Answer & Explanation:Assignment from nickkynickky. I have attached the book for completing the assignment.Evaluation CriteriaDeliverables are evaluated on thoughtfulness, creativity, and brave thinking. They are each worththree participation points. One point = done, below average. Two points = done, average. Threepoints = done, thoughtful, creative and/or brave thinking.Style/DeliveryDeliverables must be handed in on the date they are assigned. They cannot be turned in retroactivelyfor credit. Feel free to print this sheet and handwrite or type your thoughts. You may also write yourresponse on a piece of notebook paper. Please make sure your instructor knows who completed thisassignment—put your name on it!PromptGive two examples from Nick Reding’s work where he builds context for his readers effectively.You may reference pages 1-107 for examples.Example 1:________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Example 2:________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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By the Same Author
The Last Cowboys at the End of the World
Copyright © 2009 by Nick Reding
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever
without written permission from the publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in
critical articles or reviews. For information address Bloomsbury USA, 175 Fifth Avenue, New
York, NY 10010.
Published by Bloomsbury USA, New York
Some of the names in this book have been changed.
All of the events portrayed are completely factual.
All papers used by Bloomsbury USA are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in
well-managed forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the
country of origin.
Reding, Nick.
Methland : the death and life of an American small town/Nick Reding.—1st ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
eISBN: 978-1-60819-156-7
1. Methamphetamine abuse—Iowa—Oelwein.
2. Methamphetamine—Iowa—Oelwein. I. Title.
HV5831.I8R43 2009
First U.S. Edition 2009
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Typeset by Westchester Book Group
Printed in the United States of America by Quebecor World Fairfield
To my wife and my son
For most of those which were great once are small today; and those which used to be small
were great in my own time . . . Human prosperity never abides long in the same place.
—Herodotus, The Histories
Prologue: Home
Part One: 2005
1. Kant’s Lament
2. The Most American Drug
3. The Inland Empire
4. Family
5. The Do Drop Inn
Part Two: 2006
6. Mirror Imaging
7. The Cop Shop
8. Waterloo
9. The Inland Empire, Part Two
10. Las Flores
Part Three: 2007
11. Algona
12. El Paso
13. Disconnected States
14. Kant’s Redemption
15. Independence
Epilogue: Home Again
A Note on Sources
As you look down after takeoff from O’Hare International Airport, headed west for San Francisco,
California, it’s only a few minutes before the intricate complexity of Chicago’s suburban streets is
overcome by the rolling swell of the prairie. The change is visceral as the plane’s shadow floats
past houses hidden within protective moats of red cedar and evergreen shelter belts. The land
unfolds a geometric sweep of corn and switchgrass. Grain elevators shine like tiny pieces in a
diorama; next to them, venous brown-water creeks extend their fingers warily onto the negative
space of the prairie. And if you look closely as the plane climbs past Mississippi Lock and Dam
Number 10, on the Iowa side of the river, you’ll see a little town called Oelwein, population 6,772.
You’ll see, for a few ascendant moments, every street, every building, and every pickup truck in
brittle, detailed relief. Briefly, you can look at this photographic image of a town, imagining the
lives of the people there with voyeuris tic plea sure. And then Oelwein (along with your curiosity,
perhaps) is gone.
Such is the reality of thousands of small communities dotting the twenty-eight landlocked states of
the American flyover zone. Lying beneath some of the most traveled air routes in the world, they
are part of, and yet seemingly estranged from, the rest of the country. In many ways, it’s easier to
get from New York to Los Angeles, or from Dallas to Seattle, than it is to get from anywhere in
America to Oelwein, Iowa. Yet much of what there is to know about the United States at the
beginning of the new millennium is on display right there, gossiping at the Morning Perk café,
waiting for calls at Re/Max Realty, or seeing patients in the low brick building occupied by the
Hallberg Family Practice. In their anonymity, and perhaps now more than ever, towns like Oelwein
go a long way toward telling us who we are and how we fit into the world. Who we are may well
surprise you.
