Over to You

I’M NOT A LUMBERJACK

But I'm okay—now that I'm a recovered chainsaw power jonkie

GLYNN LEYSHON August 1 2005
Over to You

I’M NOT A LUMBERJACK

But I'm okay—now that I'm a recovered chainsaw power jonkie

GLYNN LEYSHON August 1 2005

I’M NOT A LUMBERJACK

Over to You

But I'm okay—now that I'm a recovered chainsaw power jonkie

GLYNN LEYSHON

POWER IS NOT only corrupting, it is addictive. And the power of a chainsaw is particularly addictive for many men. I am, I confess, one of them. I had wanted a chainsaw for as long as I could remember, and when I finally got one, it was as though I’d taken an aphrodisiac. I was filled with lust to cut something—preferably large—into pieces.

I decided to trim the copse of scruffy Manitoba maples at the foot of my modest backyard. I already had an aluminum extension ladder that could easily reach seven metres, and with it in place, I climbed to attack the profusion of branches at the lowest

level—a modest but, as it turned out, wise choice for my first foray.

I set to work as though I’d been born to the task. Wood chips flew, and the unwanted branches floated to the ground; the saw was living up to all my expectations. It was so exhilarating, a kind of frenzy seized me and I neglected to watch exactly where I was cutting. What happened next was right out of the cartoons: I inadvertently lopped off the branch my ladder was resting on. (In my defence, I must point out that there were so many leaves, they masked the fact I was cutting on the tree side of the ladder rather than the end-of-the-branch side. I’m not stupid, just overeager.)

Fortunately, I hadn’t been able to reach all the branches, so the ladder fell only a short distance before coming to rest on an uncut limb. The jolt, however, dislodged me. I managed somehow to land on the now gently sloping ladder, but on my forearms, facing downward. I slid to the ground face first like a child on a playground slide—except I was holding a buzzing chainsaw in front of me—hitting each rung on the way down. I was bent, but not broken. The chainsaw, stalling when it hit the ground, was unscathed, my infatuation with the machine undiminished.

Shortly afterwards, a neighbour asked me to remove a tree from her property. A sturdy old oak, it towered some 12 m in the air and was growing much too close to her house. It was more than I could handle, but I had an inflated opinion of my abilities as a tree surgeon—never mind the fiasco in my

own backyard—and said yes. With a couple of assistants, a.k.a. my teenage boys, I approached the tree one sunny Sunday morning, my saw newly sharpened and fully fuelled. The plan was to start with a relatively safe and easy first step: take off a lower branch that projected out over the sloping lawn to the sidewalk.

This limb was about as thick as my waist at its widest and about halfway to its end it divided into two smaller but still substantial branches. I decided to lop them off to make

the remainder shorter and easier to handle. I would then attach ropes to this part, undercut it near the trunk, and with my crew, pull it to the ground away from the house.

The first problem arose when I realized that, as was often the case, one of my neighbours had borrowed my aluminum extension ladder. I, in turn, borrowed a wooden ladder, which unfortunately was only about half the length of my ladder. Still, it was the only one available, and since it just reached the branch, I put it in place. As a safeguard, I then lashed the top rung to the branch and carefully noted on which side of the ladder to cut.

Smug in the knowledge that I had, in fact, learned a thing or two from my previous experience, I started to saw.

Within seconds, the two branches dropped to the ground. But minus their weight, the main limb lurched upward as though it were some kind of clumsy bird taking flight. The too-short ladder now became a sort of multi-level trapeze, its bottom clearing the ground by inches as it swung back and forth. I was left with my legs projecting forward, while from the waist up I was draped over that damn limb, fighting to hang on to the saw (fortunately I was able to hit the kill switch). I looked like a cat unable to scramble onto a ledge. My helpers were convulsed with laughter. When I finally convinced them to stop, I had them put some weight on the bottom rungs of the ladder so I could get down.

I took my turn as ballast as I sent one of them back up to untie the ladder. We placed it against the tree trunk and once again I climbed up. I made the partial cut to the branch near the trunk, then moved the ladder out of the way, putting it on the lawn next to the house.

From the sidewalk, we heaved on the ropes I’d thrown over the branch during the trapeze incident. We heard a welcome cracking, and with a final cataclysmic explosion, the branch parted from the trunk. But it had a mind of its own and landed at a 90-degree angle from where I wanted it to fall. It missed the house—just—but crashed right on the borrowed ladder, smashing one side of it to matchsticks.

Felling trees is now behind me. My neighbour hired a professional firm to finish the job, and I stayed out of the way. Oh, I still have the chainsaw, but I cut only the occasional piece of firewood. Just the rumble of the motor is enough for me now. I?]

Glynn Leyshon buys his bandages in London,

Ont. To comment: overto@macleans.ca