Babe the Blue Ox

Was Paul Bunyan OSHA Friendly?

There’s a good reason why chainsaws and beer aren’t sold in the same store.  Chips and dip.  Yes.  Hammers and nails.  Most certainly.  But gas-powered tree trimming equipment and alcohol?  No.

During one of my nomadic moves from one place to another, from an old job to a new one, I made a three-month stop at my sister’s house and lived rent-free in their basement.

The house stood on an acre of land along a main road on the outskirts of a small town.  In the front yard, there was a large tree that had seen its better days.  It swayed some thirty-feet tall, within falling distance of the overhead telephone and electrical lines that paralleled the highway.  It no longer produced leaves, was obviously eaten-up by insects and woodpeckers, and was a constant topic of concern to my sister.

Which, by marriage, made it an annoying concern to my brother-in-law Bob.

After a late Friday night, Bob and I were out in the front yard, having a few breakfast beers, trying to decide upon a sensible course of action in the eventual demise of this big-old, dead tree.

Some people would have automatically thought to themselves “Professional Tree Removal Service”.  But that can get expensive.  Plus, it wouldn’t have been much of a challenge.

Like in any rural area, Bob was a part of a large network of friends and coworkers, each with different skills and specialities, who would help a neighbor without question or payment.

But Bob was under pressure from someone more persistent than any neighborhood HOA or town ordinance.  So after breakfast was drank, a decision was made.  He had a chainsaw.  I was expendable.  We’d drop that tree ourselves.

During a quick brunch break to the beer and cigarette buffet, a game plan was agreed upon.

An old canoe anchor was tied to the end of a fifty-foot rope.  Like a mountain climber and his grappling hook, Bob hurled that anchor towards the upper limbs of the tree.  Several times.  Finally, the anchor hooked a limb sturdy enough for me to pull on, away from the high voltage electrical lines, as Bob went to work with his chainsaw.

As the tree began to tilt, with Bob still cutting away at the base, I continued to do what I was told to do.  Pull on that rope with enough pressure keep that chainsaw from hanging-up and the tree away from the highway.

But as the trunk of the tree began to crack, there was a three-second moment of personal reflection.  Do I continue doing my job and get crushed to death with a thirty-foot tree?

No.  I ran.

The tree made a thunderous, splintery crash as it hit the ground, but no one was hurt, except for the tree of course.

Man-strutting back to the house we went, talking smack and laughing about our success.

“That’s right!  We bad!”

Unlike the tree, we grew up and matured after that day.  Sortta.

The back 3/4 acre of the property was home to a small vegetable garden, an old garage used as a storage building, and a whole lot of field grass.  Bob had a philosophy about cutting grass that made perfect sense to me.  If you cut that field grass down to the length of a golf course putting green and you don’t get too much rain, it won’t get ten-inches-long again for weeks, maybe a month or more.

The only hiccup in that plan was a tree stump or three that the previous owner had left behind.  You’d be cruising along on the riding mower, minding your own business, then “Bam!” and the mower’s deck would be all bent out of shape.

As an experiment, we came up with an ingenious idea, which sounded good at the moment.

Holes were drilled into the largest of the stumps with an electric drill.  Behind the storage building was an old 55-gallon drum full of used motor oil.  Fill the drilled holes with motor oil, saturating the wood, ignite the oil and watch that sucker burn down flat with the ground.

Problem was, the oil never really caught fire.  It just smoldered, sending a wisp of black smoke into the air.  The embarrassing pillar continued for three days.  It was like watching the Vatican to see if a new pope had been chosen.

The moral of this story?  There wasn’t one.  Just don’t ask my help with any yard work.

One thought on “Was Paul Bunyan OSHA Friendly?”

  1. I seem to remember you and I cutting down a tree at the cabin in Basye. Only, this time I was the one holding the rope and you had graduated to the chainsaw. “Is this far enough away for when the tree comes down?”, “That’s just right” was the answer. Yea Right. As he was cutting the tree and I was pulling it towards me, I noticed how tall that tree looked as it was falling towards me. Holy Smoke, I started to run as fast as my legs would move in an opposite direction. The tree landed and I was safe. I seemed to remember us getting a big laugh out of the whole adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

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