May 29 2009
You can keep all your base-jumping, mountain-climbing, bear-wrestling, gasoline-gargling, whitewater-rapid-rafting, big-city-traffic-dodging, rocketship-flying, strange food-eating, death-defying thrills. You can have ‘em. When I want to tempt fate and walk hand-in-hand with the grim reaper while singing, “Kumbaya,” I turn to the only rush that works for me: firing up the pole saw and trimming some trees.
Not just any trees — the low-lying fruit-kind that hover close to the ground and beg to be snipped. I’m talking big trees. Tall trees. Trees who don’t want to be trimmed and stretch high on tippy-toes into the clouds when they see you coming. Trees that refuse to be trimmed, fighting you every step of the way as they claw and scratch your hands, your arms, your face. They’re tough trees who won’t go down without a fight — an eye for a limb is the motto here.
Just thinking about it, I feel the adrenalin pumping and the blood bubbling. (Lucky for me the blood stopped bubbling after applying direct pressure with a handful of fallen leaves.)
No, I’m kidding. No injuries to report, but exciting I must say. When the skies cleared and the sun finally showed its sweet, sweat-inducing face this past weekend, I figured it was time to get out and give the towering shrubbery a buzz. My yard was becoming so overgrown and shaded that it blotted out the sun like a cave. The mosquitoes were beginning to swarm, and it’s never a good sign when they start opening timeshare units and setting up Tikki bars.
So I went to work. It always begins as small plans. A trim — a few branches here, a couple over there, attacking a few vines for fun, and all topped off with some stunt work. You know, balancing the saw on your nose or juggling.
Some people have never heard of a pole saw before, and I feel bad for them. Everyone should have a pole saw. It’s one of the world’s five greatest inventions — up there with the bottle top opener, duct tape, low-dose animal tranquilizers designed for children and the crockpot. (Can someone explain to me the inner workings of the crockpot? Is it alien technology?)
A pole saw is essentially nothing more than a small, electric chain saw perched on the end of an extendable stick. That way you can reach way up into the trees, and ensure that you get really high, really big branches that gravity will propel down toward you at blinding speed. (Why is it you never really take gravity into account until a two-story tall branch is hurtling your way at light speed?)
I climb up there on wobbly ladders propped precariously against wobbling trunks and reach out as far as I can with that death stick, never quite sure which way my prey will fall. More often than not it heads toward me, and I’ll kick the ladder out from under me, drop the screaming pole saw and find myself clutching the trunk like a spider monkey.
The expression “life over limb” takes on all new meaning when you’re high among the branches using a pole saw. The world looks so small when you’re on the ground, but so big, intimidating and dangerous when you’re above it. Why in the world would birds ever want to be up there? Although, they never are with pole saws.
But I love when big branches come down and my daughter runs out onto the porch to yell, “Dad, what are you doing?!?”
“Silly, what do you think I’m doing? I’m cutting down trees and trying to horribly maim myself. Silly!”
She takes a moment to think about this — thoroughly confused — and then gives out a gen-u-ine “Wow!” when she sees the mess I’ve made. It gives me a great feeling of pride to so totally impress a 3-year-old.
“Be careful, dad,” she yells before my wife scoops her up and carries her off to some undisclosed bomb shelter where she figures they’ll be safe until my madness has worn off.
But there’s such a feeling of accomplishment when you gaze upon a pile of branches that tickles the heavens and is taller than your house. And nothing quite beats being able to glimpse the sun again. “It still seems light outside,” my wife remarked one late evening while closing the curtains and looking up into the sky — no thick cover of trees blocking her view.
“Yep, I’m pretty proud,” I say, massaging the scratches on my arms that look I’ve been wrestling wild pumas after rolling in ground beef.
My adrenaline craving is quenched at least until next spring. Then I’ll get the pole saw out again and go on another of my death-defying thrill rides.