PUEBLO PINTADO — A local businessman says he believes he has a plan that will put a badly needed gas station in this remote Navajo Nation town that has been without running pumps for almost four years. Some residents are doubtful, though.
Pueblo Pintado is a town of about 200 people more than 2 hours south of Farmington. It's a nearly 30-mile-drive up a sand road to the Counselor Post, where residents buy gasoline. Pumps are also available 31 miles away in Torreon, 44 miles away in Crownpoint, 69 miles away in Grants or 92 miles away in Farmington.
In late June the Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company hosted a grand opening for a local station that closed in 2011, but it never actually opened.
Denis Buckman Sr., who owns the Chaco Trading Co. in Pueblo Pintado, said he plans to open a gas station in late May. Once the New Mexico office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approves the site plan, he said he and his family will have the tank of the old station — nearly 5 miles up Indian Service Route 9 — hauled to their convenience store. There, he said, they will run four unleaded and two diesel hoses.
"We're confident that they're (the EPA's) going to approve the site plan," he said.
Buckman is set to buy the tank and pumping equipment from the oil and gas company, said Lynette Willie, company public relations manager. Buckman would not say how much he will pay for the tank and equipment, but he said it is a "livable price."
Buckman also operated the gas station up Indian Service Route 9 until he sold the store in late December, 2011, and terminated his lease with the Navajo Nation in late 2012, according to Nation government documents. He said he wanted to retire.
But fishing was boring, he said, so in November, 2012, he, his wife and son converted an old warehouse into the Chaco Trading Company.
Gasoline provides the link to vital services that are not available in that remote location, he said.
"This isn't going to resonate with your readers in Farmington," he told a Daily Times reporter on Friday. "It can be life and death."
One night as he was preparing to close his convenience store, a woman ran into the florescent-lit building explaining that her 14-year-old son had gashed his arm open on a broken window pane and his brachial artery was spouting blood.
"Help me now," she said.
The boy was blue when Buckman reached him in his pickup truck. He bound a tourniquet around the boy's arm. He pressed towels to the gushing wound. When the bleeding slowed, he loosened the tourniquet, dropped the backseats and boarded the mother and her son.
Halfway to Crownpoint Healthcare Facility, the nearest hospital, they met the ambulance, and the boy lived.
"Things happen and why, why do they come to the store. I'm not an MD," he said.
Women in labor have also rushed into building, and others have died in the dirt parking lot, he said.
"But gasoline. If you don't have the fuel to get to Crownpoint, it's pretty bad news," he said. "You know what I'm saying?"
Inside Chaco Trading Co. is a Laundromat and post office. They are the only ones in the town. Inside the Laundromat on Friday, Louise Jim leaned against the post office boxes and watched an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants on a television attached to the wall. Her granddaughter watched from a chair.
"We have to go all the way to the store on (U.S. Route) 550 to get gas," she said.
Her daughter pulled clothes from a dryer at the end of the row of post office boxes. Jim said the Counselor Post on Route 550 is also a source of water when they run out. They had a well, she said, but it went dry.
"It's like a big deal for us," Drake Mace said.
Mace and his mother folded laundry stacked in piles on a table in the room. Mace grew up in the town. Most of his life there had been a gas station, he said, until the station up the road closed in 2011.
Every other day now Mace drives more than 30 miles to Torreon for gasoline. If he totaled the amount of time he spends driving for gas in a week, he said he loses a whole day in his car.
"That grand opening happened and everybody brought their gas cans," he said, "and the store didn't open."
An oil and gas official said in late December the station never opened after the ceremony because a background check revealed the prospective managers were a "credit risk." The company searched for others, but none with the required experience were willing, said Reuben Mike, the company's retail and wholesale business unit vice president.
So these residents are taking a "wait-and-see" approach.
"That was a major put down," said Mary Ann Tsosie, Mace's mother.