Monday, April 13, 2009

Cheers - A My Town Monday Post

Most of my posts about Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle are positive, or at least neutral. I try to shy away from politics and my own opinions on this blog. I try to look at the bigger picture and present things that highlight the cultural differences between my home and yours, but this week I'm going to tell y'all about a common practice in these parts that is asinine regardless of how you paint it. I'm gonna ramble for a minute, but stay with me.

Canyon, Texas is but a short hop to the south of Amarillo. Twelve or so miles but there are enough businesses and homes along Interstate 27 that it only seems like four or five. Beyond Canyon, on Interstate 27 a traveler will pass through the towns of Happy, Tulia, Kress, Plainview, Hale Center, Abernathy, New Deal, and finally Lubbock. There Interstate 27 ends and since it beings in Amarillo the term Interstate is a misnomer, as all 112 miles of the road resides within the confines of The Lone Star State. So let's call I-27 an Intrastate Highway. But the wrongly named roadway isn't really what this post is about. There is actually something else odd about the byway.

It's dry.

No, I''m not talking about the lack of rainfall, or the evaporating playa lakes. I'm talking about booze. Until recently* you could not buy a single drop of alcohol anywhere between the outskirts of Amarillo and the far side of Lubbock.


And even odder, Canyon, Texas is a college town. The home of West Texas A&M University.

Simply put, I do not get dry counties. I understand the theory. The entire remove from temptation rhetoric, but I ain't buying it. People that wanna drink are gonna drink regardless. Prohibition failed miserably and went a long way to creating organized crime. So how does anyone think regionalized prohibition is a good idea? Yes, bootlegging of a sort is common. Not like the rum runners and moonshiners of old that created NASCAR, but many a guy can make a few bucks by hauling back a case of brew for his buddies after a trip to Amarillo or Nazareth. Nazareth is a small German community that sits a ways off of the interstate. Despite having less than 400 residents the tiny rural town supports two or three liquor stores because all of the surrounding areas are dry.

I'm open for discussion on the benefits of a dry county, but I am of the opinion that the policy creates problems rather than solving them. I say it creates drunk drivers. If a guy has to get in his car and head a county or two over he's not going to wait until he gets home to crack that first beer like he might if his trip was only to the convenience store around the corner. And when the boys at the frat house run out of beer,a s they are eventually going to do, isn't it better if they have the option to walk to a store on the edge of campus, or ride a bike? Not in Canyon, they have to hop in a car and get on the interstate no less.

Ohh ... but the tee-totalers would have you to believe that the frat parties at WT involve Hawaiian Punch and Kool-Aid, because it's too much trouble to import beer from that ungodly big city twelve miles to the north.

Okay I'm going to step down off my beerbox and say there are a number of counties in the Texas Panhandle that have restricted liquor laws. Some are completely dry - no booze whatsoever. Others you can join a private club and drink there - again forcing you to drive home at the end of the night. Some sell beer and wine only. Most places in the entire state restrict hard liquor sales on Sunday or after 9 PM the other days.

Now I'm in no way condoning drunk driving. I'm all for designated drivers, heck I'm all for drinking in the safety of your own home, but when rules go overboard and create more problems than they solve, I just don't get how they remain in place.

So I'm curious. Is this dry county business a bible belt side affect or do you have such in your area. Can you buy hard liquor on Sunday? Or after 9? What unique laws do you have? And yes, I am fully aware that I am stumping for what many consider a sin on one of the most religious days of the year. But after all, Jesus turned that water into wine, not grape juice.

* The city of Plainview recently voted to lift the no booze ban in order to recapture the tax revenue they were losing to other counties.

Thirsty for more MY TOWN MONDAY posts? Check out these links.

Yellowdog Granny - West, Texas
David Cranmer - Castine, Maine
Barbara Martin - Toronto, Canada
Debra - Village of Peninsula, Ohio
Gary Dobbs - South Wales, England
Lana Gramlich - Abita Springs, Louisiana
Barrie Summy - San Diego, California
Reb - Elk Island National Park, Alberta, Canada
Passage of Woman - Kingston, Tennessee
Chris - India
Terrie Farley Moran - New York City, New York
Patti Abbott - Hamtramck, Michigan
J Winter - Cincinnati, Ohio
Cloudia - Honolulu, Hawaii
Carolee Sherwood -
Ogunquit Beach, Maine
A.K. - Delhi, India
Clair Dickson - Livingston County, Michigan
Junosmom - Kentucky


Laura K. Curtis said...

