87-year-old Poga woman gets first indoor bathroom

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

Missouri Dugger is 87 years old and still splits her own firewood, loads her own coal for her stove, and has lived in the same home since 1939. But in all of her 87 years, she has never had a bathroom inside her house, until now.
   Local workers with the Little Milligan School Community Water Fund group worked with representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Rural Development, who funded the new bathroom, complete with a full size bathtub, sink and toilet.
   The $7,500 project also helped purchase a kitchen sink, which sits next to an antique washer that Dugger still uses for washing clothes, in spite of a new connection for an automatic washer that was installed by volunteers from the Appalachian Service Project during the summer.
   Dugger told J.R. Campbell, who was instrumental in securing funds from the Office of Rural Development, that she would never live long enough to get an automatic washer. Well, she did.
   Campbell and other workers from the community water fund; State Trooper Dexter Lunceford; Bill Snodgrass; a representative for Congressman Bill Jenkins; Charles D. Brooks, rural development manager of the Greeneville office, and Diana Mitchell, rural development single family housing specialist, visited Dugger Thursday morning to present her with a brand new automatic washing machine.
   In game-show fashion, Campbell tried to make Dugger guess what gift she had received. She said she hoped it was a dog catcher because her neighbor's dogs always try to crawl underneath her house. But as Campbell unloaded the washing machine from the truck, Dugger said he didn't give her a chance to guess because he uncovered the box too soon.
   "I didn't guess. Well I see on the box. I don't have to guess," said Dugger. "Well you 'uns will have to put it up fer me."
   "Santa Clause said not to call him this year," said Campbell.
   Amidst all the excitement of proudly showing her new bathroom to her visitors, Dugger reminisced about her full life. Despite having the convenience of an indoor bathroom now, she described the time of the Great Depression as harder, but better. "Times are better now, but they are not as good," she said.
   "The depression was hard, but they was good times. They wasn't no welfare; no jobs that you could get then. But when you got a dollar, you could buy a whole lot of somethin' with it. Now you can't hardly buy you a sandwich," she said.
   Campbell added, "It was a less stressful time. Everyone didn't have to have the good stuff. Then it was more simpler. You didn't worry about going to the mall today. What you worried about was getting the rocks out there and keeping the kids out of the branch."
   Campbell said working with Dugger has made his year magical and told a story about one hot day in the summer when temperatures rose above 90 degrees. "She is so special. One day, Dexter and I were laying block. It was 91 or 92 degrees. It was the hottest day of the year, and she was behind the house splitting wood."
   In response to all the work done for her over the summer, Dugger was most grateful for the convenience an indoor bathroom now provides her. In the past, her bathroom was an outhouse in her backyard, and her usual routine was to place a bucket under the pipe at the creek while she used the bathroom. By the time she was finished, her water bucket would be full.
   Dugger still collects water from the creek that runs behind her four-room home, despite the availability of running water inside her home.
   "Missouri, one of these men wants to know if you are going to retire your dish pan," asked Campbell.
   "No, sir. I won't retire my dish pan. I have got my dish pan, my water bucket and all my other water jugs ... I can't trust this water. It may go bad at any minute. I keep me some drawed up in jugs too. I have got my jugs full of water. I ain't going to let my water bucket and pan go," said Dugger.
   "I got my wood in before it rained; course, I ain't been a usin' no coal yet. I still got my coal I got last year. I got out yesterday and split my wood.
   "I am going to keep that (old washing machine). I need a new stove. But that will wait 'til next year. I will if it is the Lord's will for me to be livin' next year," she added.
   Mitchell asked Dugger when she would become comfortable using all the new technology, especially the automatic washing machine. She replied, "I am just use' to this ol' ringer type. I will get use' to it a little later but I don't know when."
   "I have lived without the water 'bout all my life, just here 'til they built the bathroom."
   When she revealed her birthday was Oct. 12, Campbell said to consider the washing machine a birthday present and to expect a Christmas present after all.
   Brooks presented an award to Campbell and the others who worked with him on Dugger's home.
   "There was a need up here that was brought to our attention. We were able to because of their interest with the Little Milligan School Community Water Fund group able to bring to Diana's attention a need that we had up here that we wanted to address. As a result, our state director wanted to give out a partnership award," Brooks said.
   According to Brooks, other houses are being renovated in the Poga area by the Office of Rural Development. The houses have been labeled "substandard" and mostly belong to elderly people who cannot complete renovation work themselves. Those interested in applying for assistance can contact the Office of Rural Development at (423) 638-4771.