Any day that I get to use a chainsaw, I consider a good day. The sound of the two–cycle engine’s one–note concerto. The smell of fresh saw dust. The manly force of the chain’s teeth. These are a few of my favorite things. Most days my saw just sits idle in my garage, but on a recent warm autumn day in the mountains, I opened the bright orange case of my Stihl saw, filled the bar oil and gas/oil mixture, choked the engine, pulled the crank until the engine turned over, adjusted the choke and pulled once more, and watched and listened as the old Stihl came to life.
I’ve fallen many trees over the years – most of which required little to no planning. But this maple tree plagued my mind for several days as I tried to determine how to drop it without smashing my buddy’s front porch and without taking a few power lines down with it as it fell. The bulk weight of the maple leaned directly towards these power lines. Without careful planning and careful cutting, I would have assuredly left myself and the rest of the mountaineers on the ridge without electricity. Even worse, I suspected that the power company would have made me pay for their services to restore power.
I decided early in the planning process to request my dad’s help. Although he would shun the title, I consider him the resident expert at falling trees. Even my first memories of him revolve around old chainsaws and stacks of firewood. I explained my plan of using a come–along to pull the tree in the direction it needed to fall. I would then notch the maple on one side and cut through on the other.
“How are you going to get the come–along high enough into the tree?”
“Easy, dad. I’ll use my tree–stand.”
“Will it climb up a tree?”
“Oh, yeah. Works like a charm.”
“Well I’d like to see that!”
On the morning of the tree–falling, my son, wife, and I met my dad and Joe, dad’s father–in–law (who supplied the come–along and his own brand of expertise), at a local mom–and–pop diner for breakfast. Scrambled eggs. Sausage patties. Toast. And the second best pancakes I’ve ever eaten (my wife makes the best). We finished breakfast and drove up the mountain towards the cabin and towards the dead maple tree that leaned toward the road and the power lines.
As Joe prepared the come–along and dad played with my son, Turtle, I adjusted the tree–stand to fit the maple. As soon as the stand locked onto the tree, I put Turtle onto the seat and gave him a chance to be part of the action. As a young outdoorsman, he relished the opportunity. I lifted him from the stand and placed him on the tailgate of “pawpaw’s truck” and stepped up onto the bottom piece of the stand. All of my bow–hunting gear, including my harness, was in a storage unit five–and–a–half hours away so I busied myself tying a rope into a harness to attach me to the tree. Should the stand (or the operator) malfunction, I had full intentions of not falling to my death. I climbed quickly for the first ten feet. Ten feet is about the extent of my comfort level. Every movement thereafter was measured in inches. After what seemed like an hour of climbing, I reached the first major branch of the tree and my planned location for the come–along connection. Between harassing me for having a slight fear of heights, dad looked up at the climbing stand. “That’s pretty slick.”
With the come–along chain attached to the tree, I shimmied the stand back down to the ground. As soon as I reached the ground and removed the stand, Joe attached the other end of the come–along to a hearty oak and started cranking, pulling the maple towards him.
I had never fallen a tree under tension and was a bit apprehensive about how the base would shift when it broke free. I stood as far away as I could and reached my arms and the saw far out from my body to cut the first notch.
I situated myself to the other side of the tree, revved the Stihl, and watched as the teeth on the chain starting showering the ground with bits of maple. Never to disappoint, the Stihl tore through the tree with minimal effort. As soon as I noticed the top of the tree begin to lean and heard the familiar pops and cracks of a tree about to fall, I jumped back and shouted, “Timber!!!”
As if I had drawn a chalk–line of my desired outcome, the maple fell precisely where I had planned. Joe and I shook hands excitedly, congratulating ourselves for a job well done.
Dad took over the saw work, bucking the smaller branches and sawing the trunk and larger branches into firewood length. Although I enjoy operating the saw, I like supporting my dad as he cuts nearly as well. We’ve been doing it that way for years and I hope to be doing it that way for many years to come. Between tossing the cut logs onto a pile, I watched dad cut and watched Turtle at play near us. I imagined that in years to come, his memories of my dad will revolve around old chainsaws and stacks of firewood. At least I hope so.
Are you a saw aficionado? Do you find joy in cutting and gathering firewood? Or do you have any favorite father/son activities that you remember from your youth? If so, I’d sure love to hear about it!