Yes, dry counties are more common in the bible belt, but they're not restricted solely to that area. My mother said she has to pack a bottle of wine to go visit my brother in Martha's Vineyard this summer, because the town they stay in is dry. Which seems ridiculous to me, because MV is so permissive in other ways.

You can't buy hard liquor, or even wine, in supermarkets in either NY or MA, but you *can* buy beer there and the liquor stores are open on Sunday. They just have to close early.

Some 25 years ago, when I lived in St. Louis, they not only didn't sell liquor on Sundays, they didn't sell hardware. Because, you know, you're not supposed to work on the Sabbath.

I'm with you. I think dry counties do more harm than good. But I also think they illuminate an attitude that's all too prevalent in our society--the idea that willpower and responsibility are too difficult to cultivate.

Any time something is being "banned," it's usually because the people who disapprove of it aren't sure of their own power over others. Rather than explaining all the reasons drinking/smoking/whatever are morally wrong/unhealthy/unattractive/whatever, the impetus is to make those things illegal.

G. B. Miller said...

In Connecticut, the stores are open only to 9p and closed on Sundays.

However, we do have a dry college campus, Central CT State University.

Go figure.

We go more package stores that churches in this state. As a matter of fact, the Governor very recently was looking to expand the bar hours at our two casinos (yes we have two casinos in our tiny state: Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun), in order to get some extra tax revenue.

However, that plan was soon scuttled when during the very same week that this playing out in the newspapers, a drunk driving fatality took place near the casion. It was later determined that the person in question got drunk at one of the casinos before getting behind the wheel of his car.

Interstingly enough, we also had a hysterical uproar over someone wanting to open a drive-thru package store a couple of years ago.

Imagine the uproar we would have if gas stations in this state were allowed to sell beer.

David Cranmer said...

Travis, I've been around a good chunk of our country and the Bible belt has a monopoly on dry counties. There may be other pockets but I haven't come across so many in one area. And you're right that they don't work.

Btw I have an MTM from Castine, Maine posted.

yellowdoggranny said...

i never did get the dry counties..just so not having it to drink there would stop people from drinking..they'll just go someplace else to drink and get drunk and on the way home get a dui...duh!
thanks for the link ....

Unknown said...

Hell, in Florida, there are only 5 out of 67 dry counties in Florida. We can buy booze on Sunday, but not before a certain time .. I forget what that time is. When we moved to NC about 10 years ago, we moved to a dry county. The residents there REALLY need to drink. They are ALL crazy.. but that's a whole other story.

I don't get the dry county theory either. I'm with you, I think it creates rather than solves problems

jjdebenedictis said...

In my neck o' Canadia-land, the government sells almost all unopened alcohol. There are a few speciality stores for wine and expensive liquors, but generally you need to go to an official liquor store to get booze. Grocery and convenience stores are NOT allowed to sell alcohol.

In the past, the government liquor store hours tended to not be that great (closed at 5PM, not open on Sundays), but they've gotten better in the big cities.

Still, it's one of great culture shocks for a Canadian visiting the States to walk into a 7-11 and see beer on the shelves. Guaranteed double-take.

ssas said...

We can buy liquor here in CO on Sundays now, at long last.

Got to be a Bible Belt thing.

Beth said...

We’re not dry here! The provincial government basically has a monopoly on the sale of liquor. The stores are called The LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) – doing business since 1927 and generating a great income for the government.
We also have beer stores – all known as The Beer Store.
No sale of liquor in grocery stores – it always amazes me to see that when visiting in the U.S.

pattinase (abbott) said...

We used to vacation at a town in New Jersey that was dry. I liked it because it kept rowdiness in the town down, but you could go right across the bay and buy booze. I think it's too controlling for normal life. Mine goes up at ten.

sybil law said...

