tagLoving WivesLightning and Chainsaws

Lightning and Chainsaws


I studied that old tree carefully. If I cut wrong just a smidgen, it would careen off into an area I didn't want it to, and that would bring me lots of issues. I was still upset over having to cut it down at all, but the storm and all those lightning strikes made it need to be done now.

Yes, I said strikes, as in more than one. Whoever said that lightning never strikes twice in the same place was obviously ignorant of lightning. The tree was probably the oldest and most definitely the tallest and biggest in the whole area. Before the lightning struck it the third time, it had been nearly one hundred eighty feet tall.

How do I know this you may ask? Well, I topped it off last weekend and the high end measured forty-three feet tip to cut. The second or mid cut measured in at just over forty-two foot, and the remaining part I measured just after taking the mid section out, mainly to ensure that I'd cut enough off so the remaining part would clear the neighbor's house... just in case. The pressure was about as high as it would ever get right now, today.

If you haven't guessed by now, I am a logger. Rather, I used to be a logger, as now I manage cuts and cruise timber sales. We've lived in this old house for a long time. Matter of fact when we first bought it we only had two neighbors in total. Josh, who lived next door, had been retired long before we moved in, and down at the bottom of the hill was old lady Frasier. She had also been here for a long... very long time.

Now, around ten years later, a whole development had grown around us, and most of the reasons we'd moved here were gone. Most of the trees had been cut to make way for roads, driveways and homes. It looked... sterile now, if you asked me, sterile and citified.

In the process of getting the permit to cut the tree, the city fathers had seen fit to limit the number of days any part of the tree could stay standing, and they'd limited the time after each part was felled to a short time to clean it up. When I fell this last part of the tree, I'd have about three days altogether to cut it up into firewood and get it removed, as planned.

The part that remained was just about eighty feet high and the base of the trunk is right around ten feet in diameter. The top end is just under six foot in diameter, so I have my work cut out for me. Getting it all cut up into firewood was going to take some long days.

The whole cutting of this tree had become somewhat of a celebrity moment when some 'tree huggers' tried to prevent anyone from felling this old tree. They said it could live on and if cared for it would live another two hundred years. It went to court where the Judge ruled that the tree was dead (forester's from a third party studied the tree and the lightning strikes and noted that the sap was no longer viable and had dried up, therefore the tree was dead, the branches didn't know it quite yet, but they would by fall.

Josh, Old Lady Frasier and the Judge would benefit, since I was giving them all the firewood. We'd filled Josh's wood shed already with the top and mid sections and today's cut would fill the Frasier's shed completely, and probably still leave enough to run two or three cords outside both of their sheds too.

I was scoping out the whole project and making my decisions on the cut when Josh walked up to me carrying his movie camera. Okay, it's really a cam-corder, but I still call 'em movie cameras. Old habits die hard.

"Hey there neighbor. Mind if I record the events?"

"Nope. Matter of fact I would like a copy of it when we're done, if you don't mind."

"Be a pleasure. You want me to tape your whole place while I'm at it?"

"Think you can take it all in as the tree falls and all?"

"No problem. It will be a pleasure to help you out son. You've been a damned good neighbor all these years. I'm going to miss you when you move on."

Old Josh imagined in years when discussing things. He'd always been one to look way down the road. Most people wouldn't catch that about him at times, and they'd give him some strange looks. He looked at hours, days, weeks and months as seconds it seemed sometimes.

"Won't be moving any time soon Josh. We've talked about that enough."

"Yeah, we have. Seems a shame. Crying shame it is."

He was looking over at the front yard. We were standing near his front deck since I'd gone over there during my inspections of the drop zone.

"Yeah... not too much so though," I said, "Things are born, they grow up and then they die. It's the cycle of life."

"Some things die a bit earlier than needed though."

"Yep. Sometimes nature does what it wants regardless of who thinks what."

"Got that right. Old lady Frasier, the Judge and I sure are lucking out. Our two wood sheds are going to be plumb full. What with the wood from this tree and that old yellow cedar you cut down for me, I'll have enough for several years' worth of heating now. I do appreciate that."

