Chinle flea market closed but vendors make do

CHINLE

Paul Guy Jr. and Paul Guy III came to the Chinle flea market bright and early Aug. 4 like they do every Friday to sell their hay. But there was a fence around the couple of acres of bare clay where the market is usually set up.

People and booths and cars crowd onto a dirt road, with overcast cloudy sky.

Navajo Times | Cindy Yurth
Customers browse a long line of booths set up alongside a dirt road after the Chinle flea market closed this week.

The men weren’t about to turn around after loading a semitrailer with hay, so “I just found the closest place to set up,” said Paul Guy III.

It was along the dirt road that bounds the northern side of the market.

Soon, other vendors followed suit, and by noon there was a mile-long, one-booth-wide flea market on each side of the road.

It was not ideal.

“It’s dangerous,” said customer Devina Jones, who was keeping a close eye on her three-year-old, Xavier, and his brand new — well, new to him — $15 bicycle as the pair made their way along a well trampled path on the south side of the road.

As pedestrians browsed in single file on each side of the road, a long line of cars was turning in off busy U.S. Highway 191. Some of the drivers who didn’t want to go to the flea market resorted to driving along the shoulder until they passed the clog of vehicles. Nobody got hurt while the Times was there, but it was not for lack of opportunity.

None of the vendors seemed to know why the grazing permit holder, Zonnie Davis, had fenced off the flea, but they could guess.

Several vendors said some sellers had stopped paying their booth fees because none of the money seemed to go back into maintaining the flea market.

No one answered the door at Davis’ residence adjacent to the market, but her nephew, Eugene Tso, said she fenced off her land because of “too many conflicts” with the vendors.

Paul Guy Jr. said Davis could have prevented the conflicts by just doing a little maintenance, like grading the land.

“Two weeks ago, after it rained, I had to park in the middle of a lake,” he said. “I had to take my van in and out to get hay to people.”

Guy Jr. said he pays $30 to set up his semi at the market and the small booths pay $10.

“The lady (Davis) probably walks away with $1,000 every Friday,” he said. “But we never see any improvement.”

Several vendors, some of whom came from as far away as Mesa and Page, Arizona, said they hoped Chinle Chapter would take the cue and develop a permanent, attractive place for vendors to sell — because people aren’t going to stop selling.

Guy Jr. has a day job, but “for some of these people, this is their vehicle payment; this is their house payment,” he said.

The vendors also provide a service to Chinle Chapter, he added.

“You see here, I’m having my tire fixed,” said Guy Jr. as a young man replaced a rear tire on his van and tightened the lug nuts. “I can’t always go all the way to Gallup.”

If people aren’t going to stop selling, they aren’t going to stop buying either. The makeshift location “doesn’t seem to be hurting business any,” shrugged a woman selling tea and lemonade as she served a steady stream of dusty customers.

“The local chapter house officials need to step in pretty quick,” Guy Jr. said.

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Categories: News

About Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at editor@navajotimes.com.