Chain Saw Day

by Patty Lawrence

The wind woke me. My first thought was for the two trees my husband and I purchased the day before. They were both about as big a tree as one can buy and still come in a pot. I quickly dressed and ventured out into the blustery early dawn. Sure enough, two trees that must have been in fifty gallon pots were sideways in the driveway.

Then I noticed the third tree sprawled across the lawn. I wasn’t too surprised as it was a weak tree whose replacement was sprawled in the driveway.

The pear tree had split in a windstorm the year before. The Bradford Pear, which is prone to splitting, divided itself into two and left a deep crevasse the trunk. That the remainder leafed out and bloomed in the spring was a gift from Mother Nature.

Although the replacement black gum tree was on hand, I was sorry that the pear tree, sporting its fall red foliage, was toast. One way or another that tree’s time was up and it took the preemptive tumble.

After a minute or two of admiring the strength of the wind, assessing the damage, then righting and securing large potted trees, clean-up questions crept into my consciousness.

Normally I don’t worry about such things. They are Andy’s job and he does them well and efficiently. But it’s was Monday and Andy was out of town until Friday.

I gave a branch a good tug. It didn’t budge. I stared at the tree for a minute and cursed the timing. This tree needed to hang in just four more days. What’s so hard about that?

“Clean-up fallen tree” projects clearly fall on my husband’s side of the Division of Labor Ledger. There was no way cutting up and hauling off a tree was my job. I chewed on the injustice of this project. The bottom line was that somebody is going to have to deal with half a medium-sized tree lolling in the front lawn.

Since clean-up seemed overwhelming, I turned to one of the things I know best—denial. Inside the house, the pear tree no longer visible, I readied the children for school.

At the bus stop, my neighbor offered to help and then volunteered her husband when he got home from work. I don’t think of him as the handiest guy and I really didn’t want to saddle him with my chores but I filed the offer away in case desperation set in.

As the day wore on, I weighed my options. I could leave it until Andy returned. The neighbors wouldn’t like it, but they would not complain either. I could pay someone else to do it, but seemed a lot of money for a small job. I ruled out tackling it with a handsaw as that would take all day. I could go outside around 5 or 6 o’clock and look perplexed. Any number of the men coming home from work would take pity on me.

The only good option was to use the chainsaw. Andy would not even stop to consider anything else and he certainly would not dither about it all day.

Mostly I figured that there are a lot of stupid men who run chainsaws all the time. If Guy Not-So-Bright can handle it, surely I could too.

Around four o’clock, I decided that the postponement had at lasted long enough. It was time to tackle the tree. The girls were home from school and I could use this as an opportunity to show them that women can do anything. Or they could call 911 depending upon the outcome.

Step one proved to be the second most difficult. I could not find the chainsaw. The garage seemed like the most reasonable place to look. It’s not that the garage is hugely disorganized but it holds a lot of stuff: a car, four bikes, sailing gear, a lawn mower, toys, wheelbarrow, along with the garden tools and other sundry items. No chainsaw. I tried Andy’s “work room” in the basement. There are tools, extensions cords, and more sailing gear. No chainsaw. One daughter insisted, “It’s in the garage.” I looked again and found it tucked behind the shovels.

I attempted to check the gas, however, the gas cap was on so snugly that I could not convince it to budge. I gave the saw a little shake and hearing liquid slosh, decide that it was good enough, and then congratulated myself for being so thorough. A small fact like having absolutely no idea how much is “enough” was not a game ender. Only pliers would twist that cap and one tool at a time was all I could handle. Going on a search mission to find pliers was not on the option list.

Like a lawn mower, the chainsaw has a pull cord and I gave it a pretty good tug. The cord released about one foot and stopped. My “pretty good pull” was woefully inadequate.

Multiple tugs and adjusting the choke yielded nothing. Once again I debated and rejected the waiting-for-men-to-get-home-from-work option.

The manual might help but, again, that would require a search mission through Andy’s domain and I’d already had enough of that. Besides, I convinced myself, men don’t read that stuff.

After a few more futile tugs on the pull cord, I compromised and called Andy for instructions. He assured that it was just hard because it has not been used in a long time and that I should pull the cord up with one hand while pulling the chainsaw down with the other. This sounded like an excellent way to cut my leg off.

After futile attempts, I put the saw on the driveway, placed my foot on top of it, and yanked away. My shoulder ached from pulling, but the saw fired up. Starting the chain is the hardest step.

Running saw in hand, I was ready to tackle the tree except that the saw blade was perfectly still and I had no idea how to get it moving. I touched it to the tree. Nothing. Finally, I put the running saw down and called for instructions. Again.

Actually cutting up the tree is easy. It took less than two minutes to reduce the tree to manageable sized pieces. I resisted the urge to reduce it to matchsticks as I knew it just more pieces to pick up. But this part was fun. Reducing the tree to nothing took a tenth of the time that it took to get the chainsaw started.

A neighbor, who often works from home, wandered outside, “Need some help with that?” he asked.

“No thanks. I got it.” I smiled and refrained from adding any commentary.

As I returned the chainsaw to its den behind the shovels, I thought about shopping with Andy at a box store couple of weeks before when a sales clerk chirped, “Oh you’re do-it-yourselfers.” I wonder how marketers replaced “self-sufficient” with “do-it-yourself?”

Mostly satisfaction settled in as I hauled off the tree remnants. It was easier to cut than to haul. And I might just have to rethink the division of labor.

Another of Life's Complications

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