Monday, November 2, 2009

photo © bob arnold


Never a dull moment. Here's what I forgot to mention earlier.

How we were waiting to see what would win out today — the sunshine, or the new John Keats/Fanny Brawne film { Bright Star }. Everybody we know from the west coast to the east coast has been talking about this film, and we thought for sure we might be able to duck into a matinee, and then the day went gorgeous on us, perfect for sharing a fall apple, and we ended up for part of the afternoon instead of indoors with the film, sitting with one of those apples at a garden shutting down for the season. Ah, the sun. Ah, the vitamin D. No movie. Another sort of movie was about to happen.

And when we got home along the river we hopped onto the bicycles and just started riding, along the river, south. We didn't see anyone, though a few dogs barked, and there was a tractor pulled off the road and into a wood's edge and someone I thought I knew was tugging a cable off the winch of the tractor but he was too far off and his back was turned and we kept riding. Day still glorious.

Some miles later, and going past the state line, we returned the same way along the river. Nearing the tractor again I could see long before the tractor the worker through the brush and he wasn't working, in fact he appeared at a standstill, maybe waiting for something to happen, or maybe stymied. No sound of chain saw. Things didn't look right.

I know when things don't look right with a mammoth white pine, a taut cable line, and a worker all used up. Sure enough, his chain saw was pinched tight at the back cut of the pine stump. I could imagine that when I quickly parked my bike near the tractor and worked my way up through the brush and rock tangle to get to the guy. I'd been there myself. First thing I suggested was we get that chain saw apart from the pinched bar and chain and leave the bar behind in the stump momentarily and save the brains and expense of a chain saw. It's a grubby Husky, but still the guy told me it cost him $600 once upon a time. He was all for it. Even though the box cut was well done and the back cut was already deep enough to make us both nervous why the tree wasn't going anywhere, we still had to get on the ground an inch from the tree and noodle this saw free. I could see he'd been pounding all the wedges he brought with him (two) and then he got desperate and made some thicker wood wedges out of flimsy pine and all he had was a 16 ounce hammer to pound it all in with. It's never good. I got him to lighten up a little when I said it could be worse and we're doing this in 3 feet of snow. With a killer wind. Yes, it felt a little better.

Sweetheart stayed safely down on the road watching two crazies not quite thinking in their minds about anything except this tree had to come down. Can't leave it. No chain saw. The bar's under a tree with the weight of a house on it. Either that cable, which has been strung way too low — no purchase for leverage to convince the tree about anything — has got to be let-go and let the tree fall backwards, sideways, or however. It may just stand there. We've seen that. The guy's concerned about the landowner's few fruit trees. It's amazing how the finest details come into play with something big and ornery. The tree might go backwards and flatten any memory of those fruit trees, or else it may lean just 5 feet to the left and fall like a circus act right onto a large pile of pine tops and brush left over from an earlier big tree. Let's just loosen the cable and take a chance.

We loosen and the tree came right at us. It was quite a surprise. Either the taut cable was holding the tree up from falling correctly, or else the pine tree was locked up way high where no one but a bird could see how a top branch was lodged in with a neighborly tree. Anyway, it came. Sweetheart was running up the road! Me and the other wood's fool stood our ground, somehow already calculating it wouldn't get near us, or the tractor, and anyway I was seriously transfixed watching such beauty decline. I always am. A whole afternoon of sunshine rushing right in after it. In fact I could see the sunshine mellow the middle boughs as it was toppling and I was pretty sure I'd never see that again.

The guy's a big guy. When I slapped him twice on the back to feel-good, he felt like the rump of a pony. I've been in this river valley so long and I know this guy comes from a farming family I knew once as boys, but I can't remember which one he is. And he never said my name, or greeted Sweetheart. But when I turned for my bicycle he said, "Thanks. Thanks for the. . . comfort."