon had been planned around a parakeet but, halfway through the filming, the bird fell off the Circuit Rider's finger - dead.
"That bird had a heart attack," says Thelma Livermon, who remembers pulling her eye away from the camera and looking at the bird on the ground. "It was sad. We'd borrowed the bird from friends in Cobb's Creek, and we had to take them back a dead bird."
Justice was also borrowed from a friend, and the availability of the animal led Livermon and his wife into the film business. The preacher says he had so much fun riding the horse that "I knew I had to do something worthwhile." Upon learning that it cost about $50 an hour to hire a cinematographer, Thelma says, she taught herself to be a camera person.
"I read and I studied and my husband told me and then I just did it. I tell you what, I did a lot of praying," Thelma says.
To distribute the films, Livermon takes a direct approach. He packs his favorite sermons into his car and drives around whenever he can get free of his preaching duties at Powhatan Methodist Church.
"I just go into the station, introduce myself to the station manager as a country preacher and ask him if he has four minutes to spare early on Sunday morning," Livermon says.
The preacher says he prefers to be on TV at a time when most church-going people aren't watching so he can reach the people who need to hear him. He doesn't ask for money, name his denomination or even give his own name.
Requests for help, the films say at the end, should be addressed to the Circuit Rider. Livermon has received calls and letters from as far away as Seattle. Many of them seek comfort, some vent bile.
"One guy called me to say he was sitting in his living room, watching his TV and here I come into his house on that damn horse. He wanted to know who I was," Livermon says.
The preacher had made trips north to New York City to try to peddle his films, but has had little luck. He remembers that he took a sample to an advertising man at J. Walter Thompson, the largest advertising agency in the world.
"The man told me the Circuit Rider wouldn't go over that well up East because they are all going to hell, anyhow," Livermon says. CAPTION: Picture 1, The Rev. William R. Livermon, television's "Circuit Rider," on Justice. By Blaine Harden - The Washington Post; Picture 2, Borrowed horse helps the Rev. William Livermon deliver his TV sermons. By Blaine Harden - The Washington Post