Thursday, June 07, 2007

Article: After the storm

Our bridge with an assortment of fallen branches.
Note that I had already moved most out of the way and that
several large but detached branches are suspended in the trees over the bridge.

I have something to confess: I’m afraid of chainsaws. People might call this an irrational fear. I think those people are all men. And I think those men have never read a chainsaw manual. There’s a warning that if you hit something unyielding the chainsaw will jump backward and saw your head in half.

Living semi-rural and having a disabled husband makes chainsaw-phobia a real problem. Things happen out here and someone has to go clean them up. Naturally, I’d like for my son Philip to do this. He’s twenty-eight, tall and strong, a perfect candidate for the job. Except he lives in Round Rock and has a job and a family of his own.

From time to time, I coerce a friend or two to help. Surprisingly, and because they haven’t read the manual, some men jump at the chance to use a chainsaw. They’re real-life incarnations of Tim on Home Improvement. Even so, I find you can’t really rely on them. Like Philip, they have lives of their own.

So when I got up Monday morning and saw the devastation the storm and high winds brought upon our place, I knew chainsawing was in my future.

Our property has one serious logistical weakness: we have to cross a narrow concrete bridge to get in and out. That bridge has a target painted on it in tree language. If a branch falls anywhere on our property, it falls on that bridge.

Monday proved a special case though. Certainly branches fell on the bridge but others went into the creek, across the fences, in the pasture with the horses. In fact, branches and downed trees could be seen everywhere. I couldn’t face all that right away so I pushed enough debris aside to get out and I went to run some errands.

I was stopped before I even got to the paved road. A gigantic tree had snapped in half and fallen on the dirt road that serves both our house and our neighbor’s. Fortunately their power was out and they needed to get the road clear so a utility service man could get in. My neighbor was just reseating the chain on his chainsaw as I drove past. I felt guilty but I had absolutely no idea what to do about that tree.

Eventually the time came to face my responsibilities and start cleaning the place. I got my truck, my gloves, a good pair of loppers and my cute little chainsaw and headed to the bridge. Now I wouldn’t normally call anything as deadly as a chainsaw “cute” but mine is different. It’s an electric chainsaw. Not one of those dumb corded ones. How’s that going to work? They don’t make cords long enough and I don’t have any desire to lug a generator around. No, mine is a battery powered chainsaw.

There are a few things to love about battery powered electric chainsaws. The first is that you don’t have to pull a cord to start them. I have never been able to do that on a gasoline powered anything. And pulling really hard on something that has stated it’s trying to kill me, well, that doesn’t seem like a good idea.

Another nice thing about them is they don’t have as much power. They don’t cut through things as easily as a gasoline powered chainsaw, including my head. I view this as a feature.

Its final advantage is that the battery doesn’t last very long between charges. There’s only so much work I can do before I am forced to take a break. And it gives me justification for using the loppers even though the chainsaw might be faster--gotta save battery.

After working for several hours and taking two big loads to the dump, I’ve decided to give up. The job is too big for me or my little chainsaw. I’m going to have to hire someone with no known chainsaw aversions to finish the job. I feel bad about that. I should be more self-sufficient. But I’d rather stay alive.

Photo: Some of the cleanup I faced to clear the bridge.Photo: Another view of the bridge-related debris.
Photo: My little battery powered chainsaw next to a branch it sawed. There's more work for you yet, my little darling!
Photo: Since I took this photo, the chainsaw and I have cleared those branches you see just beyond the trees.


Coral said...

carl said he wants to help you with the upkeep of your property. Apparently he enjoys that kind of thing. He might be crazy. But he is also afraid of chainsaws.

namacuix said...

Having Carl help out would be great! It would take some pressure off the rest of us!

Anonymous said...

Fear of chainsaws is called intelligence. Take a look at statistics in the logging and even landscaping industries--chainsaws are the number one maimers and killers of the professionals who use them. There's just no way to make them "not unreasonably dangerous" and have them still be chainsaws. I treat mine like a trained lion--it does what I want it to, but it's always looking for an opportunity to bite me. It's amazing what you can clear with a small ax and a good bow saw.