Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Methland (copy)

The people of Oelwein still talk about the day Roland Jarvis blew himself up; although, technically, he was involved in an implosion. No one was surprised, mind you. In a town known for its “century old” railroad roundhouse and abundance of “meth labs,” he cooked a product of fine quality that many of his fellow Iowans craved.

Jarvis, well known amongst the authorities in Oelwein, pronounced OL-wine, spent two separate stints incarcerated for the production and distribution of methamphetamine. In both instances, he immediately went back into business following his first day free. His crave was too much.

It started when he was 16 and needed to work double shifts to support his growing family. By taking a little meth, he could stay up for hours and bring home a nice paycheck. Unfortunately, his meat-packing company was bought-out and Jarvis suffered a huge pay cut. This forced him into working more double shifts and needing even more meth.

By the winter of 2001, Jarvis was in no shape to be cooking. He could see the disembodied heads in the trees over looking his house and knew they were spying on him. With nods to the black helicopter overhead, the heads signaled to the cops he was indeed cooking. He ran down to the basement and began to throw all of his ingredients into the overflow drain.

He started dumping these items first: anhydrous ammonia followed by Coleman lantern fluid, denatured alcohol, and kerosene which made an awful stink. His last effort consisted of two gallons of hydrochloric acid for which he sat back and enjoy a cigarette.

The following vacuum sucked out the windows before igniting the boxes in the corner of the room. The air, created by the new gaping holes in the windows, fueled the flames and Jarvis watched as the joists began to flicker bright blue. He looked down and noticed his white tube socks were no longer anchoring his feet and his Vikings tank top was on fire.

He rushed up the stairs and out onto the porch for safety, but then the meth-induced thoughts began to nag. He wanted to save his mother’s furniture and spent 45 minutes in and out of the house until he looked down at his skin and noticed white eggs. He began to knock the eggs off his arms, his legs and his torso, but in reality he was sloughing off his melted skin.

This true horror story is one of many in Nick Reding’s new book, Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town.