I have a chainsaw. Cody has a tractor with various attachments, and Brian has a need for money. Doug is there, too, and Doug mostly wants some dead pine trees in his sister’s yard down in a reasonable fashion so they won’t come crashing down on Sis’s well or shed, or even her house.
I’m there because I know chainsaws, but Doug assures me Brian is going to do all the serious manual labor. I almost bow out, but I know chainsaws.
Brian, who speaks English fairly well, never told anyone he could run a chainsaw. Everyone just assumed he could. He can’t, or he can, but he doesn’t know how to use it properly. He doesn’t understand where to cut or how to cut, and the first tree leans towards both the shed and the well. It could very well get them both.
Okay, we have a rope on the tree, and I explain to Brian I’m cutting behind the tree, but in the direction of the pull. We want the tree’s weakest spot to be aligned with the pull of the rope. Physics will take care of the rest, but these are dead trees. Things might happen.
“Things?” Brian steps back and looks up at the tree then back at me.
The top could break off and come down, or if the base of the tree is rotted enough, it might spiral, twist, and then it’s on,” I tell him.
Cody is very good at this. He shakes the tree hard with the tractor, and a Widow Maker limb falls, but the top seems intact. There are three feet of distance between where we’re dropping the tree, and a dozen feet to the other side before the house gets hit.
Brian is clearly out of his element, and so I pick up my chainsaw and tell Brian to tap me on the shoulder if the top breaks off. Cody tightens on the rope and nods. It’s a simple cut, but a large tree. I have to make sure the cut is exactly where we need it. Oddly, the bottom of the tree is not rotted at all, and that’s great. But all the pine sap has settled down this way, and the tree’s base is partly petrified. I’m a little scared myself.
Slow, Mike, slow, nice easy moves with the bar, like playing a violin, making sure the deeper I go the cut stays in line with the pull of the rope. The cut opens, just a bit, and I step back to take a look. The top is intact, the rope is tight. Cody nods, and the man hasn’t a lot to say when we work even though he knows more than the rest of us, by a bunch. Cody is a quiet man, and never raises his voice to Brian while Brian is tying the ropes to the trees or hitching the rope to the pulley. Cody nods in a way that tells me the cut is good. No, it’s perfect, because anything less than perfect means there’s a well wearing a tree.
The chainsaw roars to life again, sawdust flies, and the cut opens even more, leaning with the rope. Suddenly, there’s a cracking sound, and the tree breaks and falls with the pressure as I bounce away. The tree lands right where it had to fall.
“The tree broke!” Brian is surprised.
“Once the trunk began to open up that created more pressure on the weakest part of the tree, and with the pull of the rope it had to crack,” I tell him, and I hope that’s right. It sounds good.
There are seven more trees, including two really big ones, but there’s nothing they can hit on the way down. Brian gets an education on chainsaws, and it’s always a wonderful thing to teach someone something useful, and teach them to respect the dangers inherent in trees and chainsaws.
Cody and I, and we planned this felling back in July, begin a partnership in pulling and cutting. He can call on me for help now, and I can call him. Men who can work together in this sort of adventure are rare. Brian is on the team, too, and he knows it. We eat a homecooked meal made by a woman incredibly grateful that her shed and her well are safe.
Once upon a time, neighbors did this sort of thing for one another, and that meal was all the payment needed, except for the manual labor Brian did in cleaning up. He works hard, very hard, and he’s young, and needs the money.
They rest of us are just there to help, because it’s what we can do, and if you can, then you must. That’s the way things once worked, and we refuse to allow that to die.
Mike writes regularly at his site: The Hickory Head Hermit.
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