There are a few complications I hadn’t anticipated.nGoing up a shallow tidal creek on a hot and windless Julynday exposes you to more than the chance of heat prostration:nmosquitoes, gnats, big brown cowflies that sting likenbumblebees, and the taste of rotting fish dumped accidentallyninto your mouth. There is also this affair of pulling,ndumping, and replacing 50, 75, or 90 traps while yournpartner runs the boat and gives advice. (I later found outnthat this division of labor was not exactly typical.) Mynpartner also liked to sit up late listening to Elvis Costellonrecords and working on one of many still-unpublishednnovels. If we hadn’t caught the tide by 7:00 in the morningnor if it was too blowy or too rainy, well then, “let’s wait untilnlater,” which sometimes meant two days later, by whichntime the crabs were eating each other, and the bait (whatnwas left of it) was something worse than rotten. You’ve gotnto have tasted three days’ rotten fish (in hot weather,nremember) to know what it’s like.nI shouldn’t complain or try to shift the blame. He had,nafter all, virtually built the boat (which seemed to drainnaway most of his ambition), and after a few days of pullingntraps, my own enthusiasm began to wane. Finally, in andesperate burst of energy, we put in a couple of hardworkingndays. When we pulled up to the dock to sell our hugenboatioad of big, beautiful blue crabs, the crab companynowner greeted us with a “sorry”: The market was floodednIn the forthcoming issue of Chronicles:nMidland American”Here is a cornucopia of disinterested goodwill towardsnoddities, an amused politeness at the tender psyches ofnthe genius and the artiste and the sometimes unbalancedn(often indistinguishable); here we have both the securitynof being part of a sane, humdrum community and thenstimulation of observing, or perhaps acting, the occasionalneccentric.”n10/ CHRONICLESn—from “Paradise Enow: A Midwestern Perspective”nby Jane GreernALSOnRussell Kirk tells tales of his Michigan grandfathernJohn Chalberg looks for Father Greeley in Chicagonbut finds him water-skiing in ArizonanThomas Fleming takes a second look at the Midwest’sngreatest novelist, Booth Tarkingtonnnnand he wasn’t taking any more, maybe for weeks.nMy wife and I spent the day chasing crabs across thenkitchen floor and counting our losses. I forget how much itnwas, totaling up the cost of all the traps, the gas, and thenlicenses. Not more than a few hundred dollars in total—anpretty meager loss for a month’s work. Like many smallnbusinessmen, we had gambled and lost. Unlike most ofnthem, we had been shiftless and lazy. We got what we hadncoming to us—the market had sifted us out.nMy only complaint was the hours of paperwork and thenmass of regulations which increasingly make small-timencommercial fishing unprofitable. The law concerns itselfnwith such details as: How many claws can you break off anstone crab? What’s the minimum size of a legal blue crab?nHow can you identify a she-crab with roe (illegal)? Whatndoes a shrimper do with the turties that destroy his valuablennets? When can you pick oysters off a bird sanctuary? Innwhich channels can you use an oyster dredge?nSome of the rules make sense; others are just silly. Butnthe net effect of all of them (especially the tax regulations) isnto convert commercial fishermen into bureaucrats (many ofnthem seemed to marry very bright girls who keep the booksnfor them). As for me, every year the state sent me a tax billnfor my 14-foot homemade boat. Being motorless and onlyn14 feet, it didn’t really have to be licensed, but once insidenthe state’s computer, my boat became a legal entity. Everynyear I protested the tax and threatened to destroy the boatnwith an ax, and every year the state told me what it could donto someone who didn’t pay his $10 or $20 marine propertyntax bill. When I left the state, I sold the boat to a carpenter,nbut up until last year I still was receiving a tax bill.nMy own difficulties were trivial (although I might havenhad to pay $500 for the second stone crab claw I broke off bynaccident). But all the paperwork made me feel less and lessnlike a free man and more and more like a ward of the state.nIf otherwise sensible Americans end up voting libertarian, Insuspect it is not so much out of commitment to freedom innthe abstract as it is an affirmation of their own existencenagainst the oppressive forces of an anonymous state. Twonrecent Presidents have tried to control the Federal bureaucracy:nThe first, Richard Nixon, found himself lynched by ancoalition of bureaucrats and senators on the make. (IsnHoward Baker still running?) Six years into the ReagannRevolution, we have learned to be content with “checkingnthe growth.” There appears to be no hope of cutting out thenmalignancy.nIf bureaucratic regulation only managed business, if itsndepredations were limited to our pocketbooks, we mightnlearn to endure what we cannot change. But the wholenprocess of adjusting to bureaucracy corrupts all of us.nGabriel Marcel observes, in The Mystery of Being, that thenact of filling out forms diminishes the sense of who we are:nname, last name first, address, number. Street numbers, bynthe way, were not introduced in France until the FrenchnRevolution attempted to reduce people from men andnwomen down to mere citizens to be kept track of Now wenhear conservative politicians recommending a nationalnidentity card for practically the last country on earth wherenpeople do not have to show their papers. We may as well benin Canada.n—Thomas Flemingn