Friday, July 3, 2020


________________________INDIAN TRICK

Interesting tree work yesterday — a fully grown and powerful maple tree up in our woodlot cracked over seven feet up on the stump some years ago, lodged itself into another maple tree as if the other tree caught it in its arms. I tried, and it was very dangerous, but there was no way to free the tree at the base since the break was seven feet high. I used my chain saw over my head which is no recommendation and loosened quite a bit but this tree wasn’t budging. I hiked back home tools and all. Five years ago. For five years I have been watching the tree, watching the wind catch it and sway it and nothing doing, it wasn’t coming down. Watched the snow fall onto it and burden it. So what. Year after year. I’ve been working regularly now for months at all sorts of carpentry and stone work jobs, landscape and promised myself before July 4th I’d tackle this tree one more time. It needs to come down for firewood before it rots whole and in place, 75-100 feet tall. Yesterday I went up with my tree rope to see if I could bring it down with my Ranger. Not a chance. I worked around the tree with crowbar and sledgehammer whacking. Keep trying. Plus I was working right under the tree and if it decided to let go, I’d be crushed like a bug. I stood awhile and studied the tree, went over all my options of getting it down, none working, but I felt there was something I was missing. Then I thought of the old Indian trick of burning a tree. The Indian, much like me, works with very little equipment and likes it that way. Good with the tools he has. So I went back to the house where I keep a fresh jug of kerosene, took matches from the kitchen and some kindling and hiked to the tree and doused the stump with a quart of kerosene with kindling laid into the wedge where the full tree was punched down into the stump and waited to see if burning the base of the tree on the stump might work. Hopefully the bark wouldn’t catch and I’d watch flames skedaddle right up the tree into the crown and light up the whole woodlot. It had been raining and more rain was coming so I wasn’t too worried. The kerosene lit up like a house on fire where I wanted it. Now to keep the fire going. The next three hours, with Sweetheart’s help (she came for a look, when I get too quiet she wonders or worries), we kept the little stump fire going (above our heads!) by burning a huge brush pile of hemlock from trees I had cut a few years ago for timber posts. Believe it or not we broke up that whole brush pile by hand keeping this little fire going like the little engine that could. Storm clouds threatening and the two of us hoping the next big cloud burst would hang away in time for the fire to do its business. We kept feeding the fire and occasionally flinging on more kerosene. Kerosene has a pleasant greasy smooth feeling between the fingers, with a more mysterious aroma than gasoline and of course it doesn’t burst into flames as gasoline does. Kerosene thinks for a second and then gushes up flames. By then I’m wearing welding gloves from home where we wear them around all the woodstoves so I can feel this campfire I have going into place and keep it into place and yet here comes the rain, with thunder and lightning and the whole shebang. We run for the Ranger under a big pine and huddle close to one another since there are no doors on the wood’s buggy and the rain is blowing wildly. I can see our little campfire sputtering but maintaining its worth until the rain gets the better of everything and slowly but surely puts our campfire out. I guess it’s going to take another day. I can’t see under the tree base and wedged into the stump but our little campfire had worked its way under and into that seasoned wood and after we left for home to dry off and get out of all the rain drenched clothes, and maybe there was a good size sailing wind that passed through as the rain kept coming hours afterwards but by the time we headed back up into the woods that evening to see how the tree was doing, check on the fire and any leftover sparks, a jug of water in our hands to put out any wayward flame, by golly look! We did. The tree was down. It fell better than if I picked the tree up and put it where I wanted it. I expected the tree to come off the stump, plunge into the ground seven feet off the stump and then I’d have to work the tree from the bottom at removing six foot logs at a time until I got the tree to capsize over and onto the ground. No need. Our Indian trick worked. The tree wedge was burned off the stump and once free it fell like a long held free body and probably came crashing down through and past many smaller trees. I see a few trees scraped up pretty bad in the bargain. The big tree was down prone and available and waiting for me. The next day I was there with my chain saw, Stihl, and it holds a deep gas tank. I bucked up all the tree in one full gas tank cutting spree without let up, but leave it to the tree, the-five-year-hang-up-tree, the-I’m-never-coming-down-tree, to have the last word. Just as I was working up the last base logs, two feet through, seconds from finishing up all the tree in one fell-swoop of bucking, the very last log to cut through and finish, the very last piece, the Stihl ran out of gas. One second from done. I could hear the tree laughing.

[ BA ]
June 30, 2020