"No problem. I had to do something with the wood. Sure won't use it up myself, not now anyway."

"So... You're all set then? Going through with it to the end?"

"Yep. Pretty much. I imagine the folks from city hall will be somewhat surprised to see it down today instead of this weekend though."

"Well, that storm is coming in Friday they say. Can't have that tree like that in some wind storm. You know, the news crew will be here in a minute, don'tcha?"

"Yep. That's another reason why I decided to do it today. Weekend would have every Tom, Dick, and Harry down there either protesting or gawking and drinking. Hope I don't wake up the dead or bother anyone while cutting it down though. That'd be a crying shame. I have too much to do and not enough time to get it all done it, it appears."

"Oh, I think you'll manage. So, you still want me to call those folks right after you fell it?"

"Yeah. Lawyer first and then about twenty minutes later Mary."

"Okay. Sure hope you know what you're doing Charlie. If what I think happens, Mary might have a jump start on getting here."

"Done this in my mind several times before. You know that."

"Well, not quite like its being done today I'd say."

"Tree's a tree Josh."

He gave me a hard look, and then smiled. He shook his head and turned away, going into his house. He called over his shoulder as he topped the stairs to his deck.

"Give me about ten minutes to set up the camera upstairs and then... git er done."

"Will do Josh."

I went over to my pickup and pulled out my Jonsered, forty-two inch bar chainsaw. It was a monster, and I hadn't used it in a quite a while. They just didn't make 'em like this any more. It had a chain that had carbide inserts in the teeth, and it was extremely sharp and deadly. It would cut through steel. That's what the carbide chain had been invented for, to cut spikes and stuff buried in tree trunks.

The motor had just been gone through and I'd personally sharpened the chain up on my diamond wheel grinder the day before. This chainsaw was wicked fast on cutting and had horsepower a-plenty for the job ahead.

Because I was in the city limits I'd been forced to install a muffler on the beast, much to my and Josh's disgust. We'd both grown up and worked with loud and obnoxious chain saws and loved the sound of them screaming while chewing through the big logs like butter. The permit to cut the tree had a whole section requiring the muffler, so I had to follow the rules. I'd follow the rules all right... they'd better too after the dust settled.

I glanced around one more time, and then began lining up on the tree for the final cut. I had three wedges in, two on the southward end and one on the north. They would help guide this tree a little bit.

If I've read the tree right, the binding in the trunk will cause it to snap free sudden like, spinning, or as Chris, my wife would say, pirouette, about a full circle before beginning its downward fall. As such, I knew it would walk off the remaining stump about one to two feet northward, and the tree's descent would be modified by the lack of support under that part.

I estimated it would fall in a West Northwest direction and land nearly perfectly along side the sidewalk. Since it had been a while since I'd felled a tree like this I could be rusty and off just a tad. I hope not though. I dearly wanted it to fall perfect. TV news reporters tend to make one want to do things right.

I briefly looked around. I could see several pickups pulling up near the TV van down the street a ways. Two of the guys from those trucks were talking to Ol' Lady Frasier. She was pointing off in my direction and they were all smiling widely. It was almost a party atmosphere. To tell the truth, this was breaking my heart. This old tree and I had a history and I never thought I'd be the one to be cutting it down, especially like this.

I checked over the saw one more time, and seeing Josh all set up, I started it up. It was running smoothly, though way too quietly. I hated that damned muffler. I began sawing into the base of the tree, using care to keep my angle as precise as I could. I stopped once and drove the wedges in a bit more on the South side; the North one was good to go.

I saw and felt the movement just before I heard the snap. I stepped back, removing the saw with the practiced motion of years of doing this. Killing the saw, I stepped back three more times, giving me a little running room... just in case. Sometimes even the best fellers missed something. Sometimes trees could fight back, even in their death throes.

Just as I thought, it slipped forward just a touch and then began the pirouette. I watched as the top began to lean over and saw that I had nailed it perfect. Smiling I started to walk up to the front porch of the house. As I cleared the top stair I heard the satisfying crunch of wood and metal. A little screech followed and then silence. I never even so much as glanced back because I knew it had fallen true.

