Thursday, July 5:
Yesterday the men took out a maple tree behind the woodshed. It was a big tree, over forty feet in height, and it was leaning heavily toward the house; moreover, on inspection it was found to be riddled with insects, and dying. On top of that it was right in the spot they had chosen to build the new and as yet in the planning stages summer kitchen. So it had to go.
The problem was, out of the three hundred and sixty degrees in which it might fall, only about sixty of them would be anything short of a really bad idea. The tree was so close to the house – less than twenty feet – that almost half the possible arc it could occupy in falling would do serious damage to our home. Most of that arc would also include the woodshed, which, while not as important as the house, has served and is serving us well, and we would like to keep things that way. To the east there was a large ash tree in which the condemned tree could hang up and leave us with a cocked cannon. And to the west is the power line that serves the house. Only if it fell due south could that maple tree fall unregretted, and the tree leaned heavily to the north.
Obviously, time to call in the professionals.
So, obviously, we did nothing of the kind.
The project took all day. There comes a point when you are talking yourself into believing you can do something difficult when you cease to believe you really can. Around here it usually comes just after the point where we have so committed ourselves to the course of action that there is no drawing back. From breakfast onward the men – ranging in age from sixteen, too young to know what’s impossible, to fifty-two, too old to admit it – talked the project through step-by-step. Each time they took a step – like sending one another up the aluminum extension ladder to a crotch twenty-some feet in the air, just to check things out – they had to reassess the next step, and the next. The plan for taking out the tree must have had several incarnations.
They shot arrows over branches and drew up lengths of wide webbing of the kind used to secure loads on semi trucks. They hacked away branches with axe and machete. They secured things with chain before they cut them away, and then lowered them to the ground. Sometimes dead branches came down on the woodshed roof with a loud bang. They finally got the tree all wrapped in restraints and then, attatching it with winches to a tree forty feet behind and forty feet below it, they notched it, kerfed it, and drew up on the winches. Loud reports like gunshots, groans, warning shouts, and over it went.
God alone knows why it didn’t take a giant leap and knock a hole in the side of the house, but it didn’t. Come to think of it, God isn’t the only one Who knows, because all those men thinking together had the thing pretty well figured out. Anyway, it worked. The tree dropped right where they wanted it.
We who had taken to the garden and were weeding to keep fear at bay, sent up prayers of thanksgiving when the tree crashed down and went up the hill to make dinner.