DISLOCATED: Elders take on liquor stores

Glendora Burnside, 12 year employee of Red Barn Trading Post, keeps a log book of every customer who makes a purchase. The log book consists of names, identification information and any details of the individual Burnside feels should be noted.

In the 1980s, families reluctantly began moving to the New Lands. Parents told themselves that their children would benefit from living in this new place, because they had been promised jobs. But economic development never arrived. A planned factory did not open. A grocery store burned to the ground and was replaced by a liquor store.

Promised land falls short

Betty Manybeads says she would not have moved to the New Lands if she had known alcohol would be sold here. She says drug and alcohol abuse has devastated the community.

Ole Red Barn

The nearest grocery store is a 100-mile roundtrip drive. Residents say they live in fear because of the lack of police protection. When people call for help, police officers respond hours later, if at all. In Sanders, Ariz., men and women gather all day, every day, to drink alcohol behind a boarded-up food stand in the center of town. There are four liquor stores in the New Lands but no grocery stores.

The path to recovery

Marjorie Brown stopped drinking 17 years ago. She says she is praying that her relatives will stop abusing alcohol too. Alcohol and drugs became a poisonous salve for some relocatees who were overwhelmed by the stress of moving, paying bills and joblessness. Residents say the preponderance of liquor stores in the area — and the lack of other businesses — has been a curse on the New Lands.

Alcohol and drugs became a poisonous salve for some relocatees who were overwhelmed by the stress of moving, paying bills and joblessness. Residents say the preponderance of liquor stores in the area -- and the lack of other businesses -- has been a curse on the New Lands.

Elders tell stories of their own adult children beating them, of being afraid to leave their houses for fear of being robbed, of being raped. They recount stories of friends being beaten, dumped and left for dead. They tell of relatives who’ve frozen to death while passed out drunk in a culvert under the highway and scores of loved ones taken by drunk drivers.

In January 2014, tension over alcohol and drugs in the New Lands came to a head. Gary McDonald, the owner of three area liquor stores was arrested for the second time on drug and weapons charges. Even though they feared retribution, a group of senior citizens has mobilized a campaign to close the liquor stores and take back their community.

Better than no job

Glendora Burnside has been tending the window at the Ole Red Barn liquor store for a decade. There are few jobs in this remote area 45 miles west of Gallup along Interstate 40. Like the other women who work here, Burnside is a single mom. So she figures this job is better than no job.

© Amanda Ray all rights reserved.

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