It wasn't nearly as loud as I thought it would be. I was surprised. Glancing over at Josh, who was still filming on his upper deck, I gave him the thumb and pinky sign to make the calls. He waved his cell phone in the air and pointed to the news van.

"Live on the scene" he pantomimed with his mouth in an exaggerated way. I understood and mouthed back 'Live'.

I could see the reporter walking up closer, but the camera person was staying back by the van where he could get a great view of the front, side and back of our house. It was about to get real exciting around here I supposed.

I opened our front door still carrying the now silent saw and walked into the front room. I looked at the coffee table that I'd spent three months building for Chris sitting where it usually was, only it had lingerie and underwear spread about on it.

I saw the wine bottle and two glasses, none with coasters under them standing in the middle. Another pained thought stabbed my conscious. She had never treated that table well, even though I spent a lot of time, hard work, sweat and love building it for her.

Setting the saw down I picked up the two hundred and forty dollar back pack, that Chris just 'had to have' when she started her new job, from the closet where it had spent the last six months gathering dust.

Unzipping it I started to stuff the underwear from the coffee table into it. I then moved over and grabbed the black dress and pantyhose next. Moving around the table I bent over and picked up the man's shirt and socks lying under it. I then picked up the pair of mans pants, removing the wallet.

I opened the wallet while wondering why Chris always played her stereo so damned loud. I was lucky I guess, because if it hadn't been on they might have heard that multi-ton tree trunk landing on their vehicles. It had done a job on them. I was glad those ten buckets of cat litter had found their way under them before I cut that tree down.

I paused to pick up Chris's purse and opened it. I removed some keys and her wallet before tossing it into the backpack too. I was thinking about her new truck. She really loved that thing. She'd made changes to it so it was nearly identical to her best buddy's. The only major difference was that hers was gasoline and her buddy's was diesel.

Chris's truck was a brand new four door, four wheel drive model with custom wheels and stereo system. The one in front of hers had looked... well, they both still looked alike now that I thought about it, only the one in front had a lien from the lender on it still.

Pete, my former best friend, owed about thirty two thousand on the beast yet. Chris had traded in her beamer for her pickup and managed to end up owing nothing on the truck due to the valuation of her car at that time. She'd let a friend talk her into just carrying the State mandated minimum liability insurance on it instead of the full coverage I'd recommended. That would suck now. Nice pickup all paid for and flat as a pancake.

That same friend had somehow managed to drop his insurance from full coverage to minimum liability as well. His problem was that he owed a hell of a lot of money on a vehicle that wasn't worth diddly now too. 'Interesting', I thought as I picked up the saw and backpack.

I got up to our bedroom door and heard the music clearly through the closed door. I could also hear grunting and groaning too. I tried the door and found it locked. I figured that. Chris had always been careful to lock the door while we had sex too, even though we didn't have any kids.

I set the backpack down next to the expensive suitcase that I already placed there and stepping back a little to give me clearance to swing it, I started up the saw. I heard muffled exclamations as the chain bit into the door around the lockset.

It took two maybe three seconds to remove the door from the lockset. I pushed the door open in time to see Pete standing naked by the bed. He looked a bit scared. Well, all right, more than a bit afraid, terrified, maybe?

Chris was on the other side already blubbering, trying to cover her body from my view, like I would care at all anymore. I nodded at Pete and revved the saw for effect before letting it idle down. The dark colored chain spinning around that chainsaw bar must have looked quite intimidating to him since he lost all color in his face.

"The doors through me and there's the window. Choose wisely grasshopper."

I'd always wanted to say that last part. Too bad I finally got the chance under these circumstances. Pete fearfully glanced at Chris and then turned and leaped through the window glass, screen and all. I started swearing. Now I'd have to replace the screen the glass and the framework. Damned idiot. I never really thought he'd take the window out like that.

I stepped over by the window and looked down onto our deck. He was lying on his side holding his ankle. I could see from here it was broke. He wasn't running anywhere too soon.

