Monday, April 14, 2008

Earth Day: Revenge of the Trees

Two years ago, we were in Ohio during April. We were visiting Tom's Mom.
Tom and his brother Bob were asked if they could take down a huge tree that was about twenty-five feet from the end of Mom's house. The Very Tall Tree had a large rotten hole in its side, and Mom was afraid it would break or blow over some day, possibly landing on her bedroom.
The Guys agreed to take it down.
So they decided just how would be the best way to cut down this HUGE tree, without it falling on the house or deck. (The house sits built into a hillside, so it is ground level at the front, but two stories high at the back. The deck is more a balcony than a ground level thing.)
The Guys figured that they could use a heavy rope around the upper portion of the tree, wound around another tree in the direction the wanted the tree to fall, and tied to the bumper of a truck. The truck would pull the rope taut and prevent it from falling in the direction of the house and deck. Then they could chainsaw the tree down and the rope would help direct it in the way they wanted it to fall.
The first order of business was getting the rope into the upper third of this huge tree.
The Guys decided to tie a string to the shaft of an arrow, and shoot the arrow through the upper branches of the tree. Then the rope would be tied to the string and hoisted into position. For an hour and a half, arrow after arrow was shot into the tree branches. Due to the weight of the string, the arrow refused to fly true. The Intrepid Brothers continued to try.

I suggested that perhaps a baseball could be used- secure the string to the ball and THROW it through the branches. I was given a pitying look for daring to suggest this phase of their plan might not work. The guys continued with the arrow.

After almost two hours- they succeeded in getting the arrow to fly where they wanted it to fly! Wouldn't you know... the arrow was not heavy enough to fall back down to the ground, but hung forty feet in the air by its string. Back to the drawing board.
Suddenly, One of The Guys had a brilliant idea! They would secure the string to a baseball and throw it through the branches!
Within minutes, this plan was carried out. The rope soon followed and was secured to the tree.

This was no ordinary, run of the mill rope... it was as big around as a quarter. From the tree to be felled, the rope went away from the house, and around another tree acting as a fulcrum. Then it was tied to the front bumper of Bob's truck.

Bob backed his truck up enough to put tension on the rope. Since there was no line-of-sight between Tom with the chainsaw, and Bob in the truck- I was to be the signal person. If at any point the tree looked like it was leaning toward the house (any more than it already WAS), I was to signal Bob to reverse the truck and add a bit more pull in the direction we wanted the tree to fall. The kids gathered safely behind me. I was a third point in a huge triangle to The Guys. The tree was to fall between Bob in his truck, and me behind the house.

Benjamin was video taping all the action from behind me. Mom retreated to the picnic table up on the deck- refusing to watch the action.

Tom started his chainsaw and notched the tree on the side it was to fall towards. He stepped back to survey his work. He didn't hear me asking, over the roar of the chainsaw, did we need more tension on the rope? Satisfied with how things looked, he started chainsawing on the opposite side of the tree- somewhat above the fall notch. He got the new notch cut, and began sawing into the heart of the tree.
The chainsaw began binding. NOT a good sign. Tom couldn't pull it free, and realized the tree was leaning more in the wrong direction- towards the house and deck.

This is where slow motion started.

He signalled me to have Bob "Go! Go! GOOOO!" as he ran from under the tree. Bob started reversing the truck- and the rope snapped.

Like a slingshot, the tree whipped over and toppled onto the deck, just catching the corner of the house.
I mentioned this was a Very Tall Tree. Even the distance it was from the house, it came down and had branches within inches of the picnic table where Mom had been sitting. Thankfully, she RAN- and escaped harm.

The tree falling on the house/deck was an "oopsie" of gigantic proportion. We did, however, have one thing going for us. PLENTY of strong male children readily available.

The Guys discovered that the deck was only minimally damaged- built Amish strong. The railing was smithereened where the trunk crashed through. The house had only the corner of the eaves destroyed. Within an hour, the tree was totally gone from the deck and yard. I was soon dispatched to the lumber yard with a list of supplies, while The Guys removed the damaged areas of the house and deck.
Within two days, the house and deck were mostly restored.

Sometime later that evening, one of the boys asked: Are we going to have Tommy's cake?
In all the excitement- we had forgotten Tommy's sixteenth birthday.
I'm sure HE won't ever forget that day! And... we have it on TAPE!

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