Sunday, April 20, 2014
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GUEST COLUMN • Mark Magnan | Fall Behind

If I had a Chinese menu it would say “Year of the Tree”. This has been the year that trees have played a big part in my outdoor activities. Recently I had, and wrote about, a tree that needed trimming. Due to a faulty chainsaw and a sore back, this event took much longer than it should have. I was finally able to complete the task. I trimmed the tree sufficiently then cleaned up the mess.
But as I returned home one day this past week I noticed something strange in my backyard. One of my healthy oak trees decided, since it was fall, that it would shed all of its leaves. The problem being that the leaves were still attached. The entire top of the tree had toppled to the ground. Instead of offering shade, now my tree seemed to try and prevent me from enjoying my yard.


I couldn’t come up with a good reason that the tree broke sending the two large limbs crashing to the ground. (To answer the age old question, I wasn’t home so I don’t know if it made a sound.) The tree was healthy, not in need of trimming like the other. This is also one of the types of oaks that do not get the normal diseases. There was no wind nor signs of lightning strikes. I was puzzled. But I knew that I had to once again don my lumberjack outfit, complete with red plaid shirt, and tackle the job. I also needed the ladder and running chainsaw.
It is said that everything happens for a reason. But why am I having to climb so many trees with running implements of destruction? Perhaps I need to get over my fear of heights, or maybe we are having a cold winter and I need all the free firewood that I can get. Yet, I might be taking a new job felling trees in the great north woods soon and I need this practice. For whatever reason I really am not comfortable with this new found skill. Why can’t I be thrust into a new photography job, shooting hungry lions or something less dangerous than climbing trees?
The job of cutting the tree wasn’t too difficult, but equipment failures kept me from being really efficient. I needed to start cutting the smaller limbs, to relieve the stress on the larger limbs. Quite often this ended in getting the saw in a bind. There was no easy way to do this. I cut one way and it went the opposite, I cut the other way and... well you get the picture. Finally I worked my way back to the trunk of the tree and cut loose the final two pieces. Now I have a large tree that looks just like a giant slingshot in my back yard. I am hoping that it will soon sprout new branches and grow again. It will be many years before it provides the shade that it did just a few weeks ago.
I am however thankful for the modern power tools that I used. As frustrating as they can be at times, they do make quick work of such a job. I did have the need to use some good old fashioned tools as well. I realize that before power tools people didn’t have ESPN to watch so they had a lot more time to work outside. But let me tell you, a chainsaw is way better than cutting all this manually. I sometimes wonder how wood became so popular as a building material when it had to be cut by hand.