I set the saw down and brought my attention to my wife. She was crying and trying to tell me she was sorry and it wasn't what I thought and so on and so forth. Like I was some kind of idiot that couldn't figure out they'd been playing house up here for the umpteenth time.

"CHRIS! Shut the fuck up. Listen very carefully to me as I'm only going to say it once you skanky bitch."

I paused as she quieted down. I could see she was really shaken by the tone of my voice, and probably more by the fact that I'd just sworn at her, calling her a bad name for the first time ever.

"I'll start with the facts since you don't have a lot of time. Mary has been called. She's about fifteen minutes away. She'll probably be hell bent on getting here in less than fifteen minutes so remember that. Remember too that she's really attached to her guns and she just got a twelve gauge pump shotgun yesterday. Got that?"

She took on a very scared look as she nodded at me.

"Good. I'd advise you to get dressed as quickly as you can, grab enough clothes and put them in that damned four hundred dollar suitcase you got last month. As you go out the door grab up the back pack too. It has shitheads' clothes and your dress and stuff that was downstairs all over the coffee table I spent months building for you. Your purse is in there, but our joint credit cards and the bank card are not. Your own personal credit card is still there. Shitheads credit cards and his bank card are out of his wallet as well... Mary will want them I think. Got that?"

Again she nodded as tears ran down her face. I had to look away and pause for a minute. This was hurting me more than I expected it would. It's hard learning to not trust and love someone you've relied on for almost ten years.

"Your truck and dipshits truck are broke, seems that a large tree fell on them a few minutes ago. Somehow, you two missed all that excitement. I'd recommend you go out the back door since Mary's on the way and the news station van is out front with camera rolling. I'd also recommend that you help asshole out the back gate, call a cab and get his arrogant ass to the hospital. His ankle is very broke. Oh yeah, in case you haven't figured it out, we're through. The divorce papers are in that suitcase; you've been served, and don't come home any time soon. When you come here next you'll need to be escorted by the sheriff or his deputies. GOT THAT?"

She nodded her head and started bawling. I turned and walked out in order to be downstairs when Mary got there. I didn't want her going off and killing either of our spouses, and I knew that her hot-headed way would cause her to be blind and stupid in the heat of the moment.

I wasn't sure exactly when they'd started screwing around on us. I didn't care. That they had was reason enough for me. The tree had been a tool today. I'd spent a month knowing about them and trying to hide my disgust for her and him.

I'd discovered them by accident, and then I took great care to not let on I had. I wanted to kill them both and I do believe that had they been in their trucks this morning, either one or both, I would still have cut that tree just like I had. My reason had returned before I did something stupid, and now I had to prevent Mary from doing something stupid... hopefully.

As I stepped down off the front porch the crowd surged up closer. The TV cameras were rolling, taking in the tree, the crushed trucks, my house, and Josh, proudly standing with his back to Chris's truck smiling and talking to the reporter. He had one foot up kind of behind him, resting on what had been the drivers side door.

"Why, he's about the nicest man you could ever meet. He's definitely not some crazy man. Do you know that he takes care of us old people? He's always doing for us, especially when he knows we can't do something. Never takes anything in return either. Damned fine man. Damned fine."

"Would you say that he's bad with a chain saw then sir?"

The reporter was looking in my direction now and again, as if gauging my mood.

Josh laughed loudly.

"Honey, that man standing right there is maybe the best timber feller in the country. He don't miss. He don't make mistakes. He puts 'em where he wants 'em and he never misses! He's held the Champion Feller title at the State fair for over ten years. I've seen him drop a hundred and eighty foot trunk bound trees on a dime, into the wind, on a hillside. NO ma'am, he's in no way bad with the chain saw. That is, unless you're on his bad side. Then all bets are off."

I wished Josh wasn't being so uplifting of me right now. I hadn't counted on the whole country knowing I was a professional feller. It would make my story hard to believe if it ended up in court.

I turned to see some of my logging buddies driving up. I noted that Jed had his portable hydraulic log splitter behind his truck. I guessed I was going to have some help bucking the log into firewood.

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