The Keetons have a well, but it stopped working. They collect rainwater in barrels to flush toilets and clean. They drive to town to fill jugs and a tank with drinking water.
Their trailer, surrounded by weeds, junk and dogs, was a wreck. They heat it with a kerosene heater, but it must be freezing in winter. The thin walls have little insulation. There’s no foundation, either. One living room window had leaked for years; everything below it had rotted away. Although we were supposed to replace only the window, we ended up also replacing the window frame, studs, part of the floor and some drywall.
Volunteers worked and worked to pull the old pump and pipe from the well, install a new pump and replace all the wiring … but all for naught. Unbeknownst to everyone, the well had collapsed far below the surface. When that became clear, one volunteer wept.
President Johnson declared a “war on poverty” in 1964. Trillions of dollars later, the Keetons are still collecting rain water and hoping that someone can fix their well. It would be like dying and going to heaven.
Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.