There was nothing left to do but cut the tree and hope for good luck. I don’t have good luck. It just doesn’t happen that way for me. It is best to never assume good fortune and therefore I’m rarely disappointed when probability takes a dump on my psyche.
I decided to sharpen my chain. I hunched over the saw like I was performing something unnatural (those of you who’ve sharpened a saw in the field know what I’m talking about). Then I cranked away on the innocent teeth with a round file while muttering to myself as I worked. File file file… grumble… “‘shoulda’ been an accountant…”
Move to the next link. File file file…. mutter… “…accountants can’t drop a tree on their head…”
Mutter, curse. Move to next link. File file file. “…I could have learned to play the violin but no! I had to get all macho and play around with a frigging chainsaw. Firewood blows.”
I continued the pattern until I ran out of chain. I was running out of opportunities for procrastination. Finally, I gassed up the saw and suited up in all the protective gear I had.
Then I addressed the homeowner.
“If I drop this on the house…” I started.
“You won’t.” She responded. (For some reason I inspire confidence in people. This mystifies me.)
“Yeah, well if I do. You’re not gonna’ sue me?”
“OK but if you sue me and I go broke I’m moving into your chicken coop and living there.” I threatened.
“He’ll do it. It’s not an idle threat.” Mrs. Curmudgeon chimed in.
I looked around the yard. Happy farmland critters mingled on the lawn.
“And if the tree lands on a duck or something?”
“You can cook it for dinner. Just do it!”
“I shoulda’ been a rodeo clown.” I muttered.
“Nothing.” Filled with foreboding I stomped off to address the tree.
“OK tree. Nobody but you and me. Where’s that split? You gonna’ fall the way I want?” I muttered.
“Bleaugh. Narkdafs. Shlaugh.” The tree was clearly mental.
“You’re the most messed up tree I’ve seen in ages. Please fall properly.” I bargained.
“I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.” The tree blathered.
“You’re nuts in iambic pentameter?” I fumed. Trees don’t read Shakespeare. Hell, most Americans can’t read Shakespeare. I was losing it.
The tree shuddered. A twig near the top shook loose and drifted down to earth. A warning shot across the bow. There’s a reason we call hanging branches “widowmakers”. I’d say I was getting jumpy but that bridge had already been crossed. The tree spoke again. “Since I’m bigger than a whale and leaning everywhere all at once; you’ve gotta ask yourself a question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”
I didn’t feel lucky at all. Trees usually like me. When they quote Dirty Harry things are serious. I stomped back to the truck and coaxed Mrs. Curmudgeon out.
“Here’s my cell phone. Stick it in your pocket.” I shoved my archaic phone in her hands. “Stand here. I’m aiming for that weed over there. That’s the target. If that top moves… even a bit… you should see it from this angle. When it does, yell.”
“How do I yell?” She quavered.
“I dunno. Like you really want me to hear it.” I explained that a fraction of an inch at the base of the tree shows up as a large movement at the top. Also that I couldn’t see the top properly. Then I stomped back to the tree.
“You back for more? Wuss!” The tree greeted me.
I didn’t say a thing. I started the saw and immediately started cutting.
Those of you who don’t know directional felling probably assume it’s all muscles and work. In fact it’s as much an art as a science and muscular idiots don’t last long. For this particular tree I made the best wedge cut ever. I wanted it to be perfect. I was careful. I took my time. I tweaked and checked and made sure it was level and well aimed.
“Hey there. Let’s negotiate.” The tree was getting nervous. I was feeling more confident. Frankly I hadn’t been sure the whole thing wasn’t rotten. I’d wondered if it would implode and drop randomly. Instead it was solid.
The wedge was a thing of beauty.
Mrs. Curmudgeon, clutching the cell phone and looking worried, had no idea I would carve a wedge out first. She gasped when I popped out a monster block of wood. The homeowner had left. The chickens and ducks watched with interest. The pig cleared out.
The back cut went in smooth and level. I tapped a felling wedge (a simple piece of equipment meant for this purpose and not the block of wood I’d just removed) in the gap right behind the saw. I watched it like a hawk. Every fraction of an inch the gap would open a smidge. I’d adjust the wedge. The inclined plane is how a six foot monkey can overpower ten ton tree. Physics baby!
Within reason, the deeper the back cut the less “hinge” left. Less hinge means a faster falling tree; assuming everything is sound and you’ve judged the balance well. I decided to knock this tree down very gently.
I nipped the back cut deeper in millimeters instead of inches. Then I saw the wedge loosen. It was go time.
Generally I’d rip out a little more hinge. Not with this ugly mess.
I stepped back, flipped off the saw, and sauntered to Mrs. Curmudgeon. The tree was leaning ever so slightly. She’d just noticed. It was moving slower than molasses.
It was going just where I wanted! I breathed a sigh of relief.
Mrs. Curmudgeon, unaware that I could control speed as well as direction, was impressed. “That’s so cool!” She gushed.
The tree tilted over, degree by degree. Oh yeah! I was looking uber cool. I’d done everything spot on. Mrs. Curmudgeon was impressed. (It’s not easy to impress her.) I smiled. I was gonna’ get lucky tonight!
Then the tree stopped. Leaning a preposterous 50 degrees it ground to a halt and stayed there.
“I cockblock you!” Shouted the tree.
“Oh hell no!” I shouted; losing whatever ‘coolness’ I’d banked with my skillful work.
By now victory was assured. The tree had no options but to fall precisely where I wanted. I was through playing games. A duck waddled beneath the tree. Screw it! The duck would either get out out the way or meet with a BBQ and as for the *&*^$$ tree… “Die bastard!”
Firing up the saw in mid-stride, I snapped my faceshield down and in a flash I was attacking the remaining hingewood.
“You have no sense of humor…” the tree whined.
And then it was down. Whew.
Most trees are simple. A few are complex. A rare few quote Shakespeare and try to kill you. Imagine all the adventure I’d miss if I simply bought furnace fuel in the winter.