An old washtub hangs from a nail on the side of Pauline Lloyd's house near Middleburg. But times have been dry lately and at Pauline Lloyd's age -- 77 -- drawing the water that collects in the barrel at the corner of the house and heating it in a pot on the stove and filling the tub . . . well, it gets tiresome.
"Sometimes when it don't rain," she says, "we don't have water in the barrel to fill the tub."
Most days, she takes sponge baths.
That is expected to change soon when Lloyd and her neighbor, 81-year-old Lottie Jackson, are provided with wells drilled with federal assistance. After living through both Roosevelt's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society without help from the government, their graduation into the modern age has been shamefully delayed, local officials say.
Even with wells, Lottie Jackson and Pauline Lloyd will remain a world apart from the wealth that surrounds them, seven miles from Middleburg's swanky shops. Girded by rambling estates bearing names such as Foxlor, Dinnwiddie and White Oak, the two women comprise what one local federal official terms a "pocket of Appalachia poverty in Loudoun County."
Once a week, sometimes twice, Pauline Lloyd walks the 300 yards through the woods to the house of a relative. There she fills two plastic jugs -- the kind milk is sold in -- and carries them home. She empties the water into two buckets that sit on a kitchen table, and closes the buckets with two lids her husband, a former construction laborer who died three years ago, made out of wood.
"I've kind of gotten used to it, but I've gotten a little age on me," says Lloyd, a thin, hollow-cheeked woman standing beside the refrigerator in her two-room shanty. "It kind of gets to me now."
Her neighbor, Lottie Jackson, stores her water in buckets under tables in her kitchen. Her daughter in Paeonian Springs, near Purcellville, brings her a jerry-can full once a week. Sometimes she uses part of her monthly $200 Social Security check to buy drinking water for 79 cents a gallon at the store.
"It might seem strange," says Jackson. "But we either do it or do without."
She has not had running water since 1953, when she and her husband, now dead for 14 years, left a farm near Purcellville where he had worked and they had lived. Before that they lived in the broken down, 100-year-old tarpapered log cabin where she lives now, the tiny house his father built and where they had moved when they were married in 1918.
"There used to be a well here years ago," says Jackson, sitting in front of the wood stove in her miniature bedroom-living room, the bed partially obscured by pieces of cloth hung with plastic clothes pins from a wire. "But it went dry. It was a good well, too."
Slightly more than 500 of Loudoun's 16,000 houses are in similar shape, labeled "substandard" by local authorities. Lloyd and Jackson are among the lucky few who will receive local and federal assistance spread thinly over the area. For years they have lived without wells because they could not afford the $2,800 cost of drilling one. Yet one federal administrator complained he had to "barter" to get that.
"What is substandard in Washington, D.C., is not the same as what is substandard in Loudoun County," says local housing coordinator Sandra Shope, recalling the rapidly developing area's rural flavor and hinting at the political miasma that traditionally has separated white from black and rich from poor.
"We don't receive the millions of dollars that other jurisdictions receive," Shope said.
Yet, there is in Lottie Jackson none of the rancor that fills the local officials who rail at her poverty. "It's pretty shocking," says John Panarelli, the country's housing rehabilitation specialist. "It's just the picture of Loudoun County, the very rich living alongside the very poor."
"It's a way of life most Americans should be ashamed of, seeing people living like that," said Robert Timinski, director of the U.S. Agriculture Department's Farmers Home Administration office in Manassas.
Jackson says, simply, "I been carrying water all my life," ending the sentence, as she does most, with a laugh.
To wash clothes, Jackson draws from the rain water that collects in the steel drum under the downspout outside. An old electric wringer washer machine stands in a corner in her kitchen and she fills it -- or half fills it -- with water she heats on the gas range.
"It does take a lot of water to fill the washing machine," she says. "I'd like to wash more often, but I don't feel like it; liftin' all that water and stuff."
Both women keep a long, thin log in the rain barrel in the winter. "They say it keeps it from freezin' up so fast," says Lloyd. But the water freezes anyway, and, when it does, they chop the ice through with an axe.
"Yes, indeed," laughs Jackson. "That's the trouble. I can't pour it out if it's froze."
Two winters ago, Lloyd and Jackson applied for grants for wells from the Farmers Home Administration. Director Timinski is upset that the money for the wells took so long.
"There should be no excuse for processing a grant for that period of time," he says. "One of the problems is that we have more programs than staffing." Finally the money has come through and the wells should be drilled before the end of the month, Timinski said.
Loudoun's housing authority also has agreed to build a bathroom for Pauline Lloyd and install a sink in the kitchen. Lottie Jackson failed to meet the HUD requirements for similar improvements. Her house is in such bad repair, Panarelli said, the $10,000 grant limit would not be enough to bring it up to federal standards.
Her only choice -- and Jackson's preference -- is to move into one of the county's subsidized housing projects for the elderly, only no one has died yet to leave an opening.
Even so, it's not easy for Lottie Jackson to renounce a whole lifetime's experience. "It's just livin' the old time way," she says. "Yes, indeed."