Look again, then, this time from the window of a commuter flight from Chicago as it descends
into Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on a clear May morning. Follow the gentle arc of I-380 north, over the
Cedar River and past the red-and-white-checked logo of the Purina plant, which bathes everything
for miles around in the sweet smell of breakfast cereal. What appears from the plane window to be
only a few inches is really an hour’s drive to the junction of Highway 150, a no-nonsense two-laner
that eschews the complexity of cloverleaf exits and overpasses. Every twenty miles or so, the speed
limit drops from fifty-five to twenty-five as Highway 150 bisects another cluster of three-and fourstory buildings bookended by redbrick churches and bright metallic water towers. The names of the
towns are as companionable and familiar as the country is harsh: Bryantsburg, In dependence, and
Hazleton accompany the road all the way to where the Amish homesteads sit kitty-corner from the
Sportsmen’s Lounge. There, just across the Fayette County line, is Oelwein, pronounced OL-wine.
Like most small towns in Iowa, Oelwein’s four square miles are arranged on a grid system
divided into quadrants. At what would be the intersection of the x and y axes is the central feature
of Oelwein’s architecture and economy: the century-old Chicago Great Western roundhouse, where
trains were once turned back north or south and where entire lines of railroad cars could be
worked on without regard for the often-brutal weather outside. An enormous brick and steel
structure the size of three football fields, the roundhouse, like the town it long supported, is the
biggest thing for many miles. Amid the isolation, Oelwein’s very presence defines the notion of
On the surface, Oelwein would appear to be typical in every way. Driving into town from the
south, you first notice the softening profile of the maples and oaks that fill out the middle distance
of an otherwise flat landscape. Once you are inside the city limits, Oelwein’s skyline is divided
between the five-story white spire of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church and, six blocks farther north,
the four-story red bell tower of Grace Methodist. Between them is a jewelry store, a sporting goods
shop, two banks, a florist, a movie house, and four restaurants, all housed in turn-of-the-twentiethcentury brick and stone buildings. Across the street from Las Flores Mexican Restaurant, there’s a
clothing boutique, a photography studio, and a crafts store. There are almost as many bars in
Oelwein (eleven) as there are churches (thirteen). The biggest congregations are Lutheran and
Catholic, owing to the two separate movements of immigrants into the county: Scandinavians and
Bavarians at the end of the nineteenth century; Irish and Italians at the beginning of the twentieth.
Von Tuck’s Bier Haus generally sees the high-end clientele, which is likely to stop in following a
lasagna supper at Leo’s Italian Restaurant, the newest incarnation of a business that Frank Leo began
as a grocery store in 1922, shortly after arriving from Italy. The Do Drop Inn, on the other hand, is
Oelwein’s seediest and most eclectic watering hole. Run by Mildred Binstock, the Do Drop, as it’s
known, is decorated in what Mildred terms “High Amish Kitsch,” a smorgasbord of lace doilies,
mismatched wooden chairs, and all manner of antique farm equipment washed in the harsh reds and
soft greens of year-round Christmas lights.
Heading south on Main Street, back toward Hazleton, you’ll find a Dollar General, a Kmart, and
a Kum and Go gas station. For the most part, though, things in Oelwein are still owned by the same
families that have owned them forever. There is no Starbucks, and there are no plans for one. This
is not a town that thrives on fanfare. Luxury is not a word that comes to mind inside either of
Oelwein’s clothing stores, VG’s and Sam’s, where wool dominates the fabrics of the men’s suits and
the ladies’ dresses alike. Practical, on the other hand, is a word that applies at nearly every turn.
Even the photography studio, despite its large picture window full of high school vanity shots, has a
decidedly utilitarian feel, owing in part to the long shadow cast by the wide aluminum awning—a
necessary ac-coutrement in an area of the Midwest that sees three feet of rain and five feet of snow
in a normal year.
