It was a cool but pleasant weekend afternoon; fifty degrees and sunny. Perfect weather for cuttin’ firewood. Huzzah! (Hint: the foresight to cut firewood when it’s 50 and sunny instead of when it’s -20 and snowing is what separates a wise redneck from lower woodland creatures like raccoons and trailer trash.) Unfortunately it turned out to be a bit more drama than I’d have preferred.
I approached a decrepit old maple. “Hey buddy, you’re old and nearly dead. I’m going to cut you down for fuel to keep my family warm.”
To my surprise the maple spoke back. “I’m not dead yet! See the six leaves on that one branch? Proof! Not dead. Back off murderer!”
“I see your point but you’re not healthy. Plus there’s lots of seedlings to take your place.”
“No way! Those seedlings are punks. Have you considered propane?”
“Screw big oil!” I shouted. (For some reason I say that almost reflexively.)
Then I calmed down and spoke with a more measured tone. “Sorry, but I’m going to sustainably harvest your ass and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“I beg to differ.” Opined the tree. “I knew this day was coming. I’ve prepared for you.”
“Huh?” I muttered. Trees and I usually get along.
“The other trees and I have been watching you. Stacking dismembered trunks in the yard? That’s medieval. And don’t even get me started about that wood splitter device you own. What kind of sadistic monster invented that? You sick bastard! We’re not going to take it any more. Us trees have decided the next time you get all uppity with that chainsaw of yours, one of us is going to squash you like an overripe banana!”
This unnerved me. Trees and I usually see eye to eye but this one seemed destined to cause problems. I sized it up and prepared to fell it. I had to admit that this one seemed to be leaning everywhere all at once. I couldn’t quite see how to best drop it between the adjacent oaks. Then I saw the perfect angle. It was leaning just a bit to the southwest.
I lined up and started making a wedge cut angled to the southwest.
“Oh no! Not to the southwest!” Cried the tree.
“Shush now. It’ll be over in a minute.” I shouted over the racket of the Stihl.
It was a perfect wedge and a superb back cut. The tree started falling. Stately, beautiful. I love it when I do a good job.
Then all of a sudden the tree pivoted, twisted an eight of a rotation, and lodged firmly in an adjacent oak. Damn!
“Bwa ha ha ha ha.” Laughed the tree. “I can’t believe you fell for my soutwestern gambit. Humans are so gullible.”
I eyed the mess I’d made. The old maple was locked into the oak and wasn’t going to be easy to dislodge. My afternoon had just taken a turn for the worst.
“You suck and I rule!” The tree taunted. “I’m gonna’ hang here and you can’t do a darned thing about it!”
I had to admit I wasn’t sure what to do next.
The tree continued. “If you’re not careful I’ll fall suddenly and pound you into the ground like a stupid mammalian spike. Trees are big league; go back to mowing grass you little pussy!”
I examined the situation carefully. I couldn’t drop the oak (or rather didn’t want to) and even if I did that would have me chipping away at the oak while a multi-ton sword of Damocles hung over my head. I don’t own any equipment that could budge a full tree. Frankly I wasn’t happy with any of the options.
Finally I decided to put in a second wedge cut a foot above the last one.
“If you strike me down I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Threatened the tree.
I paused. Rednecks regularly die while felling trees. Was there a better option? I couldn’t think of one. I was in a pickle. Me and my saw were right at the focal point of tremendous stored energy just itching for a chance to go kinetic and flatten me. It’s not the first time I’ve been faced with a problem that could best be solved with a stick of dynamite and a long fuse. Part of me just wanted to go home and crack a beer.
In the end I manned up, fired up the saw, and gingerly started another cut. Halfway through I stuck in a wedge so the tree wouldn’t pinch my saw.
“A wedge? Are you seriously trying to take out a massive being like me with an ‘inclined plane’?” The tree taunted.
Having completed my work on one side of the trunk I switched places and continued on the opposite portion of the trunk. Then the tree shuddered a fraction of an inch, the saw kerf suddenly pinched, and my saw stalled. The chain was held tight.
“Haw haw haw.” The tree bellowed. “Go home loser.”
I nervously removed the powerhead from the saw’s bar and got the bar out of there. A bar costs too much to risk bending it. The chain wouldn’t let go. I didn’t have a spare chain so I hoofed it for the truck to get my smaller bar which had a nice sharp chain ready to go.
“Run while you can monkey boy!” The tree yelled at my back.
Ten minutes later I was reassembling my saw while nervously watching the tree lest it cut lose without warning. I’d brought my peavey and some hand tools in case they could help. The wind had picked up and all the trees were gently swaying. This just made things worse. I was tired. The neighbor’s horse was watching from it’s pasture as if nothing would brighten it’s day more than watching a human get crushed. I had a bad feeling about the whole thing.
“You’re back? Why? Not humiliated enough?” The tree continued. I wasn’t sure what to do next. I’d already made several cuts in the trunk (all of which nearly completely severed the thing but none had released that awful uncontrolled potential energy). Every new cut made it harder to figure what place would finally release the mess or where it would fly when it cut loose. My pinched saw chain was firmly lodged in the trunk; a shameful reminder that I’d misjudged not once but twice already. I was covered with sawdust. A tick was crawling on my leg.
“I’m warning you. I’m going to pound you like a life sized ‘whack a mole’.” The tree continued.
Shaken, I busied myself gassing up the Stihl.
“You’ll never win you big loser.” The tree was merciless. “You might as well give up homesteading and do something harmless. Maybe a career in politics?”
Politics?!? Now it was personal!
“I am man.” I addressed the tree. “I have an oversized turbo charged simian brain. It has one purpose…to dominate everything. I’m on the top of the food chain because I damn well belong there. I have a powersaw. I have opposable thumbs. My species invented beer, nuclear weapons, and ice hockey. We cannot be defeated. I’m going to find your weakness, I’m going to exploit it, and I’m going to win!”
The tree paused briefly…but then came back with more insults. “You’re wearing a helmet. How’s that going to protect your eggshell skull when I drop six tons on it? Think your neck is that strong? You ever heard the word ‘widowmaker’?”
There was nothing for it but to put in a third cut about the other two. I didn’t like it one bit. Each new attempt made things ever more tricky and complicated. My usual solution to this sort of problem is to not get into it in the first place.
I made my determination and then cut carefully and delicately. Soon I’d cut both sides of the tree on the third position. The tree swayed wildly but did not break or fall. I didn’t dare cut any further. I slipped a wedge into the cut I’d just made.
“Humans suck! I’ve outlived generations of them.” The tree wouldn’t give up. “I outlived George Burns…”
“Say goodnight Gracie…” I interrupted. I smacked the wedge with a short handled maul. Nothing. Oh shit! I struck again. SNAP. A shudder rocked through the tree from base to top. The upper branches visibly shifted. Then the whole thing came down at my feet.
I looked up in the oak which had held the obstreperous old maple. No branches left dangling to fall on me later. Whew. Also there was no serious damage to the oak. Good news.
I grabbed my formerly pinched chain. It had been released and was lying on the ground. Then I made what I think is a wise decision. I packed my shit and left. I’d gotten my redneck ass into and out of a serious situation; the latter being key. Sometimes you’ve got to know when to call it a day.
I’ll come by next weekend to buck it up. I’ll be extra careful when I do. I think I might perform an exorcism before I bring out the splitter. You can never be too careful.