Nine years ago, when I built our home, there was a tree on the property and I built the home around it. Even the design of the home considered this tree. It sat right in the crotch between the house and the garage but it has grown much bigger now and is damaging the house. So, I decided to cut it down. This was a painful decision because I really liked the tree.
Because of its height, it would need to be topped to avoid damaging the neighbor’s property. So, I had this great idea of topping it with a hand saw – a tree handsaw with big teeth, a Wyoming. I donned my coveralls, gloves, goggles and hard hat. I grabbed the saw and made my way up the tree – with my dachshund, Miles in tow. I chained Miles in the backyard where he could watch me but stay out of danger.
Climbing the tree is not easy work for me, as I have three bars of titanium in my pelvis and extensive nerve damage to my left leg from a fall from a roof. I have to pull myself up a lot because I cannot push with my bad leg. We might talk about the fall in a future story. Miles could not understand why I was climbing the tree and he expressed his opinion several times.
The thought occurred to me to grab a rope and the chain saw and have it at the ready down below. But I decided I was not going to wimp out on this project. That was a stupid decision. I found a spot about twenty-six feet up and began to cut. Even though the hand saw had big teeth, the tree was fibrous and pitchy. Each stroke was difficult and gained little progress for the cut but after three-quarters of an hour, I had a rough looking notch carved out. I say carved because that is what it looked like and I felt like I was chiseling the whole time. Miles reminded me I was nuts.
After working fifteen minutes on the back cut and seeing a very small cut for the time invested, I gave up. I descended the tree and retrieved the chain saw from the garage. Descending the tree is much more difficult than ascending because my bad leg must lead and there is much pain when it bends and/or when the good leg is lower than the bad. It comes to be a matter of choosing the right branches, a lot of half-steps and upper body strength.
As a side note: I have always made back cuts on an angle instead of flat. It has saved me on several occasions and later in this article, I will demonstrate why this was a good decision.
After checking the fuel and bar oil levels and firing up the saw, I tied the saw to a rope and climbed up the tree. I had also grabbed a chain from the garage and carried that over my shoulders. The chain I use to strap myself in to a tree is half-inch transport chain with a clevis hook. Like to see a chainsaw cut through that.
After I got into position and strapped myself to the tree, I pulled the chain saw up with the rope. The first thing was to clean up the notch, then I finished the back cut. This is where I tell you why I am glad I angled the back cut: The tree top had a slight “S” curve in the truck that favored the opposite direction I wanted the tree to fall – it favored the direction of the house, which was ten feet away and the top of the tree was twenty feet tall. While making the back cut, everything was going just fine and it looked like the notch was good enough to counter any adverse action the “S” would influence. About the time the cut appeared to widen, meaning the tree top was beginning to fall, I removed the saw from the cut. Suddenly the top reversed course and fell back in the cut, because the back cut was a good angle, it prevented the top from falling backward and hitting the house. The tree just sat in the cut – and Miles was expressing his disapproval of the whole operation.
This was still a bad predicament, however. The weight of the tree could still force it out of the back cut or it could spin and attack me. I began applying pressure on a branch in the direction I wanted the tree to fall. It was hard work, but I was able to open the cut enough to stuff in the frame of the hand saw – I hadn’t brought up any wedges; another big mistake. I was hoping someone would come along and I could send them a rope, tied to the branch and they could pull it over. But since no one else was around to help, I prayed.
God hears our prayers and He answers. I have always believed this but I did not expect the answer I received. If He would have sent someone along to grab the end of the rope, or if He would have given me the strength to continue pulling on the branch to send it over – either of these, I would have considered answers to prayer. But He sent a wind and blew the tree top over. Before that, we had a mild breeze. After the top blew over, the wind went back to a mild breeze. This was so amazing! More amazing than the top blowing over was that God in heaven was watching me and willing to come to my aid when I asked for help.
As the top blew over and fell to the ground, Miles let out a howl that began with the fall and did not end until impact! What a dog – my special effects, foley guy.
As I was descending the tree, I set up at various levels and cut off the back branches, to place the weight of the tree in the direction I wanted it to fall. Then I cut off some long, lower branches that could cause the tree to change course as it fell. After this, I removed all the tools from the area and cut the notch and back cut without incident. Miles began his protests again. This time, he seemed more earnest, as if he was telling me that no good could come of this – when I was cutting on the top, it fell over and now I am messing with the whole tree!
The tree fell gloriously and I left it to clean it up at a later date. Miles’ protests had come to an end and I took him off the chain so he could inspect the damage and help me put the tools away. That was enough work for one day!