I honestly don't know about all of Ohio, but certainly here, is NOT dry, thank GOD. I can buy beer and liquor either at the grocery (albeit crappy liquor) or one of a katrillion wine/ liquor stores. Or the gas station (beer). However, I have been to dry counties in Kentucky, where moonshine is still HUGE. If I know I'll be in a dry county, I make sure to stock up.
I really don't understand the "need" for dry counties, either. Unless you're like, Amish.
(And my grandpa was a rum runner/ moonshiner back in the day!)

Clair D. said...

Hi Travis--
Michigan's liquor laws leave it largely up to the county, but I don't know of any dry counties. My county certainly isn't, though there are only a handful of liquor licenses available. (In fact, we just had a situation where Kroger came to one of our towns, and the "Liquor Store" down the road lost it's liquor license because there are only so many licenses. They can say beer, but the store named "The Liquor Store" cannot sell hard liquor. =P)

The big Blue Law in Michigan is on Sundays. From 2am Saturday Night (or technically Sunday morning) until noon Sunday, alcohol sales are prohibited. At the 24 hour store where I used to work, we'd get quite a few slightly and mostly drunks coming in to buy more booze before 2am. Sometimes there'd be trouble if there was a line for the one night time cashier and they ended up waiting past 2am just to get rung up.

I also just learned that, in Michigan, autosales are prohibited on Sunday, with no exceptions. Which I think is even sillier than a couple-hour dry period.

Barbara Martin said...

My MTM post is up, Travis.

I'll be back to read yours in more detail later.

debra said...

My post is up, too, Travis. As always, I'll be back later to read.

dee said...

I grew up in a dry county more than 30 miles to a liquor store in any direction. while there difficulty in getting the liquor, we did get it as teens. My view is that the pregnancy rate was sky high becuase the kids had nothing else (like booze) to occupy their mind....and then when those kids left for college few made it through that first year becaues they were suddenly exposed to all that booze!! I'm not a fan either, Travis. Making it forbidden fruit just wrecks peoples lives.....

Robin Lemke said...

Wow - I'd honestly never heard of a "dry county" before. Well, other than parts of Utah. I live in Seattle where we think everything should be legal. :)

I think I'm with you on this one. Less regulations, more trust. I actually think they should lower the drinking age to 19 and raise the driving age to 18 and we'd solve a ton of problems with drunk driving.

Anonymous said...

You nailed it, Travis. Now, my Uncle Jim had the right idea. Twice a week a big truck came to his house and filled a special refrigerator in the garage with beer, so he didn't have to fool with trips to the store, or getting rid of scores of bottles each week. Worked great for him. He once had a urinary tract infection the doc said would have killed anybody else, but Jim was protected by the alcohol. Everybody should get one of those fridges, then nobody has to worry about whether or not they can buy booze 24/7. Would not want to have to plan ahead for my relaxation.

And my former brother in law, Rodney, probably would have been driving wrong way on that bridge and run into that young nurse and killed her, even if he hadn't been drinking. I don't know when that would have been, exactly, for Rodney not to have been drinking or taking pills or smoking dope.

Absolutely, Seattle. Make everything legal. Get those victimless crimes off the books.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Travis,

Great post. My response would be--dry county, are you kidding me? except I know you are not.

My MTM will go up around 8:15 AM EST on Monday.


Lana Gramlich said...

This close to New Orleans, "dry" would be blasphemy! If anything, everyone pours with a heavy hand. Not that that helps the drunk driving problem, either, of course...
BTW, I have a MTM post up this week. :)

Barrie said...

I'd never heard of a dry county until I moved to Oklahoma for school. Like Beth and Barbara, I grew up in Ontario with government-regulated alcohol and beer stores. I do remember a time when you could only buy alcohol in restaurants on Sunday if you also ordered an entire meal. And you couldn't move your own drink if you switched tables. A waiter/waitress had to do the honors! BTW, my post is up. ;)

Reb said...

I remember back when I was a young 'un, that Albert still had control of the liquor stores. Sometime in the eighties they gave that control up, and we have little box stores all over, then they decided that the grocery stores could also sell, but that it had to be in a free standing building a certain distance from the actual grocery store.
Provincially our prejudice shows, the only places that are dry are two or three of the Indian reservations and they may no longer be dry. Not that being dry ever stops anyone from having booze on hand.

