Norman Rockwell couldn't have painted a better meth lab

February 13, 2012
  • Tim Rowland
Tim Rowland

My first piece of big-boy art was a homespun print I put up in my room depicting a truly American scene: A massive chestnut tree spreading over the village blacksmith shop.

The smithy is hammering away on his anvil as a team of horses stands to the side. A boy in a straw hat and his dog watch the pastoral scene with interest. It’s rural American commerce at its best.

I hadn’t thought of this print in years, but it suddenly snapped into mind last week when I saw a front-page photo of an alleged Clear Spring meth lab.

I normally don’t give meth labs a whole lot of thought. But, in my mind, I guess I pictured an abandoned, boarded-up derelict property surrounded by overgrown vegetation and empty Mad Dog bottles. Maybe I’m still living in the crackhouse era.

This suspected meth lab, however, just oozes with small-town Americana. It’s a neat, two-story, white-frame house with black shutters on a quiet side street.

If it’s a meth lab, it’s as Norman Rockwell would have painted one. There’s a hanging basket on the front porch, along with — best of all — a rocking chair. That’s an elegant touch, I think. All that’s missing is the boy in a straw hat and the dog.

The other difference between the blacksmith shop and the suspected meth lab is that the blacksmith shop didn’t have the following sign posted on its door, as did the suspected meth lab after police searched it:

“Warning. A clandestine laboratory for the manufacture of illegal drugs and/or hazardous chemicals was seized at this location.”

Love the detail. When “Keep Out” just isn’t enough.

The story didn’t say — it had no need to — but I wonder if this were a hand-lettered sign or if there’s enough demand that somewhere a printer is making his living churning out “Warning. A clandestine laboratory for the manufacture of illegal drugs and/or hazardous chemicals was seized at this location” cards.

This drug problem might be worse than I thought.

I know the feeling, though. There was nothing worse than going to the liquor store after a particularly hard day at work only to find a “Closed for remodeling” sign.

Then you have to call home. “Hey honey? I’m here, and the clandestine laboratory for the manufacture of illegal drugs has been seized. Is there any other place on the way that you know of where I can score some crank?”

Speaking of awkward phone calls home, how about the Martinsburg, W.Va., lap dancer accused of picking a patron’s pocket to the tune of $2,400 that he had just won at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races?

“Hello darling, I’m here in Martinsburg. Sure, I can grab the kids on the way home. How was my day? Um. Well, the good news is that I won $2,400.”

According to police, the Washington, D.C., man paid for a private, half-hour dance at a local strip club, but later discovered that his cash was missing. Police said video cameras at the club showed the dancer deftly cleaning out the man’s pocket as she performed for him.

Yeah, I know. All you women are thinking, “Well, that money came from gambling, so it serves him right. If you’re going to go to a casino and then to a strip club, what else do you expect?”

And all you men are thinking, “Wait a minute. They have video cameras WHERE??”

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at

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