He said the voices on the radio told him to do it. “Cammy and Gary in the Morning” convinced him to break into the sheriff deputy’s house. They told him to go inside and bump into walls and mutter to himself about the heavenly voices on the airwaves. What they didn’t tell him was the deputy was already up and dressed for work. It never came over the FM frequency that the deputy would draw his gun, then handcuff him and take him to jail. Cammy and Gary in the Morning never said he might almost get his head blown off.
When the story came in that day the Cops and Courts reporter chuckled a little. Someone joked about meth being a helluva drug. The court documents used a name I didn’t know. It wasn’t until I saw the mug shot—bugged out eyes, hair frazzled out in a broken afro, James Brown’s crackhead nephew—that I recognized the face.
A guy I was friends with in high school.
He told the cops he found the baggie on the ground in the Dollar General parking lot. But when they searched him he also had a pipe with meth residue in his pocket, and weed. He was already on parole for selling to an undercover cop. He had been living in the trailer behind his parents’ farmhouse, out about nine miles from town in a weedy lot full of the kind of broken-down cars and equipment that could only be sold for scrap metal. If they could find someone to buy it. He was in his 50s and the only thing he knew how to do was drugs.
When the story came in that day the Cops and Courts reporter asked me if we were related.
“There are a lot of Schanemans out there,” she said.
When I saw the mug shot I didn’t recognize the man—gray faced, folds in his skin that he’d paid to earn, Charles Manson without the forehead swastika—and he’d never know me from anyone else.
A guy that started bad and never got any better.
We ran both stories on the front page. My choice. You can’t hide from that kind of stuff out here. People need to know what’s going on in their rural community. And just because I know them, or am related to them, doesn’t mean I can treat their stories any different. If we wanted, we could put a meth arrest story on the front page every day. Just a few weeks ago the Cops and Courts reporter said she wasn’t even sure the meth busts were worth doing stories on anymore. “It’s almost like a misdemeanor now,” she said.
I had no idea when I went in to look at the house. It was the right neighborhood, selling pretty cheap for the square footage, and had enough space for my wife and me. My real estate agent uncle took me down into the basement.
“Looks like this guy likes his baseball,” he said.
Framed, autographed jerseys hung on the wood-panel walls. Philadelphia Phillies players Mike Schmidt and Lenny Dykstra. On another wall was a plaque with four white wooden baseball cutouts. A mom’s name. Two kids. And the father. We both kind of snorted and looked at each other.
“I don’t think you want this place,” he said. “You might get some strange visitors. Some strange knocks on the door in the middle of the night.”
We walked up the stairs and out of a house owned by the town’s most famous meth dealer. The guy had made my town infamous when he was caught selling meth to customers by way of his parents’ Mexican food restaurant. If you knew the right words at the drive-thru you could get a taco and a baggie that would keep you up for three days straight, picking at your skin. The joke wrote itself for The Colbert Report.
Another guy I knew growing up. He had had a golden arm, but it failed him in college and he didn’t do well with living back home. All that anger and arrogance he used to fuel his pitching, the pitching he thought would take him far from here, it must’ve come back and pushed him beyond anything he thought he could be.
That one happened before I took the editor job at the paper. I heard he had come into the paper and threatened our Cops and Courts reporter when he first got busted. He told her to stop writing stories about him, but they were all anyone wanted to read.
About a month back, we ran a story about a guy who fell asleep in his truck with the stereo on an hour before noon, drunk, with a load of drugs and multiple guns under the seat. It wasn’t that exciting at first. Reporting on someone caught with meth, weed, prescription pills, and two AR-15s wasn’t enough to get us in trouble, but mentioning the guy was the son of a police officer? That did it. Cops protect their own. Dad came in wearing his badge, furious, confrontational. The sheriff’s department went after us on Facebook. Cops’ wives called in. We heard about it for a week.
Until the next meth story broke.