I don’t think I’ve shared about the man that comes ’round every wintertime/late spring and drops his business card off with me…or have I? He’s a bit ‘gruff’, shall we say, and he’s clearly spent a good amount of time working outside in the gear he is sporting. I should know how to recognize this, as I am one to wear broken-in clothing as well. I’m not quite sure his outfit sees the inside of a washing machine as often as mine does, though. He arrives with his very smoky cigarette dangling from his very grubby countenance amidst a very odorific cloud(translation: booze & cigarette smoke), and hands me his card. He offers, with downcast eyes, his services to help clear the trees on my property. I always take the stained bit of paper out of his stained hands from the doorway where my barking dogs surround me, and thank him, but also assure him that my husband has a chainsaw and is intending on cutting the trees himself. The man exhales forcefully, leaving his intentions in that way, and usually roars out of the driveway.
Every now and then I do something I am truly scared to do.
A little over a week ago, I learned how to use a chainsaw.
I hung in there all day long, about 3 hours north of my home, where we avoided poison ivy, crawling ticks and biting mosquitos within seconds of entering the New Hampshire woodlot. The class was through Northeast Woodland Training and is called “Game of Logging.” The instructor was a fascinating and skilled chap with years of experience and excellent tutelage. I signed up as a student to accompany my daughter and her boss and because I would like to be able to do my own tree and branch work around the farm. I’d like to be able to avoid the smoky calling card next spring.
My daughter did indeed fell her first tree, as did every other student in the class, by the end of the day. When it was my turn, in spite of the advantage of observing every student run through the process of selecting, reciting the instructions, demonstrating the instructions and then felling trees, I was just too flustered.
It’s o.k. that I didn’t succeed. When it was my turn, our instructor Al asked me if I had formulated my plan. “Yes! My plan is to get out of felling a tree.”
Earlier after my “gore training” & “cookie making”, two different saw-methods I would need for felling a tree, I had told him how nauseous I was and also that I this type of work would be challenging for me to observe or listen to instruction and complete, but that I would likely get it with practice.
If you asked me to recite the theory of what we were practicing, I couldn’t do it. I was just too rattled by my fear. When I learned to golf in college, I could tell you exactly what to do before, during & after stroking the ball. And then, sort of, execute it. This was not golf.
I went to a spinning(wool) demonstration at the Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival, many, many years ago. There were all of these young students, older students, in-between folk that were giving it a go. I thought how I’d love to be able to master handspinning and so the gentleman that was giving the demo adopted me as the next victim. I say victim in all seriousness. It was an extremely uncomfortable and humiliating experience. I am a very silly person and so I don’t mind being made a ‘bad example’ of in public, but this guy giving the spinning lessons…well, it was as though he was taking pleasure in my struggle. For an interminable time I attempted to put together the hand-eye coordination and the theory behind what I was supposed to be doing to yield wool-into-yarn, but it was fruitless. I’ll never forget the look of pity in the eyes of the spectators while I was made to repeat, over and over and over, the process of which I just couldn’t master. I was so anxious to not let the instructor down, I didn’t have the heart to back out of the demo. He was getting so frustrated and trying not to show it. It was a bad recipe. I kept waiting for someone to jump in and save me. My kids were dying inside for me. I finally told the gentleman, for the several-ith time, I just couldn’t do it. Maybe another day.
Well, this past winter I sat down with my friend Debbie, whom I bought my Angora goats from, and she taught me rather quickly how to spin. I say rather quickly because I think I went home from her house after one lesson and just sat down with my wheel, and loved it, like it was an old friend.
The same will happen for me with a chainsaw. I totally get it, now that I’m not under the pressure to perform under the eyes of 8 others, now that I have had a chance to review in my mind all that I learned and watched last week. Plus, I’ve got Sarah Jane to re-teach me what we learned. She’s young and smart. We’ll review the hazards to watch out for, come up with our cut plan and our escape route. She’ll help her mama remember how to pre-plan the fell, when to ‘attack’, when to ‘retreat’, what degree of an angle to notch, measuring to determine hinge wood strength. I’ll practice putting the saw-brake on, get myself some wood-cutting chaps & steel toed boots, and then, you just watch out!
Mr. Smoky-Calling-Card won’t call on me next spring, because those obvious dead trees in my fields? They’ll be stacked up like cord wood. And they will.