Amongst the tallest of white pine in northern Minnesota, lies the legend of Paul Bunyan. It was in the town of Bemidji that I first saw his statue. Over the last 50 years his image has changed but the ever faithful Babe the Blue Ox stands at his side. It must have been from the visits in this area, where, from childhood into adulthood I’ve been enamored with the Disney cartoon of Paul and the song (Hey Paul!!! Paul Bunyan, he’s six-foot six ax handles high…..”)
In early adulthood, I moved my family to Minnesota, about 3 hours south of “the Land Of Paul Bunyan.” Yet we felt like neighbors, with plaid shirts and the occasional full beard.
We have since returned to our beginnings, in central Indiana, and I now live in a small wood. I often think of myself as a modern-day Paul Bunyan, chainsaw in one hand, (band aids in the other) — I won’t tell you what my wife thinks of my woodsman skills. Well I guess you will soon learn though.
I’m a pretty fair Paul Bunyan type logger, every time I cut a tree down…it hits the ground!!! It Never fails, …………I’m good. 🙂 Location, is often a different story. 😦 I’ll look at the area around the tree, decide where to “drop” the tree, notch the tree with the chainsaw, then cut the other side and it drops………..it works every time. (Here’s an interesting thought, why is it you “cut down a tree” but when it’s down you “cut it up”?)
We decided to build our (probably last) home, in the woods, we (I) needed to cut a pathway for the drive way. I chose the most logical place, closest to the site with the fewest trees to destroy. I brought my equipment (two chain saws, ax, small cross cut saw, sledge and wedges, etc) and cut down the first tree. Not bad, it landed pretty close to the desired spot. I moved next to the second tree, notched it to land on top of the first…………then started cutting the back side, the tree swayed backwards, the chainsaw was bound tight, it wouldn’t run, it wouldn’t move…it was stuck!! I take another look up the tree …….what had I been thinking?? WAY too much confidence for my real ability. The limbs (and consequently the weight) are all on the back side, that tree will NEVER fall where I want it to.. I told my wife she’d better back up another 20 feet or so, it should have been the or so distance…I got out my other chainsaw and began cutting into the notch. The tree began falling, 180 degrees from my initial desired spot, my wife realized that the “or so” distance wasn’t quite enough, made a fast movement away from the action, (movement like I hadn’t seen in 25 years!!!)……but wrenching her back muscles……the chainsaw that was stuck flipped up and did a couple of 360 gainers and landed on the ground. (Those of us of the male married gender can certainly relate to what came next) I heard about this tree cutting from my wife for weeks. ( it may have been months, but I had turned the on/off button to off) I think that was her last “logging” visit with me. I’m remembering the movie Forrest Gump…and the line…”stupid is as stupid does”
The driveway was pretty much cleared out, except for the last 5 feet. Two wild cherry trees stood in my path. I believed I could save one, but the other….it had to come down. I was having (professional) loggers come in a couple of weeks to log the rest of the woods, (which would pay for some of our building). But I wanted to use this cherry tree for something inside the house. Now that my wife’s back was sore, I’d lost my helper/sighter/manager. I was on my own…“hey Paul, Paul Bunyan…”
I pulled into the drive, unloaded the gear……………then parked the truck….. a LONG way away (just in case) . I chose my spot for the landing, notched the tree…………………and………..remembering the last tree felling event….cautiously began cutting the tree………watching, watching ,more cutting. Not bad, …..not bad,……….. ……….wait……….not quite……….not quite the right……….place…. The fall was about 25 degrees off. Not real bad, but, I failed at logging 101, the tree never hit the ground!!
Remember that OTHER cherry tree, well, it had a fork in it about 8 feet up….that’s where my tree fell, right into that fork. I began studying the situation, I needed a six-foot log, my tree’s nearly at 45 degrees to the stump. I begin cutting and sure enough I got a six-seven foot log, and the tree slid down a little. Smiling, to my mind this is working well, I can cut off another log. And so I do. Now life begins to change…I had cut off enough counter balance weight that the tree swung up and slightly over to the other side. So, I walk to the other side of the tree and cut off some branches, it swings back up. No, No!!!
Here I am standing with the chain saw running and the bulk of my tree sitting in this tree fork eight feet up….it looks like the cross of Jesus up there!
Great!!! I had just cut off everything that I could reach…..and….it just hung there. Oh boy, in a couple of weeks the loggers will be here and they’ll be met by the cross of Jesus in the drive! What do I do? My closest help is 8 miles away…..
I drive the 8 miles to enlist the help of my 76-year-old mother….I explain the problem, we drive to the woods, I back the truck up to the cross, mom gets in the back of the truck and is just tall enough to hold down on a tree limb. I’m cutting away at the top again and FLIP, the tree pulls out of mom’s hands and slides back down and out of the V. Now having the log free of the V, I finally get it cut up!! What was that movie line? Stupid is as stupid does??
Usually I don’t like to cut a tree down, I’ve known a couple of very cautious friends who are no longer with us, because even though cautious, tree-felling accidents happen. I prefer cutting a tree up. However, a couple of years ago, I learned the secret of felling a tree…and I must say I’ve gotten better, 2 for 2….oh, yes and they all hit the ground…. 🙂
And that cherry tree? It’s now my fire place mantle. 🙂