Thursday, April 17, 2014
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GUEST COLUMN • Mark Magnan|To tree or not to tree

I must not read my own column and listen to my own advice. A while back I wrote about my experience with ladders. Not only ladders but chainsaws, running ones at that. And a lesson in gravity, taught by the master. So what did I do recently? Well I was up on a ladder again, and yes I had a chain saw. I was trimming a tree. I am quite careful when I am on a ladder so this time I didn’t have the fight with the law of gravity. I did however hurt my back. I don’t think it was as much the ladder or climbing the tree, but probably jerking on a chainsaw that suddenly decided to imitate a brick. How can something run fine one minute and the next moment be as lifeless as an upside down armadillo on the side of the road? Although I will admit that wrapping my arms and legs around the trunk of the tree might have contributed to the pain in my back. But I was determined not to fall this time. I am sure there are still finger imprints in the tree bark from my iron grip. I probably looked more like a cartoon character hugging the tree so tightly.


I took pills, sat on ice, and used some heat. I felt only a bit better. So I pulled out my trump card. I have gone to a sports medicine clinic a couple of times in the past few years. It seemed like a good time to try again. I wasn’t walking upright either, I resembled another primate by scooting about all hunched over and dragging my knuckles. Within minutes of entering the exam room I felt relief, when I left the clinic I was again walking erect like a homo sapien. I enjoy the visits to this clinic because I have a chance to talk sports and get some inside views of what goes on behind the scenes. The walls are lined with photos of famous athletes, and some that are not as famous. We talk, he does his anatomical magic and we are set, pending payment of course.
Back to the tree. Let me tell you, all those nifty little tricks for getting a tree to fall this direction instead of that way, the advice from lumberjacks, is all hogwash. This time the law of gravity that I faced went against all the shortcuts and experience that I have been given over the years. If you want to cut a tree, look directly under it, because that is where it will fall. Not this way or that way, regardless of the preliminary cuts. The tree will fall where gravity tells it to fall. You can argue and cite sage advice, but once again gravity has the final say.
I think what convinced me to climb up in a tree again was when I looked at the branches that needed trimming. From the ground they really didn’t seem so high. Once I had ascended the ladder and committed myself I was certain that the tree had doubled in height over night. But being a male of the species I would not admit defeat and charged forward. I successfully completed the trimming and did it quite safely. The next major obstacle was cleaning up the mess. I had a pile of branches, limbs and twigs. I needed to haul these off so I loaded them into my trusty pickup truck for a trip to the brush recycling area. Of course I had more than a truck load. So I took the rest of the limbs and scattered them around my neighbor’s yard like they fell from his tree. I told him we had a freak wind storm. I think he bought it as I saw him cleaning up the mess later in the day.
I am sure that I saved a lot of money. My only expenses were having to purchase a new chainsaw, but I wanted a new one anyway. Then of course the fee to get my back pain free again. My time was free since it was for me. I knew I could do this a lot cheaper than hiring professionals.