The closest thing to opulence in Oelwein comes in the predictably reserved form of a coffee shop,
the Morning Perk. There, members of Oelwein’s professional class gather each morning around an
antique oak dresser featuring brushed aluminum carafes of both regular and flavored coffee. Next to
the carafes, a wicker basket is filled with containers of liquid creamers in hazelnut, amaretto, and
cinnamon flavors—this in a state (and a region) where packages of granulated nondairy creamer are
de rigueur. Their husbands off to work, the wives of Oelwein’s best-known men (the mayor, the high
school principal, the police chief, and the Methodist minister) linger on big couches and in stiffbacked chairs to gossip and make collages. Later, it’s off to the Kokomo to have their hair and nails
How and where you drink your coffee speaks volumes about who you are and what you do in
Oelwein. Three doors away from the Morning Perk is the Hub City Bakery, a leaner, more hardedged sibling of its sophisticate sister. Painted a dirty, aging white, and with a long, family-style
folding table covered in a paper tablecloth, Hub City looks less like a café and more like the
kitchen of a clapboard farm house. There is no focaccia or three-bean soup. In fact, there’s not even
a menu. Instead, there’s a plastic case of doughnuts and a two-burner gas stove where the cook and
owner fries eggs destined for cold white toast on a paper plate. Not that the old men mind as they
linger at the table, layered in various forms of Carhartt: their discussions of corn prices and the
relative merits and deficiencies of various herbicides are ongoing, if not interminable. A refined
palate is not a prerequisite for entry at what is referred to by regulars as simply “the Bakery,”
though it helps to be short on appointments and long on opinions. Questioning the cook, like taking
your coffee with cream, amounts to something like a breach of etiquette.
Together, the separate constituencies of Oelwein’s two cafés give a sense of the pillars on which
society in that town is built. Life in a small midwestern town lingers in the bars and passes weekly
through the church sanctuaries. But it’s rooted in the stores that line Main Street, and on the green
and yellow latticework sprawl of the farms that begin just feet from where the pavement ends. The
fit is symbiotic, though not always seamless. Without the revenues generated by the likes of the 480acre Lein operation—a sheep and corn farm twelve miles north of town—Repeats Consignment
Store and Van Denover Jewelry Plus would be hard-pressed to stay in business. As life in the
fields and along the sidewalks goes, so goes the life of the town, and along with it, the life of the
hospital, the high school, and the local Christmas pageant, for which Oelwein is known throughout
at least two counties.
And yet, things are not entirely what they seem. On a sultry May evening, with the Cedar Rapids
flight long gone back to Chicago, and temperatures approaching ninety degrees at dusk, pass by the
Perk and Hub City on the way into Oelwein’s tiny Ninth Ward. Look down at the collapsing
sidewalk, or across the vacant lot at a burned-out home. At the Conoco station, just a few blocks
south of Sacred Heart, a young man in a trench coat picks through the Dumpster, shaking despite the
heat. Here, amid the double-wides of the Ninth Ward, among the packs of teenage boys riding, ganglike, on their Huffy bicycles, the economy and culture of Oelwein are more securely tied to a drug
than to either of the two industries that have forever sustained the town: farming and small business.
This is the part of Oelwein, and of the small-town United States, not visible from the plane window
as the flat stretch of the country rolls by. After sundown in the Ninth Ward, the warm, nostalgic
light that had bathed the nation beneath a late-afternoon transcontinental flight is gone.
Against the oppressive humidity, the night’s smells begin to take shape. Mixed with the moist,
organic scent of cut grass at dew point is the ether-stink of methamphetamine cooks at work in their
kitchens. Main Street, just three blocks distant, feels as far away as Chicago. For life in Oelwein is
not, in fact, a picture-postcard amalgamation of farms and churches and pickup trucks, Fourth of July
fireworks and Nativity scenes, bake sales and Friday-night football games. Nor is life simpler or
better or truer here than it is in Los Angeles or New York or Tampa or Houston. Life in the smalltown United States has, though, changed considerably in the last three decades. It wasn’t until 2005
—when news of the methamphetamine epidemic began flooding the national media—that people
began taking notice. Overnight, the American small town and methamphetamine became synonymous.
