Friday, November 15, 2013

Chainsaw Work II

Dale Matson

As anyone with wooded property knows, there is always work to be done. Chainsaw work is a subset of skills that calls forth early training and memories associated with it. Yesterday’s work was no exception. There is chainsaw work on level ground, on hillsides and above ground.

In the 60’s “High Rangers” (cherry pickers) were just being introduced in tree work. These were trucks with a bucket that was mounted on a mechanical arm that could be raised and lowered that would move you into a tree. It was such advancement over a saddle, climbing ropes, a buck strap and spurs (some call them tree hooks). Hydraulic lifts were much safer and easier than getting a rope into a tree and making the slow climb up.  We always wondered if a bird had dropped something sharp in the crotch of the tree that held your climbing rope until we could look and see. We also had a haul rope for tools like a small chain saw and pole pruners. We had a scabbard on your saddle with a handsaw with a paint pot attached to the scabbard.

We had a great foreman named Bill Gardener. (So many names fit the professions) who was a tall, lanky Oakie. He had broad shoulders and was built for climbing. He was as fearless as they come. Well…. almost fearless. He was deathly afraid of snakes. We tied a garter snake on his climbing rope once and he refused to climb down. It always seemed like we were betting small wagers about everything.
He was a tough teacher. Every cut bigger than a half dollar had to be painted over with tree paint. You started at the top and worked your way down to avoid getting the paint on your clothes. Every cut had to be flush with the major branch or trunk; nothing “you could hang your hat on.” If you missed a shiner, he would wait until you were back on the ground and send you back up to paint it. Of course you had to pass by cuts that had been painted and get tree paint (almost the consistency of tar) all over you. Trees are surprisingly dirty anyway. Bill used a bench grinder jig to sharpen each saw chain after work for the next day. If you got the saw dull in the morning, you worked with it the rest of the day like that. A dull chain on a chainsaw is three times the work. It made you careful.

We did a lot of side jobs after work. There was plenty of work to do. In the 60’s Dutch elm disease (imported from the Netherlands) hit the Midwest and eventually killed all of the magnificent American Elms. Many lined the city streets. Planted along both sides of the street, they created a cathedral–like arch. It was sad to see so many killed by the elm bark beetle.

I think back to those times and that I could work all day plus side jobs after work. Four hours of tree work these days is pretty much all I’m good for. Yesterday’s job was a bit different. We had a black oak that had grown up next to a cedar and kind of wrapped itself around the Cedar. Both were next to our shed and I worried that the Oak would push the Cedar into the shed. I took off some of the oak limbs standing on top of the shed I put a cable in the top half of the tree and Sharon pulled it away from the shed with the Tahoe as I made the back cut. The remaining trunk looked easy. I made the notch to make it fall away from the shed and started the back cut on the other side of the tree. It was so grafted to the cedar tree that when I had completely cut through the base of the tree, it just hung there. I had to put a chain on it and use a “come along” (hand winch) to pull it away from the cedar. I finished by cutting the brush off the tree and while Sharon was stacking brush for chipping, I cut up the logs. There is a good kind of tired after tree work.  

You can see the huge 'dent' in the cedar tree created by the oak branch.

No comments:

Post a Comment