Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Don't ever call me that, the name is Chainsaw." - Chainsaw, Summer School


There used to be a tree between these two. No (living) trees were harmed in the making of this blog post

If there’s something that I would like on my coat of arms, I think a chainsaw would be nice. Chainsaws are (excluding that whole “Texas Massacre” thing) a really, really wholesome invention. When I run a chainsaw (normally) I’m getting firewood that turns into heat for the family, exercise to prevent an untimely heart-clogging from all that sweet, sweet meat, and also getting to rip apart something with a chain with really cool, sharp teeth, rotating at about a zillion (metric equivalent, million) rpm. A chainsaw is, really, a culmination and ultimate realization of the thirteen-year-old Boy Scout in me: massive, wanton destruction, but for a good cause. Makes me think of that old Queen song when one goes down: “Another One Bites The Dust.”

In Houston, I don’t get to do that so much. In wintertime, on the single day that it’s cold here, if I light up the junk mail that I got on that day I’ve dumped enough British thermal units into the house that I have to turn the air conditioning on. Firewood? Not really needed in Houston. I’m thinking that all the fireplaces in the houses here are a cunning ploy by local realtors to convince buyers that living in Houston isn’t (essentially) like living on the planet Mercury. So, I don’t get to use one of my favorite tools: my chainsaw.

Today, however, I got out my trusty chainsaw for a good purpose. I was cutting down a palm tree.

This wasn’t just any palm tree: this was a decapitated palm tree.

It started (I think) when lightning hit the palm tree. I think this happened because just after a bunch of electronics in our house ceased functioning all at the same time, the tree (which was in contact with the power pole coming into our house) died. It collapsed in a few weeks in a windstorm. That was okay: the power line feeding our house stopped its fall.

I pondered this. I was pretty sure that the power company would charge us bazillions to knock down the tree. The alternative was waiting for termites to go up and eat the palm tree, which wasn’t all that attractive. I came up with the idea that I could rent a manlift and pull the tree down myself.

The Mrs. had a very eloquent reply: “No.”

The Mrs. said it in a manner that indicated that, should I try to implement my (stupid) idea, that I would be better off in a room full of cannibal undead. These would not be normal cannibal undead, no. These cannibal undead would have just spent the last sixteen hours of their (lives?) in line at the DMV.

Okay, (stupid) idea cancelled. I called the power company.

Turns out it was free, since the power company doesn’t want morons (like me) in manlifts next to their powerlines. Bad publicity when the headline “Cheap Husband Fried Like A Mozzarella Stick” hits the front page.

The power company cut it down, but left 20’ of the trunk of the palm tree reaching skyward, like a cinderblock yearning to fly. As the property owner, it was my responsibility to deal with this splinter. Admittedly, it was a splinter 20’ high . . . so, I’d need a ladder, and a chainsaw.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever been 15’ up on a ladder with a running chainsaw. From that vantage point, my plan didn’t look so good. The Mrs. looked on, ready to sprint to the phone to call for medical help if my stupidity led to great bodily damage. I climbed down.

“Doesn’t look like a good idea from up there,” I told The Mrs.

“Funny, I just thought you liked climbing up ladders with a running chainsaw.” The Mrs., always so sympathetic.

I decided to risk felling the tree in the conventional manner, since I could replace a fence or our birdbath much more easily than my spleen, spine, stomach, skin, or any other body part starting with the letter “s”.

I started ripping the chainsaw into the trunk of the tree. When I fell a tree, the method I’ve always used is to cut a nice big wedge out of the tree in the direction I want it to fall. Then I cut diagonally down the back side. Although this works about 95% of the time, the other 5% is, frankly, terror inducing. There is nothing that gets adrenaline pumping like several tons of wood being accelerated by gravity at 32 feet per second² (9.81 m/s²) that focuses every muscle in your body to get the hell out of the way so you’re not pulverized the way you would be if you were between Rosie O’Donnell and a buffet of all the mayonnaise you can drink. Or eat. Or whatever it’s called when you’re guzzling straight mayo.

I finished my diagonal cut. I started pushing the trunk, to see if it moved. It did. I had no idea how the mechanical properties of the palm tree compare to say, birch, aspen, pine, the trees I think of as “real” trees. (Palm trees? Those are for Gilligan’s Island.)

Despite all of the destructive power of a chainsaw, most every tree I’ve cut down in close quarters I’ve pushed over – it seems to make sense to me that if I have to run like hell, I don’t want to have to figure out where to toss the spinning metal blades of death that is my chainsaw before I take off. Call it planning ahead.

I pushed, and heard the sounds of victory – the cellulosic tendons of the palm snapping as it swayed back and forth above me like the hammer of Thor, ready to smite me if I’d forgotten to sacrifice a calf, or whatever Thor likes sacrificed.

A final snap: the tree fell, exactly where I wanted it to go.

The Mrs. looked relieved.

And another one’s gone, another one bites the dust . . .

For The Mrs. viewpoint, go to: The Mrs. Blog.

Reality must lie somewhere in between. And, technically, my life insurance pays off as long as I didn’t intend to die.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of reality being somewhere in between, I notice a large difference between our estimates of the height of the tree. I said 12', while you said 20'.

This is normally where one might expect a comment about the male tendency to overstimate length.

But I like being married, so I won't make that comment.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So many things running thru my head. First, no way for the stump to have been a tree house? Or could you have just cut holes up the side, think ladder, and installed a slide into the pool? Did you not absorb some of the pacific northwest indian culture while in Alaska? You could have been the only house in Houston with a totem pole, that would have made realtors flock to you trying to sell it for you in the future!!!

I also have to ask, what was in the lard barrel?

5:38 PM  
Blogger Dame Koldfoot said...

Well, I am not married to Mr. Wilder, so I will say it. Men tend to overestimate the size of most things, not just length. When was the last time you saw an "adult" movie star in the training bra section of Victoria's Secrets?

As for guzzling mayo, Coldie calls it Heart Attack No. 5.

9:32 PM  
Blogger John said...

the mrs.,
Hmmm. Hmmm.

Dang - the totem pole would have been awesome. I could have made it in the shape of a chainsaw!

Lard, I guess. I gave it to somebody who had a home stove that used cooking oil. The police never showed, so I'm guessing lard.

dame koldfoot,
mmmmmm, mayo.

9:17 PM  
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