Main Street was no longer divided between Leo’s and the Do Drop Inn, or between the Perk and
the Bakery: it was partitioned between the farmer and the tweaker. How this came to be—and what
it tells us about who we are—is the story of this book. And this book is the story of Oelwein,
By the time I went to Iowa in May 2005, I’d already spent six years watching meth and rural
America come together. The first time I ran across the drug in a way that suggested its symbolic
place in the heartland was not in Iowa but in Idaho, in a little town called Gooding. I went to
Gooding in the fall of 1999 to do a magazine story on that town’s principal industry, ranching. At
the time, I didn’t know what meth was; it was completely by accident that I found myself in a place
overrun with the drug, though the obviousness of meth’s effects was immediate. That first night in
Gooding, I went to have dinner at the Lincoln Inn, a combination road house and restaurant. On
Friday nights, the road crews who’d busied themselves all week paving and grading the county’s
few byways descended on the Lincoln to drink beer. An inordinate number of them, it seemed to
me, were also high on meth. When the sheriff and a deputy drove by in the alley around midnight,
they stopped to look in through the back door. Then they got back in their cruiser and drove away.
What could they do, the two of them, faced with a room full of crank users? Two nights later, I
was in the bunkhouse of a nearby ranch when three Mexicans drove up in a white Ford F-150.
They were meth dealers, and the oldest among them, a nineteen-year-old who gave his name as
Coco and said he’d been deported three times in the last four years, explained the crank business to
me this way: “At first we give it away. Then the addicts will do anything to get more.” Meth, it
seemed, was just a part of life for the 1,286 inhabitants of Gooding, Idaho.
Back in 1999, very little was being written about the drug, with the exception of a few
newspapers on the West Coast and a smattering of smaller ones like the Idaho Mountain Express.
At the time, I was living in New York City. To read the New York Times, the Washington Post, and
even the Chicago Tribune was to be largely unaware of methamphetamine’s spread throughout the
United States. When I talked to friends about what I’d seen in Gooding, no one believed it. That, or
they dismissed crank as one more unseen, unfathomable aspect of life in The Middle: as prevalent
as corn, as inscrutable as the farm bill, and as tacky as evangelical theology. Whether I traveled to
Ennis, Montana, to Merced, California, or to Canton, Georgia, local consciousness of the drug was
invariably acute, even as meth somehow avoided coherent, national scrutiny. For four years,
wherever I went, there meth was, as easy to discount as it was to discover; once I was back in any
major American city—be it New York or Chicago—whatever I’d seen or heard lost all context. I
even began to get the feeling that the drug was somehow following me around. I tried and failed on
numerous occasions to convince my agent and several magazine and book editors that meth in
American small towns was a major issue. Eventually, I tried to forget about it and move on. But I
couldn’t ignore what I saw in November 2004, five years after being in Idaho, which is that meth
had become a major feature in the landscape of my home.
I grew up near St. Louis, Missouri. Fifty-five miles away, near the town of Greenville, Illinois, is
a wetland complex that is one of the more important stopover points in North America for what is
annually the world’s most concentrated migration of waterfowl. I’ve duck-hunted there for much of
my life, and consider Greenville to be a part of the place, largely defined, from which I come. Like
St. Louis, Greenville sits in the midst of the bluff prairies and timbered hollows that once stretched
along the Mississippi Valley from east-central Missouri down to Kentucky. Together, this area is a
discrete subset of the southern Midwest, unified by a geography, an accent, an economy, and a
cultural sensibility that is an el …
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