writer's note: Our family recently purchased 80 acres of hunting land two hours north of St. Paul. I've been sharing our adventures there through e-mails to friends and family, and the following is one of those e-mails. Please know that we do practice safety in the woods and that poetic license by the use of hyperbole has been employed (somewhat) for the enjoyment of the reader.
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With my son Matt working the last couple of weekends, it's been just me and the chainsaw up at the North 80, clearing the road in to the crooked hunting shack. The beauty of the woods, and the euphoria of being alone there is beyond description. With each visit, I meet more neighbors, who all seem to watch out for each other, and who all have that distinctive & contagious Northern Minnesota twang. This week I met the Bobcat contractor to get gravel dumped and spread for our road. His first orders were for me to tear out a culvert for the third time, add another length of pipe, and bury it all again. He also said to take down another dozen trees, two of which were 10-15 inch diameter at the base, and which put the fear of God into this chainsaw neophyte.
Neophyte true, but after taking down over a hundred trees myself, I had a heady case of imagined expertise going. Revving a chain saw feels much like revving the little motorcycle I used to drive back in college. Schwing! Notch the tree in the direction you want it to fall, and start your cut from the opposite side. With the first big tree, I did just that... but failed to notice the significant lean the tree had in the wrong direction. With the chain saw half way through the trunk, the tree creaked and solidly wedged and trapped the saw blade. I slunk over to the Bobcat guy who chuckled, (thinking "dumb city broad" no doubt!) and helped unlock the tree's grip. While he was off getting another truck load of gravel, I decided to tackle the biggest tree. Notch. Schwing ! Creak.....Ooops. Selective amnesia. Forgetting to check the lean of the tree again, the chain saw blade was solidly and hopelessly wedged in the vice-like grip of the half sawn beastie. But I was safe...there were no witnesses.
The concept seemed simple. Plan A: Push the tree a little, and pull out the chain saw. This works great on smaller trees. Plan B: Get a tow strap, loop it in the crotch of the tree, pull hard and disengage the chain saw. Egads, this *is* a big tree. Plan C: Wrap ends of tow strap five times around each arm, hang from tree parallel to the ground, pull like Hercules, and free the captive chain saw. My 118 pounds = not enough weight for this plan. Plan D: Same as Plan C, but firmly plant one boot on either side of the imprisoned saw while hanging parallel to the ground, and pull and jump like a drunken marionette while trying not to think un-Christian thoughts - and eject chain saw blade to freedom. No luck. Defeated by these failures, and anticipating the return of the Bobcat guy who surely would chortle at my double header of stupidity, I unstrung myself and pulled on the tow strap to remove it, lodging the 12 ounce cast metal tow hook solidly in the crotch of the tree. Exasperated, I gave it a swift yank and it whiplashed as planned, albeit squarely snapping into my upper lip with such velocity that I thought at first I had lost my front teeth.
Admitting defeat, I limped off to my truck to eat lunch, and once there observed in the mirror that besides being completely numb, I had a doozy of a fat lip, an involuntary frenectomy, and a nice big shiny strawberry as verification of my once suspected and now proven ineptitude in the wilds. But no missing teeth, thank you God. I also remembered to bring makeup, which I adeptly applied to mask any evidence of my adventure before the Bobcat guy returned to rub my nose in the mess I had made.
After gumming my lunch, I returned to the scene of the crime. Some hand saw action released my poor chainsaw from the tree's jaws of death. However, as the popple toppled, it's crown snagged in the tops of the surrounding trees causing it and it's jagged trunk to flail about during it's fall, as I haplessly bobbed, weaved and dove to avoid being impaled or crushed. I like an adrenaline rush like the next guy, but not this way. After sawing the thing up, I hit the road, deciding that a 4pm Woodbury Chamber of Commerce meeting sounded like more fun than any additional misadventures in the woods.
Once home, I dashed in the door, changed to Business Linda clothes, painted my face, doused self with cologne to cover up gasoline/sweat smell, donned a Chi-Chi Rodriquez hat over a pathetic case of 'hat hair' and ran to the meeting. While there, one of my on-board crew of deet stupered wood ticks jumped over onto the Chamber president. I got it off him but it quickly jettisoned under the conference table & escaped. Everyone felt wood ticks on them for the remainder of the meeting, squirming in their chairs and scratching every tickle. That and my fat lip made for some humorous conversation.
A friend wrote me today, that perhaps Mother Nature was doing these things to me to keep this land undeveloped. My response was that since Mother Nature and I are both mothers, I doubted that. I am much more worried about Father Time catching up with me!