Ken and I recently faced an obstacle in the fence project. A small to medium-sized tree was in the way of our construction zone and needed to be to be removed – cut down. The job obviously required a chainsaw, which is something I did not own. After some consideration, I decided the thing to do was just to buy one; besides, I had other tree-type things that needed to be cut up – some large limbs fallen from a massive sycamore tree during last winter’s ice storm and were too thick to saw by hand. I decided to talk this over with my dad, who knows about all things related to power tools and it became immediately apparent that my dad was not terribly keen on the idea of me using a chainsaw. He was OK with me buying one, just not using one.
“Well, you’ve got to really watch out for the kickback. And remember you always have to use both hands. Oh, and make sure you hold that sucker away from your body, not close in. Boy I’ve seen some people get really hurt using chain saws the wrong way. Real hurt.”
My dad is always quick to remind people about how clumsy I once was in my pre-adolescent years. “You should have seen it – she ran right into that car with her bike and dislocated her elbow!” or “There she was, foot all stitched up cause she’d fallen down the week before and cut it. And so she’s hopping around cause she couldn’t walk on that stitched up foot, you know, and then she falls right down on her ass and breaks her thumb. Breaks her thumb! Can you believe that? Grace. That’s what we used to call her. Ha-Ha! Get it? Grace?”
Forgetting that the clumsy period in my life only lasted a couple of years, my dad still operates under the belief that I cannot walk across a room without incurring an injury requiring medical attention. Knowing this about my dad, I assured him that I wasn’t planning on using the chainsaw myself, but would instead leave the cutting to Ken. A couple of days later I went to Lowe’s and purchased a Log Master chainsaw (love that name), took it home and read the instructions. It seems my dad really knew what he was talking about because the booklet was full of warnings about kickback and using both hands and other useful information, specifically about not using a chainsaw when you’re on a ladder which makes no sense to me because how else do you cut down a tree?
Saturday was the day designated for cutting down the offending tree and Ken prepared for the job by (what else?) getting the ladder set up. Now, Ken doesn’t much like climbing ladders and would probably prefer fighting off a pack of wild dogs, but he got up there, by God, and you gottta love him for that. As soon as he started up the chainsaw, I cut my eyes over to the neighbor’s back door, testing a little theory I had. Knowing my ammo-loving, Sequoia-plantin’ alpha male neighbor, I figured it would only take a couple of seconds of a chain-saw melody to lure him outside, and sure enough I was right. Rhett came bounding out the back door practically at a sprint, still chewing his last bite of lunch. “Hey dude. Need some help? Cause I’m telling you, I’m one ladder climbing sonofabitch. No shit.”
Ken & I both knew it wasn’t the ladder that my neighbor wanted to climb. He wanted to operate the chainsaw. And we were more than happy to oblige him. “Why sure, thanks a lot!” And Rhett climbed up to the very top of the ladder and commenced to cutting off branches, like the madman that he is.
If I’m not mistaken, Rhett violated every last one of the safety instructions written in the Log Master’s book of rules. He was cutting with one hand. He was holding the chain saw recklessly. He was flirting with kickback all over the place. At one point he was on the top rung of the ladder, doing all of the above. Had he been in my yard at the time, I would have put a stop to this kind of reckless abandon, not willing to risk the $1000 deductible on my homeowner’s insurance, but since the tree was mostly in his yard I let him go all out. He seemed to be having such a good time. After the tree was cut down, I let Rhett continue using the saw to cut up the logs. He and his wife have one of those patio fire pits that are fashionable these days and he wanted the wood for burning later. I don’t really mind having a fire pit next door, except instead of having a happy little fire, Rhett likes to stuff his fire pit as full of wood as possible and start a raging inferno. Sometimes at night, you can see the burning embers floating through the neighborhood, like large grotesque fireflies. Nevertheless, we left him sawing up his logs, happy as a little lumberjack; and there he continued working until he injured himself. Horribly. Yes, Rhett wrenched his back out of place. His back. Here’s a guy who just risked traumatic amputation of just about every appendage he owns and he’s felled by something as commonplace as a back injury. Go figure.
I haven’t seen Rhett since Saturday and I wonder if his back still has him laid up. The logs are still lying in his back yard along with some of the other branches he didn’t get around to cutting up. That, in addition to all of his kid’s toys, makes for an increasingly chaotic picture over there. The fence project is once again moving along since the tree is no longer an obstacle, and we’re working at a fever pitch to finish the section between our yards. I can’t say I will miss the view, but I have to admit the neighbor has his own entertainment value. I’m sure it won’t be long before he starts up the old fire pit again and the glowing embers that it spits out will begin their freakish wanderings around the neighborhood. I just hope one of them doesn’t burn my fence down.