I have a post up this week.

the walking man said...

Franklin county Virginia is a dry county but in the stores they sell T shirts with the "unofficial" motto of the place.

"Moonshine Capital of the World"

Unknown said...

Hi, Travis. Haven't posted MTM lately, but I have one today, and it's up. I'll be back later to read, of course!

Sepiru Chris said...

MTM takes me to India...

Unknown said...

I'm with you. I do not understand it. There are counties here that are dry as well, and in KY, too. And yes, I know people that travel to other counties to haul it back. When we went to Natural Bridge KY, we took all the alcoholic beverages with us.

When I was in San Saba, TX, that hotel I stayed at? The courthouse was right across the road. On one side of the road, the side with the motel, you could buy alcohol. On the other side of the road, it was dry. That made no freaking sense to me, at all.

And hey, my default setting on Google weather was Happy, TX. I never knew where it was, but now I do!

Sepiru Chris said...


The wedding I went to in India was Brahmin caste, so not only was it dry, it was vegetarian too...


Anonymous said...

Well, Travis, you can always come on up to Cincy for a sample of Ted's Pail Ale, which is part of what I talk about in today's post about the famous Montgomery Inn.

As for dry towns and counties, there are a number of dry counties in Kentucky to the south, including one or two between Cincinnati, Louisville, and Lexington, all MAJOR college towns in the Midwest. The booze is 10 minutes away by I-75 or 71.

More inexplicably, the cities of Ravenna (suburb of Akron) and Westerville (not absorbed by Columbus. Yet.) were, until the last decade, dry.

I do not get this. Westerville is in spitting distance of Ohio State, which means booze is coming into town - legally - anyway. Ravenna is in the heart of the Rust Belt, where people worship Stroh's and Pabst the way wine enthusiasts argue over whether Sonoma or Napa Valley is better.

Then again, Ohio has stupid liquor laws. The state owns all the liquor stores. Your liquor store is a franchise.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Mine's been up. Patti

Charles Gramlich said...

In my case, it's clear that I drank more living in a dry county than a wet one. I'd have to drive much further for booze and wouldn't just buy the one or two I wanted but would get a case or two because I wouldn't be back that way. I ended up drinking more, and risking more danger by driving.

Rob said...

Yup, dry counties are a silly Bible Belt holdover. Funny thing is, I used to have loads of friends in Lubbock and the city being dry didn't slow 'em down at all. It was an inconvenience, sure, but nothing more.

Those communities would do better to lift the booze ban and instead focus on stiffening DWI enforcement & penalties.

Ever wondered why bars have parking lots? How hypocritical. Who actually thinks anyone is leaving the bar stone sober? "Designated driver" is a joke. So, equipping bars with parking lots is an invitation for alcohol-influenced driving.

Anonymous said...

My little home town of Damascus, Maryland is a dry TOWN in an otherwise wet county. The reasons go back more than a hundred years, to 1884, when Damascus was designated as Election District Number 12. Shortly thereafter, county residents went to the polls -- and Damascus eagerly awaited its first time as an official voting district.

Well. Election judges sat behind a table with tally sheets before them to record the intent of voters as each stepped up and audibly announced his vote. After voting, each voters stepped off the end of the line he was offered a tin cup filled with the product of a local distillery.

It went downhill from there. Voters went back through the line several times, and residents from surrounding areas -- who were NOT registered in the area -- also heard of the drinking that was going on in Damascus. By the end of the day, the election judges, area residents, and non-registered voters were completely smashed.

As the local newspaper later reported:

"The judges counted their tallies and filled the score sheets which were taken to Rockville the next day to the office of the Election Supervisors. One look there at the sheets caused the raising of quite a howl. More votes were reported from District 12 than there were residents in Montgomery County.

"The sheriff was called in and asked to make a study of the situation and recommend suitable further action. The permanent closing of the new polling place was the mildest punishment mentioned.

"The sheriff duly visited Damascus, although his official duties seldom took him there. After a day of investigation, even at the source of the joviality, he made a short factual report, recommending that the polling place be retained as he had carefully instructed the judges in the correct way to run their offices. Since this had not been done before he saw no reason to prefer any charges of malfeasance against the judges.

