It was a warm and sunny afternoon Monday, relatively speaking. That is to say it was not particularly cold, and there was no rain. My mood was giddy. “Perhaps,” I thought, “there really is something to Tiff’s theory that I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder.” On the drive home, I cranked my new classic rock CD mix. There’s nothing like Styx cranked to eleven on a sunny afternoon.
Once home I decided to walk to the store to buy a bathroom scale. I carried my iPod and marched in time to the pulsing beats of techno music. There’s nothing like techno cranked to eleven on a sunny afternoon. After much deliberation, I selected a scale with a digital readout and a body fat indicator. Upon returning home I was somewhat dismayed (okay, really dismayed) to discover that a third of me is fat. Since something like 60% of our bodies is composed of water, that leaves only 7% of me to be anything else. Scary.
To take my mind off this bad math, I decided to play some World of Warcraft-based capture-the-flag. There’s nothing like playing video games on a sunny afternoon. I had just captured the flag and was returning to my base when the doorbell rang. (In real life, not in the game.) What a dilemma! I had the flag and needed to capture it for my team. If I just left, I’d letting the team down. Yet the door needed answering. After a few moments of indecision I just got up and left the computer.
The man at the door introduced himself as Randy, our new neighbor on one of the back corners of our property (replacing the drunken idiots). “Did you know that one of your trees fell over?” he asked. I did not! We walked to the back of the property to survey the damage. A tallish tree of indeterminate species had become uprooted, had fallen across the fence into Randy’s back yard. We spent about half an hour talking amiably, discussing what to do with the tree, but the whole time I was worried about my game of capture-the-flag.
It was a warm and sunny afternoon Tuesday, relatively speaking. That is to say it was not particularly cold, and there was no rain. My mood might have been giddy if I were not faced with the prospect of purchasing power equipment. I’m not a manly sort of man, and, for example, chainsaws are as mysterious to me as computers might be for a logger. I stopped at the hardware store on the way home from work, and I examined their chainsaw selection. I narrowed my options to two models, both gas powered, but it took me twenty minutes to decide on the 16″ Poulan Woodsman 2150 LE saw instead of the 14″ saw. When I got home it was too late to cut anything, but not too late to play capture-the-flag.
It was a cold and damp afternoon Wednesday, typical for this time of year. My mood was apprehensive. When I got home, I pulled on my work boots, my work pants, and a warm sweatshirt, then headed to the shop to puzzle out the chainsaw. I spent twenty minutes reading the manual before I even opened the box. Much of it was baffling: bucking, bar length, chainbrake, kickback, etc. I took my time, though, and soon had the chainsaw operational. It roared with delight at the sight of all our trees. “Let me chomp that redwood,” it said, but I ignored it. “Come on,” it said. “How about that little apple?”
I carried the chainsaw back to the fallen tree. I made my first cut directly at the base of the twelve-inch thick trunk. Midway through the cut, the tree groaned and cracked, then shifted its weight, pinching the chainsaw and almost crushing my leg. It occurred to me that this was no trivial task. This tree was fucking heavy. I’d been treating the job as a light-hearted romp but there were some serious forces at work here. (Namely gravity.)
I stopped to reconsider my plan. “Maybe I should take some weight off at the top of the tree first,” I decided.
I walked around the block and knocked on the neighbor’s door. Randy’s wife, Miriam, took me to their back yard — a thick morass of mud — and showed me the damage. The tree had fallen onto the fence (a barbed-wire contraption erected by the previous owner of our house) and directly onto a stout metal post that had been used to anchor a clothesline. There were branches splayed every which way. The entire tree was entangled with some sort of vine.
After spending a few minutes surveying the wreckage, I devised a plan of attack. I fired up the chainsaw. For the next half hour, I methodically sliced my way through the mass of branches, cutting the wood to manageable size (though not attempting to trim it to any sort of final, usable size).
As the light turned gloamy and a heavy rain began to fall, I returned to our side of the fence and attacked the main trunk once more. Again my cut into the base of the tree was stupid: the moment the chainsaw had passed through, the fat log shifted, sliding heavily toward the fence, several hundred pounds of unstoppable force. The tree butted into thick mud with a thunk. Nothing was damaged (not even me), but only from sheer luck. I spent a few more minutes cutting before the chainsaw suddenly stopped, turning itself off. It restarted fine, but the chain would not turn. I turned it off and restarted it, but still the chain would not turn.
A close examination revealed that a little twig had managed to find its way into the, well, I don’t know what to call it…into the body housing where the chain winds itself up and around. The twig was stuck, but after some coaxing, it came free.
It was here that my troubles began.
Even after removing the twig, the chain would not turn. It would not turn when the power was on, and it would not turn when the power was off. Worse, eventually the chainsaw refused to start at all! Worse still, when I let the chainsaw sit for a spell, oil oozed from the lubrication “port”, an opening I cannot see.
Frustrated, I gave up and called it a night.
And that’s where we are this morning: we have a tree that is half-sawed, a fence that is half-damaged, and a brand new $160 chainsaw that half-works. I’ll try to take the bar and chain off this afternoon, try to see if I can spot what’s causing the lubricating oil to leak. I’m not sure I know what I’m looking for, though.
During this entire process, I keep hearing Walter shout, “You’re out of your element, Donny!” I’m better off playing computerized capture-the-flag.