From the Oelwein Daily Register

Click here to link to the Oelwein Daily Register directly or read the review below…

Oelwein focus of the new book ‘Methland’

By Chuck Taylor
(Editor’s note: Oelwein Daily Register columnist Chuck Taylor has reviewed the recently published book “Methland” which prominently features the city of Oelwein and several of its residents.)

OELWEIN – Oelwein has come to the media masses in the form of the book “Methland” .

Yes, our very own Oelwein is the subject of a rather in-depth book by author Nick Reding studying the result of rural America’s several-decade-long pre-occupation with the scourge of methamphetamine. Oelwein is not the sole subject, it is actively compared to Ottumwa and several towns in Missouri as well.

Oelwein simply is not the town it was 30 years ago. That’s really not a debatable. The economic descent of this town from prosperous to puny plays a major role in this book. Not to say that the rise of meth was the cause of this, but it is rather the reverse. The decline of fortune may well have left the door open for this drug to rear its ugly head.

Several examples are related of people who were directly involved in the meth trade for economic related reasons.  The nature of their involvement varied, but at its heart their initial reasoning was simply money.

Roland Jarvis began using meth to fuel 16-hour work days at the meat plant trying to establish a nest egg for a new family, and progressed to setting up his own meth lab as wages fell. A meth-cooking accident created a fire that burned his mother’s home down, hospitalized Jarvis for three months, and disfigured him for life (lost his nose, much of his skin melted, his fingers became nubs). Yet, despite repeated trips to prison by both Jarvis (7 out of the last 10 years) and his mother, four heart attacks, a child requiring a kidney transplant because of maternal meth abuse during pregnancy, and almost no remaining teeth, Roland continued to use meth throughout the span of the book.

Lori Arnold (Tom’s sister), started running meth in Ottumwa, and progresses to manufacturing her own meth while buying a bar, car dealership, 14 homes and a 144-acre horse farm to hide and facilitate operations. Imprisoned for eight years, she too is unable to break the habit.

Once this drug came onto the scene, it became almost toxic to Oelwein’s already faltering economic situation.

Iowans saw 1,370 meth labs seized in 2004, up from 321 in 1998, and Nathan Lein, Assistant County Attorney, estimated 95 percent of his cases were related to drugs.

By May, 2005, half the buildings on Oelwein’s main street stood vacant, foot traffic was practically non-existent, seven in ten children lived below the poverty line.  Remnants of meth labs dotted the town, and the high school principal had arranged for police to patrol the halls with a drug-sniffing dog.

Then Oelwein began to fight back.  Mayor Larry Murphy laid out plans to upgrade sewers and roads to attract new businesses, Prosecutor Lein and Chief Jeremy Logan began stopping almost everything that moved in an effort to check for drugs.  In some ways Reding emphasized our small town nature as  Chief Logan was Jarvis’ class-mate in high-school. Nate Lein, the county prosecutor, grew up nearby.

Unfortunately it doesn’t take much imagination to suspect that Oelwein’s experiences were repeated nationwide. Readers are left wondering, “What makes meth so attractive?”

Some say that meth makes a user feel good and is long lasting, that it heightens and prolongs sex and provides sustained energy. Meth has also been seen as presenting attractive opportunities to those with an entrepreneurial bent. Whatever the reason for the initial draw, it doesn’t change the devastation that meth has had on communities throughout the country.

“Methland” is the story of Oelwein citizens, both upstanding and not so upstanding, but all were essential. To all who provided input to Nick Reding – I thank you for your candor and courage.

“Methland” is definitely worthwhile reading. In some circles it should be required reading. This isn’t just a small town issue or an Iowa issue.  This is an American issue.

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