He recommended only that the tally figures from Damascus for this election be disregarded -- and except for one item, this recommendation was approved. There was one question on the ballot: 'Shall the sale of alcoholic beverage be forbidden under local option in the twelfth election district?' The tally sheets showed a strong majority voted 'yes' and to this date Damascus is a dry district."

And it still is.

gigi-hawaii said...

Honolulu is WET not dry. Liquor can be bought at the supermarket just a mile from my house.

Melanie Hooyenga said...

My home town (Ottawa County, MI) is sort of dry on Sundays. You can buy hard liquor by the glass on Sundays, but not wine or beer, and only in restaurants. The joke is that only the true alcoholics can enjoy themselves on Sunday. And yes, there are liquor stores at the county lines, including on the lake so you can go by boat.

Cheryl Wray said...

We have a few dry counties around here too, of course (we're in Bama). I don't understand them, either. I don't think, statistically, there's much that shows that they make too much of a difference...people will drive the miles it takes to get a drink.

Loved the billboard pic and comment. Love your My Town Mondays as usual.

Melanie Hooyenga said...

@ Clair: the auto sale rule is national, I believe. It has something to do with protecting the consumers, but I can't remember what exactly. I worked in auto advertising for years but I seem to have blocked out the particulars. :)

Sarakastic said...

I live in a state where in some counties you can't buy liquor on the sabbath & if you want a wine cooler you have to go to the liquor store because it's "a gateway drink" I thought this was bad. Someone needs to open up a speak easy, start a mob, if we're going to bring back prohibition let's do it right.

Vodka Mom said...

i love your field trips

dry counties? Yikes. Steer me clear......

Linda McLaughlin said...

I'm with you, Travis, I think people who wanna drink are gonna drink, no matter what, and Prohibition was a big failure. My DH went to school at Louisiana Tech (many years ago) which is in a dry county and he said students found ways around it. His roommate brought in moonshine from his dad's still in Arkansas and the frat boys somehow managed to stock the soft drink vending machine with cans of beer. The mother of necessity and all that. We don't have dry counties in Calif. that I'm aware of, but when I was growing up in Pennsylvania, they had "blue laws" that prohibited buying liquor on Sunday (and I don't remember what else).

Jerseygirl89 said...

I can't tell you how many trips I made to the liquor stores on the Missouri side of Kansas City because you couldn't buy liquor on Sundays in Kansas. Of course, I also can't tell you how shocked I was that you can buy beer at the convenience store in Missouri, either. In New Jersey you have to go to a liquor store or the supermarket. But since the county I live in here in Jersey makes everything close on Sundays . . .the mall, for example . . .I've never felt it right to judge. You also can't buy liquor after 10pm. And it used to be not at all on Sundays, but they changed that.

I don't think any of it helps. And yes, it probably increases drunk driving. And that's all I want to say about that.

Junosmom said...

Firstly, I have a MTM blog, finally. I have been a slacker - my apologies.

As to your question, my county was dry until recently. The answer I was given when asking about it was that it kept out the bars and less than savory establishments. You had to plan ahead and by your liquor when you were in the next county over and bring it home to drink. For some time, you were allowed to bring your own bottle of wine and have a restaurant serve it to you for a corking fee, but no cocktails.

The county found out it did keep out bars - but also development and restaurants. We are now "moist", meaning only respectable restaurants with seating for over 100 may serve alcohol. As a result, several chain and a few non-chain restaurants have now moved in, and I can have a beer with my fish and chips.

Cloudia said...

Imposing "God's will" on others is abhorrent. Jesus offered people something that attracted them, he was a welcomer, not an enforcer.
Phooey! They put so called "principle" above comon sense and the rights of others.....Aloha

That Janie Girl said...

I didn't know that it was dry all those miles!

the Strip at Lubbock is so huge, I figured every manjor town had liquor.

Unknown said...

