Country Common Sense
I’ve just returned from two weeks in rural north Florida. In beautiful Suwannee County, the O’Boyle family has a 10 acre weed patch on which we have installed the world’s cheapest mobile home. Every expense was spared in its manufacture. It cost less than $20 a square foot. It has three bedrooms, two baths and central air. It would not be allowed in Monroe County.
At “The Farm” my wife and kids graciously indulge my boyish enthusiasm for turning tall weeds into short weeds. They let me mess around with Nancy, our 60-year old Ford tractor. I wear heavy shoes and leather gloves. I wield tools, chain saws, mowers, hammers, shovels, axs, and shotguns. I spurn the telephone and keyboard, effete implements of electronic commerce, unsuited to the manly and noble working of the land.
Nancy’s rumble over the rapid whap-whap-whap-whap of the Bush Hog is a hayseed symphony. I carve ripples in the weeds with my disk harrow like a noisy gas powered Buddhist monk raking his Zen sand garden.
At the farm I plant things. I build things. Simple handyman projects like porches and decks, a pole barn, and a half mile of fence are hugely gratifying to one who has always earned his daily bread at a desk. The recent chicken coop got out of hand like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors, morphing from chicken coop to poultry cathedral. A humble pullet shed grew into a structure more suitable for housing Hobbits or the Keebler Elves. I’m thinking stained glass gable lights. I didn’t need a permit. I won’t need one for the tree house either. I’m in my glory.
When I finally forget what day it is, I begin to think about going home. The long drive back offers ample opportunity to consider the contrasts between the Keys home that I love and the Suwannee County farm that I love.
The population of Suwannee County is less educated and poorer than that of Monroe County. Despite a lack of education and income and a local accent that makes snotty Yankees point and laugh, they often show a good deal more common sense than we do down here. For instance, they don’t use a SWAT team like the KWPD uses ours, to bust people to whom the police are selling fake drugs. It may be that Suwannee County’s police are busy enough with real crime that they just don’t have time to make their own, but it’s more likely that simple country common sense precludes such an obvious waste of everyone’s time.
They have an equally sensible attitude toward housing. There are few political barriers to providing affordable shelter. If all you can afford is a mobile home, you can buy one and have it placed on your lot with a minimum of fuss. If you want to build a house, you can get a permit in three days by bringing two copies of your plans to the county office.
They also have a sensible attitude toward the ecology. They farm trees like any other crop but on a longer crop cycle. Wildlife is a valued and valuable resource. The deer and game populations are monitored and the herd is harvested yearly to prevent overpopulation.
While approaching the Big Pine Deer Circus at night on this last trip home it really hit me. On Big Pine Key, country common sense is not just scarce, but has been jettisoned altogether in favor hysterical eco-alarmism. If the Key Deer population is expanding half as fast as the number and size of the signs warning you not to run them over we can expect deer to outnumber our school children within the year.
In Suwannee County, where the average home costs around $60,000 the notion of spending $7,000,000 for a couple miles of fenced road to protect a population of 700 deer would probably meet some resistance. At $10,000 a deer we could have bought every family of five of them a small house and an acre in Suwannee County. Of course, then there would be the danger that once off their diet of Cheetos, French fries, cat food and ornamental shrubbery the deer would achieve their full growth and be indistinguishable from the local white tails.
My brief research found that experts recommend a maximum population of between 20 and 30 white tail deer per square mile. There are about 14 square miles of land in the Key Deer Refuge. Allowing that Key Deer are smaller than white tails let’s say they could thrive at a higher population density, say 40 per square mile. That would be a maximum herd size of 560. The current population of between 700 and 900 is clearly too large for the best interest of the deer and the local human population. The refuge managers are experts, but no one is suggesting thinning the herd. Why is that?
I don’t know, but that has never stopped me from speculating through an appealing metaphor, and it will not stop me now. According to census data, although we have only twice the population of Suwannee County, we have nearly four times as many people working for the county. Monroe County has 54 local government employees per thousand residents, 74% more than Suwannee County and Florida as a whole. We also have more than the average 100 per thousand of Federal civilian employees. Our status with the State as an area not-to-be-trusted-to-govern-ourselves gives us higher than the average 13 state employees per thousand. Add to that our military residents and you can see that easily one out of five Monroe County residents works for a government agency. It could be as high as one out of four. As a portion of the workforce, it is closer to 40%.
This heavy concentration of folks steeped in bureaucratic ways behaves like a nuclear reactor producing new elements in its day-to-day operation. The heaviest and most abundant element is Bureaucratium. Bureaucratium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 111 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312. These 312 particles are held together by a force called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.
Since Bureaucratium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Bureaucratium causes one reaction to take weeks to complete when it would normally take just a few minutes. Bureaucratium has a normal half-life of four years; it does not decay but instead undergoes a reorganization.
In fact, Bureaucratium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization causes some morons to become neutrons forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that Bureaucratium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass." It consumes common sense and produces vast quantities of hot air.
You will know it when you see it. You are much more likely to see it in the keys than in rural north Florida. I’m headed back to the farm for hunting season.