Editor's note: The Daily Times Rewind series revisits stories we have reported on over the past year.
PUEBLO PINTADO >> In late June, residents of this remote area celebrated the coming of a gas station that was expected to make their lives so much easier. But the station never opened.
The building doors are barricaded with particleboard and the only two commercial gasoline pumps for miles around are wrapped in orange construction fencing. In a barred window hangs a closed sign, its business hours blocked out.
The closest gasoline is far away. Residents either drive 30 miles to Torreon, 44 miles to Crownpoint, 69 miles to Grants or 92 miles with shopping plans to Farmington. Some even drive to Albuquerque, 108 miles away.
"But what's there to do?" Lorene Castillo said.
Castillo folded cloths in a Laundromat in a store down Indian Service Route 9 from the shuttered gas station on Thursday. She lives between Torreon and Pueblo Pintado. If she drives infrequently, Castillo said her gasoline will last two weeks.
This is a town of 192 people, according to 2010 U.S. Census figures. It has been without a gas station since 2011.
"It was very unfortunate," Reuben Mike said.
Mike is the vice president of the retail/wholesale business unit for Navajo Oil and Gas, one of the companies that threw a grand opening for the gas station. He said a background check of the local husband and wife who were to run the store revealed in July they were a "credit risk."
Mike wouldn't share the couples' names.
If the gas station opened under their management, the shelves would be empty, Mike said. Suppliers that provide the Coca-Cola, Twinkies and Snickers to fill shelves and coolers would not have done business with them, he said, because they'd be leery of the couple's credit.
Mike's company could find no other management. He said Navajo Oil and Gas can't run the store itself because gas stations turn little profit, especially in remote towns with few residents. And it searched for others in the area, but none with the required business experience were willing.
The company has been negotiating with two potential buyers, Mike said, and it hopes the new owner will supply fuel by March.
But the timeline depends on the buyer, he said. The plan in the beginning was to lease the store to the couple. And over about five years, after they'd paid the mortgage, they'd own it, Mike said, just like they had done with Denis Buckman Sr. who leased the station until 2011 when he had a heart attack
Before Buckman's heart attack, he and his wife and their son ran the gas station.
He let the lease go, per his doctor's orders.
But Buckman has been a businessman for most of his life, and in November 2012 he and his wife, Brenda, turned an old warehouse down the road into a multi-purpose building.
They opened a Laundromat and a small convenience store. The Laundromat is the only one in town. And there was no mail before the Buckmans opened a post office between the Laundromat and the convenience store -- all under one square roof.
The Buckmans had planned to open another gas station at their new store once he had recovered. They abandoned those plans when they heard Navajo Oil and Gas was reopening the old station.
Sometime this summer, Denis Buckman Sr. said, the couple plans to install gas pumps on a flat spot outside the store.
Inside that store, Brenda Buckman restocked shelves with marshmallows, laundry detergent, canned tuna fish and noodles in a bag. Yes, she said, pausing for a moment to talk, she'd heard of the unfortunate news.
"I don't know much about it," she said. "I just know they had a grand opening and never opened."
Denis Buckman Sr. said people pushed hard for that store to open, and they were crushed when it never did.
"It's a bummer driving 25 miles to get to a gas station," he said, standing at the head of one of the two short aisles, shuffling to let at man pass. "We were looking at pretty basic stuff (to pump fuel), and it was still might pricey.
"I have never seen anything so messed up and contoured in my life," he said. "It's just a sad thing."
But the town has to move forward, he said.
"Whether we've got it or they've got it," he said, "there'll be a local gas station."