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Struggles in Eden


My late friend Bob Cote, an alcoholic who sobered up and founded a homeless shelter in Denver, called Supplemental Security Income, the federal welfare program in which many alcoholics enlist, “suicide on the installment plan.” Eden Village’s no-illegality code is a barrier to use of meth and other vicious drugs but not alcohol, so those with severe drinking problems have no pressure to change.

In October I lived in 5E, right in the middle of Eden Village, but was unable to talk much with residents the Eden office identified as alcoholics. When I knocked on their doors Jeffrey Johnson in 7W said, “I don’t feel like talking right now,” and Denny Mize in 1A said, “I’m not feeling real good.” Jennie March in 13W, age 53, said she couldn’t talk because “I just threw up. Could you come back tomorrow?” When I did, she said she wasn’t feeling well. She has cut her wrists at least once.

My next-door neighbor in 6E, Garrett (Kevin) Lyons, also battles alcoholism. His street name is “Cowboy” and he really was one in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado: That part of his story checks out on the Truthfinder website. Lyons said he used to enjoy sleeping outside but at age 63, with prostate cancer, “living in a tent sucks.”

Garrett Lyons, age 63, lives in Eden Village.

Neighbors told me Lyons was illiterate, but he wouldn’t talk about that during our first conversation. On the fourth of my six days in Eden, Lyons said, “School was tough. I can’t read or write, never could. They let me graduate with my class and gave me a diploma, unsigned.” He was married for 28 years to a math teacher who could always get a job as they moved around from ranch to ranch: “She filled out my job applications.”

Lyons said a collapse of the Interstate 40 bridge over the Arkansas River in 2004 destroyed his life. He said his wife Connie, driving with their daughter and two grandkids, ages seven and five, had stopped to get gas and coffee. Lyons said she called him at 1:30 a.m. after she left the gas station. Later, he said, a sheriff’s car came to his home and he learned that Connie and the others had died when the bridge crumbled. Lyons said he got drunk and stayed that way until recently: “I walked off with the clothes on my back, literally, and was a missing person for nine or ten years.”

The tragic story was moving. I wanted to find out more, so I dived into old newspapers now online. A 600-foot span of the Interstate 40 bridge over the Arkansas River did collapse on May 27, 2002, after a barge hit one of the bridge’s piers, but the lists of fourteen dead victims — published by the Associated Press and local newspapers — do not line up with what Lyons told me. Clearly, something traumatic happened. An Eden staffer suggested that I not ask Lyons more about it.

Lyons told me that his brother Ronnie, now dead, searched for him and finally “put out a missing persons bulletin. The police found me at a rodeo company.” Lyons was “drinking every day, before work, at lunch, as soon as I got off,” but was able to work at a rodeo, on a ranch, and at a feed mill in Springfield: “I could always get someone to fill out the application.” Lyons showed me photos taken in Christmas 2022: “Here’s my son, he’s a hunter. Here are grandkids, 13, 15. Hadn’t seen any of them since I left,” and meeting them was “awkward, strange.”

Michael Hansen in 8W, age 56, was also an interesting conversationalist. He’s not old enough for regular Social Security payments but hoped to get on SSI. He’s not an alcoholic: He said his mom was, but he still had “a great childhood” until he was eleven or twelve, when his parents divorced. Hansen said he continued in school and then joined the Air Force, but lasted only five weeks.  Hansen lists his birthday on Facebook as Sept. 13, but it’s not: “I don’t want people knowing my real birthday and not saying ‘Happy Birthday’ to me.” 

Hansen said he has 261 Facebook friends but has “blocked forty because “they say sexist stuff. I don’t want to hear the phrase they use that they shouldn’t use anymore.” His favorite activity is killing zombies on Zombie Hunter: “I won a prize. I got a machine gun.” Hansen takes an anti-depressant “to keep me from being suicidal.” He logs in on Zombie Hunter at least once a day and earned a star, but the leader of his online “clan” just said “Welcome.” That’s all: “He never said anything else.” Hansen compensated for that disappointment by painting one of his thumb nails orange: “It’s October, so it’s perfect.”

Marvin Olasky

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Marvin Olasky is a Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute and its Center for Science and Culture. He taught at The University of Texas at Austin from 1983 to 2008 and edited WORLD magazine from 1992 through 2021. He is the author of 28 books including Fighting for Liberty and Virtue and The Tragedy of American Compassion.