Neighborliness is especially important in this little part of Vernon Parish, which sits less than a mile north of the Vernon Parish line on La. 399 due east of Rosepine. The quiet rural community boasts no mansions and harbors no apparent pockets of abject poverty. The homes are generally handsome and the yards are tidy, with livestock dotting the countryside.


Neighborliness is especially important in this little part of Vernon Parish, which sits less than a mile north of the Vernon Parish line on La. 399 due east of Rosepine. The quiet rural community boasts no mansions and harbors no apparent pockets of abject poverty. The homes are generally handsome and the yards are tidy, with livestock dotting the countryside.
But all is not well here, especially for 89-year old Irene Cole, a self described “farmer’s wife”  who has been living alone since her husband of 41 years, Ivy, passed away in 1985. Cole, whose well began going dry last summer, has to collect water from her rain gutters so she can flush her toilets and relies on her neighbors for drinking and cooking water.
Despite the fact that water lines from South Vernon Waterworks come within a mile of her house, the water district has little to say on the matter, said Cole. Last year the water district ran the lines to several of her neighbor’s homes, but stopped a mile or so short from Cole's home.
Cole is not the only person having water trouble in the area according to her neighbor, Joann Harper, who grew up in the area.
“The family behind Mrs. Cole cannot feed their livestock and wash clothes at the same time, and they have a deep well,” she said. “They have to wait for the water to seep back into their well, and this problem has been going on for years.”
Harper is particularly annoyed by the fact she and her neighbors were never contacted by the parish or South Vernon Waterworks when the extension, which terminates less than a mile from their homes, was in the planning stages.
“There was no opportunity for us to comment on the project, and we have never been invited on the system,” she said.
In an interview with the Leader, Cindy Cantrell, water clerk for South Vernon Waterworks, said the area contains only about 85 water meters and that not all of those are in service.
Water District Board member and neighbor to Cole, Lawrence Weldon, who now receives municipal water said that “somebody dropped the ball” when the new service area was surveyed and did not include his neighbors  on La.  399.
“When they first made the survey to get the grant to put the water in they left out the little corner,” Weldon explained. “They never approved the grant for that area. We’ve (the water district board) been talking about laying a line down there at our own expense.”
Cantrell is not so optimistic.
“I doubt if the line will get there, and I don’t expect for them to go that way,” she said speaking of the district’s future plans to lay water pipes.
Van Cassel, the district's water supervisor, who relayed a message via walkie-talkie, said the board was talking about running water to the area but that there were no plans in the works any time soon.
Meanwhile, Cole, has seen her well, initially dug 60 years ago, run dry since the severe drought hit the region. Her troubles began over a year ago but became acute last summer.
“Last summer it really got bad,” Cole said as she sat on her front porch swing. “There was only about three-feet of water in the well and the pump wouldn’t bring it up.”
"Miss Irene," as her neighbors call her, has been in a pinch for water ever since.
I couldn’t live here if it wasn’t for my good neighbors,” she exclaimed. “They bring me water for the well plus drinking water and cooking water. There’s nothing like good neighbors.”
The water line extension is estimated to cost approximately $100,000 according to Rhonda M. Plummer, secretary/treasurer of the Vernon Parish Police Board. The extension would normally be funded by the Louisiana Community Development Block Grant Program (LCDBG) along with matching funds from the parish, but there are no grants of that size currently available.
Police Juror Leonard Johnson, who represents the area, was unavailable to comment for this article.
Harper said the situation is getting critical for everyone, especially Cole.
“Right now she is totally dependent on the water from her neighbors, and I just don’t know how long they can keep going this way," Harper said. "She is probably going to have to move if she doesn’t get water.”