Pat Online ~ September 2014
The music of chainsaws has been rippling over our neighborhood for a couple of weeks now. A crew of construction workers, some with monstrous equipment, have been cleaning up dozens of trees that have fallen or broken off in our neighborhood, some smashing into houses. It is the first time I have been around chainsaws in over fifty years. I grew up with them as a kid in North Idaho but haven’t heard their music for fifty years or more. I first got to use one as a teenager, maybe thirteen or so. My stepfather was in his sixties and not in the best of health. One day he borrowed the saw from the farm next over and instructed me on the use of it. As soon as he got it running, he fell on it. A chainsaw is one of the worst things in the world to fall on. After he got bandaged up, he turned the saw over to me. Ah, what power to put in the hands of a teenage! I cut up trees as if they were going out of style. In no time at all we had enough firewood to last us for five years.
Once several years later I returned home from college for Thanksgiving vacation and my mother said, “I don’t know what we are going to do. We have no firewood for winter.” Always a person brimming with self-confidence, I said, “No problem. I’ll get you all the firewood you need.” I then walked over to a neighboring farm and said to the owner, “Frank, I need some firewood for my folks. Do you have any trees I can cut?”
Frank scratched his head. “Well, let me think. I got a five-acre piece of land out back that’s covered with birch and aspen. You can have all those you want. “
So from our other neighbor I borrowed a pickup truck and his chain- saw. Still, I was only one person and all that tree-felling and cutting up and loading onto a pickup, hauling it home and then cutting it up, was a lot of work for one person, particularly one who had been leading the soft life of a college boy. Still, I could think of no other person around who could help me. Then I remembered a girl I had taken out once or twice before. It so happened she was home from her own college for Thanksgiving vacation. I drove down to her place and said something like, “Hey, I’ve got a fun thing to do this afternoon. Want to come along?”
“Sure,” she said. “I’ve been looking for something fun to do.”
“You’ll love this,” I said.
She climbed in the pickup and I drove her out to the back of the farmer’s woods. “Now, here’s what we’re gonna do,” I told her. “My job is to saw down these birch trees, and trim off the limbs with my chain saw. Your job is to load the cut-up lengths into the back of the pickup. I’ll cut the trees up into six-foot lengths so they won’t be too heavy for you.”
And that is what we did. By the end of the day, we had supplied my folks with enough firewood for winter. The girl had worked so well I later married her. She has never again helped me bring in a stick of firewood, but I’ve kept her for sixty years anyway. She tells me she hates the sound of all the chainsaws roaring about our neighborhood now. I don’t know why.