When Things go Wrong
Winston Salem, North Carolina
January 24, 2017 8:42am CST
Saturday was supposed to be a productive day. I had big plans ranging from getting the paperwork organized to get our taxes dealt with to spending a few hours behind my sewing machine. My husband had big plans of his own; it was time to take down our neighbour’s monster poplar tree. (Perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration. The “monster” poplar tree wasn’t unusually large for a poplar tree around here, but after having lived in Alabama for 20 years where trees simply don’t get that big, I’m fairly easily impressed). My husband is pretty good at bringing down trees. Over the years he’s taken out plenty, both in our own yard and to help out friends and other’s in need. (Let me point out here, that he has had a significant amount of training, having worked with a disaster relief organization when we still lived in tornado territory). The previous weekend he had taken down four large trees to help out a single mom in another city and dropped each perfectly. Four trees and he was done in less than two hours. He’s good and he’s careful and he makes use of all the necessary safety equipment. The dishes were washed, laundry was in the washing machine, and I had finished taking care of some business on the computer when I heard the chainsaw start up. I usually stop to watch the trees come down. Even though I know he’s careful, I’m still a little uneasy when I hear the powerful roar of his Husqvarna. By the time I had my coat and yard shoes on he had finished the first cut and was getting ready to finish the job. The location of this particular tree was a bit tricky. The a section of fence separating our yard from our neighbours had been rolled out of the way so the tree could be dropped into our backyard making it a little easier to access with our sawmill (the lumber from this particular tree will go to a local woodshop owner, in exchange for planing the oak boards that will become our hardwood floors. My husband is also a good barterer). The trick would be to drop it between Fort Cluck (or chicken stronghold) and the sawmill, keeping in mind that there were several other large trees that could complcate things if the tree didn’t fall exactly the way it was supposed to. From a safe distance, I watched my husband make the final cut. When the chainsaw stopped roaring and I saw that it was pinched in the tree I knew that we had a potential problem. My husband had been aware that the tree had a slight backward lean and had attached a rope and come-along to encourage the tree to fall in the intended direction. Employing his collection of wedges he was able to work the bar of the chainsaw free from the trunk of the tree, but was unable to get enough leverage to start the massive plant on it’s journey to the ground. The problem was studied from all angles. The come-along was racheted in as far as possible, and putting additional stress on the rope wasn’t doing anything to move the tree. Similar problems have been overcome with bottle-jacks, or at least that’s what my husband has learned from time spent on YouTube (I did remind him that just because it’s on YouTube doesn’t make it a good idea). Having exhausted all of his other ideas, he abandoned the tree (keep in mind that the two foot diameter trunk has been severed through except for a four inch or so hinge) and went in to town to buy a bottle-jack. There is something a tad bit disconcerting about having a very large, very unstable tree in the back yard. My plans to accomplish anything were set aside until the tree problem was resolved. My feller-of-trees returned with his new piece of equipment and proceeded to cut a notch out of the trunk of the tree so the jack could be inserted. Meanwhile I an pondering the potential consequences of this all going seriously wrong. Not a pleasant thought. The bottle-jack wasn’t strong enough to shift the trunk and the head scratching continued. Suggestions were made by our sons and by the neighbour that it might be easier just to let the tree fall backward. Unfortunately that would require making additional cuts in the trunk, this time above the orignal cuts in a part of the trunk already unstable. It would also likely flatten the privacy fence on the other side of the neighbour’s yard in addition to the possibility of the whole tree getting hung up in another tree on the way down. About this time (mid afteroon already) our neighbour remembered that he had an old bottle-jack somewhere in his shed and went off to see if he could find it. When he returned he had an industrial, twelve-ton bottle-jack in his hand which made the one my husband had purchased look like a toy. If THIS didn’t work we were out of options. With the tip of his chainsaw my husband cut the notch bigger so this jack would fit, and set our eldest son the task of jacking it up while he headed across our yard so he could watch for any torque to the side. There was much cheering as the crown of the tree started to shake and the whole thing toppled to the ground with a thunderous crash; right exactly where my husband had initially planned. I wonder how many new gray hairs I have now….
14 people like this
• Momence, Illinois
24 Jan 17
Yikes that is scary, we had huge tree in the middle of our driveway when we bought this house. It was over 5 feet in diameter and about 30 feet tall a very old maple tree. Now I ask you why would anyone let a tree grow in the middle of the driveway. We did finally get it down but it took a rented cherry picker, and we broke 2 chainsaws before it was all over. And all this about 10 feet from our house or so. We ended up breaking one window so I count that as very very lucky. And now I have a new story to tell thanks,.
• Green Bay, Wisconsin
27 Jan 17
I was beginning to be afraid it had gone all wrong. I'm so glad it landed where it was supposed to and nobody and nothing got hurt or damaged in the process. Don't worry about those gray hairs, you earned every one of them.
• Winston Salem, North Carolina
27 Jan 17
I think my husband is responsible for more of my grey hairs than my children are...there have been a few times over the years that I've told him "I can't stop you from doing it, but your life insurance premiums better be current." .
• Winston Salem, North Carolina
28 Jan 17
Tree removal companies have to carry a lot of insurance, which is part of why their charges are so high. My husband isn't insured (at least not beyond what our umbrella policy would cover), but he also doesn't tackle jobs that he isn't certain he can drop in a safe spot.
27 Jan 17
Wow, that is certainly a story to be retold again and again, I was holding my breath as I read.... My husband is no lumber jack but my brother was. He took down trees in the forest on his land to help the better trees grow. There was always a fall party in the field when the logs were brought out of the forest, cut up and then put through the machine that split the wood for fire wood. So glad there was a happy ending! (except for your gray hair)
• Midland, Michigan
25 Jan 17
I'll wonder with you for I think I got myself one or two of them too just reading about this. At least it all worked out even though it took a lot longer than anticipated, and you did get some things done before hand. Also, there's one sentence that didn't get a word you intended and I can't figure out what you meant. "Meanwhile I an pondering the potential consequences". Never mind. It took me putting it here to see it should have said 'I am'
• Bunbury, Australia
25 Jan 17
You've told this so well. I know exactly how you felt. Felling trees is a tricky business and there are plenty of YouTube clips showing ones that go wrong. Your husband sounds very sensible and obviously knows what he is doing. And I guess he has learnt a bit more from this exercise.