I grew up in a dry county in the panhandle (Hansford) and that just created a lot of drunk driving to either Oklahoma or one of the nearest towns in Texas with a liquor store. In any case, at least 30 miles. Lots of accidents too.
Then I was in Lubbock for college and it's got to be the largest dry town in the country.
The "strip" owners have a lot of pull in town and have formed alliances with the church leaders to keep alcohol from being sold in town. It's a crime really. I-27 or Loop 289 between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday night must be one of the most dangerous places to drive, ever.
Then I was in California, what a shock, you can pretty much buy booze, anywhere, anytime. Drunk driving still happens there, but it wasn't a common thing among people I knew, like it was in Texas.
And now, I live in New Mexico, where there are some strange laws indeed. And random at that. I went into a grocery store the other day, it had a separate section for alcohol and a separate cashier. Even though I was getting groceries, I had to check out separately for my alcohol, which is annoying to say the least.
The laws here are random, because that's the only store I've seen that way, but there are other curiosities here.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

I honestly don't know why they have laws like this. In NY and Jersey they have the no Sunday liquor laws. No such law herein the DC area that I am aware of. But then again, I don't buy a lot of booze. I don't think it's right though. To forbid it just makes it so much more intoxicating to people. Pun intended!

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Everything else aside, I like the town's motto.

Of course, it would inspire a frown-fest from me should ever I visit...

Jennifer Archer said...


I-27 between Amarillo and Canyon hasn't *always* been dry. I graduated from W.T. and back then there was a little liquor store on the access road called The Buffalo Chip--yes, really, non-TExans. The Buffalo Chip. I can vouch for the fact that not all college parties held by W.T. students consisted only of punch, etc., as you said, because I made many (too many!) beer/liquor runs to "The Chip" as we called it. The town of Canyon was dry then, as it is now--but not that access road for whatever reason.

Bubblewench said...

have to comment on THIS one!

Jersey- has 'blue' laws and dry counties/townships all over the place. Don't know their laws as much as....

PA - They have what is known as the PALCC (liquor Control commission) - can only buy wine & liquor at a State Store, yes run by the state.

Liquor stores just recently (past few years) started to be open on Sundays and can only be open from 11am-5pm (remember these rules apply to the beer distributors, cause for some crazy reason you can't buy liquor and beer at the same place).

And not every liquor store is open on Sundays, only some. Most beer places are though.

Boy do I miss drinking. I need some rum.

You cannot ship alcohol INTO the state of PA. Illegal.

There are many wines and some liquors that you can't even get in this state because of their strict laws.

I cannot order a wine that is not 'authorized' by the state. Whatever the hell that means.

I really miss booze.

Jenn Jilks said...

Great idea for a post, Travis. I decided to pop in some photos of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. My mom worked there for years. I have fond memories.

Maria said...

Wow, here in Austria you can buy beer and wine at any gas station if you are 16 years old. You can buy beer and wine in all supermarkets!
Nobody sees a problem in that here.
But the public opinion has been changing over the last years, too. As it was quite common for many people to have a glass of wine or beer with their lunch, this is frowned on and completely unusual now.
As smoking is concerned, we have campains all over Europe recetly where smoking in public is severely restricted and cigarettes have become extremely expensive.
I don't like these "bans" in general, although it is quite convenient to have certain rooms in restaurants where nobody is allowed to smoke. But if the aircondition is efficient, I don't mind the smoke of cigarettes.

I think that making things illegal has many negative effects, think about the prohibition of alcohole in at he 1930ies only which allowed the mafia to become real important :)))

Courtney said...

I've just found out the hard way that it's not easy to get a glass of wine in Amarillo. I'm from San Antonio, I'm on my way to Colorado, and I've stopped in Amarillo for the night. I stopped into a convenience store hoping to get a couple of beers or some wine to enjoy in my hotel room after a long drive and I had no luck. The local Albertsons is also beer and wine free. Needless to say, this is not the case in San Antone where you can wander into any grocery store, gas station, or 24 hour Walgreens and get what you're looking for. Next time I'll be sure to plan ahead and get my wine in San Antonio.

Burr Deming said...

Actually, the drinking laws of Missouri are not all that are weird. And we aren't aren't just talking some long ago forgotten laws. In Missouri, beginning August 29, 2009, all sawmills within the state borders are to be called flower shops or farms.