SMALL PRINT -FACTS ALTERED TO INCREASE ENTERTAINABILITY
Sometimes it is funny how two people can view the same thing with such different points of view, like the smell of the cigar to the aficionado and the stench of the thing to the non-smoker.
Such is the case in the father and son tale told here. The old man was a meteorologist by trade, trained by the U.S. Air Force after being drafted in WW II. But before those days he was just a country boy, the kind of hard-working, god-fearing folk that were raised by the bucket loads in the first part of the 20th century in this country. He really did walk long distances to school and collect firewood on cold winter morns to warm the thin boards that filled in between the cracks that were called home. Horses were a form of transportation, water came from a well and food was grown or shot. Labor was the only work he knew growing up. Picking cotton was the easy work but his Dad was in timber and so he naturally learned the way of it. Cutting trees was hard, dangerous business in those days of manual machinery. Muscle along with steel shaped into sharp teethed saws felled the trees while horses, chains, ropes, pulleys and ramps were the tools used to get the logs on the wagons. Heat, sap and sweat with saw dust flying through the air make for one nasty combination but you did what you could to make a nickel during the hard days of the depression. What I am getting to in a long-about way is that the old man had tree killing in his blood from an early age and however hard those hard times were, swapping blood for boards and boards for bucks back in his youth, somehow he now fondly recalls them some 75 years later.
Dad, who I call ‘Old Feller’, in reference to his age and his love for toppling trees, (the bigger the tree greater the pleasure) seems to derive much joy from putting his old knowledge of the art of lumberjacking to use on his current property and crop of trees.
This saga is about the 50 foot red oak that stood innocently enough for many decades in the back yard but became a target in the fall of 2008 when Dad was looking for another one to cut down. First let me interject that son Don, who is my brother, has had a chain saw from many years and would bring it home occasionally to chop down small trees in the yard. Before that I am sure that Dad axed any unfortunate ones that stood between him and the blue sky. Dad was definitely an ax man and to this day at age 89 still swings one fairly accurately. He knows the nuances of an axe like the pitcher knows the baseball, like a preacher knows the Bible, and like Gramma knows the cook stove. To me and you an ax is just a tool but to Dad an ax has a certain weight to it, the handle should be of the right type of wood, it should swing with a rhythm, and the blade needs to be sharp and sharpened just so. An axe in his hand is like a hamburger in mine, it just feels right and means good times are coming. But Don wasn't around so dad had me buy a chain saw for me to use for him. This is what brings my life to this one pivotal point.
So here we are in his backyard and here is the scenario. One old oak tree about eight feet from the old shed holding a wooden camper I spent several months and dollars building, next to a 63 Buick convertible I spent several months and dollars restoring next to an old man who has spent several years getting that way. The tree had only one direction it could fall without damaging property or becoming entangled in other trees . At this point in the takedown I am the tool of Dad as the tree is too big for an axe, so I am told how to operate the chain saw properly to bring the tree down in the right spot. Up to this point Dad has been telling me the tree will fall North which is how we want it to fall. He has spoken with confidence, conviction, experience, honor, integrity and every other attribute you could apply that would make me one absolutely sure the old lumberjack knew what he was doing. Here is where it gets interesting though. If you have never cut a tree down, let me interject here that there becomes a point in the sawing into the body of it, that there is no backing out of it. It starts moaning and making loud cracking sounds sort of like its last rites of passage before it gives up and lets go and falls. I had cut into it this day with the chain saw and the tree was at this point when the old man says, for the first time mind you, without any reference to all the former statements of confidence about how this would be easy, “I am not sure which way it will go.”
Now I am standing there trying to size up the situation and Dad is about six feet from the tree trunk as all this is going on. I had previously attached a rope as far up in the tree as I could get it and tied it to the back of my old truck which was north of the tree and straining hard with the rope stretched like a rubber band fighting to keep the tree from going South into the shed. I am not sure but I think a couple of times the rear wheels lifted off the ground and I pictured the tree winning the battle and flinging the truck over the fence into the apartment complex parking lot like a toy Hot Wheels. As my Dad utters these words of his lack of faith in the situation, I start to panic. The south side of the tree has some limbs that would easily make nice shade trees for the average yard and these are all trying to pull the tree into the cabin, which the only thing blocking that way is my old Dad there with axe in hand. If it goes that way, he along with the entire four room cabin and my camper and all my other junk will be smashed. Not a good time for Dad to change his mind about which way the tree will fall. I am not a lumberjack, I like trees and would rather leave them where they are. But somehow I realize if something goes awry, I will be the adult responsible. The questions I will have to answer are buzzing through my mind as all this is going on, not helping relieve my anxiety attack any.
So what do I do! First I run to the truck and start it and drive forward slowly, praying the rope, which now looks like stretched silly putty, doesn’t break. I move the truck a couple of feet and the tree stands strong. Then I go back to the tree, try to indicate to Dad that he may need to get way out of the way, which he does not do, than I start the chain saw and cut a little deeper, fearful that I may die any second, into the trunk of the tree. Dad watches emotionless as horror pours from every part of my body. Nothing changes. I repeat this process about five times and finally the old tree starts to move ever so slowly in the right direction. If I am nothing else when cutting down trees I am patient. I get out of the truck which is out of the trees falling range and have my camera ready. Dad is still standing close to the tree trunk as I am thinking that there is no way he can get out of harms way if need be. The tree slowly cracks and begins falling towards me, thank goodness and I start taking pictures. Here is where the scary part happens. Earlier in the year I had cut a ring around the tree about 4 feet high as dad told me to do saying this would kill the tree, which would mean there would be no leaves on it and make it lighter and easier to work with when we did cut it down. But this ring also weakened the tree at this spot. So as Dad is standing to the right and behind the tree and it starts to fall we both assume it will break at the base where I cut it deeply with the chain saw. However as the tree beigns falling it snaps at the four foot ring where it had been weakened and while the tree falls north the lower part of it pops south with amazing force and stops just inches from knocking a hole in the shed. All this time Dad is just a few feet away standing just right of where the tree popped backwards. About a minute later, he had his axe in hand and was dealing the final blows to the mighty oak just in case it might try to make a miraculous revivial and upright itself. I counted my blessings, put my tools away and crawled home a wiser timber man, with knowledge I hope I never have to use again. Here are photos of the tree falling and the Old Feller taking his youth serum.
aka 90 YEAR OLD MAN VERSUS THE OAK TREE
When you start tying trucks to trees things are dangerous.