The UpintheValley Theoretical School of Home Renovation operates on the following principle: a) get a book; b) read that book; c) do what the book says. Voila! New copper plumbing. Honey, look at all the money we saved.
In practice, there is a learning curve: a) first time wrong, b) second time better, c) third time proficient. ABC. Always Be Climbing the curve.
This works, more or less, with tile setting, hanging windows, sweat-fitting pipes underneath the house. Piecework…things of that nature…offer margins for error.
Felling a tree is a different animal.
If the tree is 38 inches in diameter, and your saw is 2o inches in length, your margin of error is two inches. If the tree is 12 feet from the house, but 18 feet in height, your margin is…let’s just say in a contest between two tons of hardwood, dropping on a hinge, and stucco… stucco doesn’t win.
So I spray painted some cut lines in the bark, measured out a fall. I made the notch cut. I stopped several times to check the face of the notch to see it was smiling directly toward the narrow window of space between my tangerine and grapefruit trees. As a first time tree faller, I was
confident hopeful I could drop it without damage to them. If you look carefully at the upper photo, you will see a scratch work of saw lines. In homicide investigations, these are known as hesitation wounds.
So having done my “homework”, in this case not a library book, but a cursory web search, with illustrations, how did my rented chainsaw end up stuck in a tree that was 90 percent cut through? Why was it not leaning in the direction I wanted it to go? How was it I managed to overlook the use of shims? If I stopped right there, and called 311, how much would the City charge me to remove this public safety hazard I created with my Van Nuys Can-Do spirit? How would I explain to my neighbor why she couldn’t park in her driveway ever again, or at least until I got things sorted?
No longer fully in control of matters, I did what jackasses have always done. I improvised. I grabbed a crowbar, the only plausible shim I could think of, jammed it in the cut, and told Mrs. U to pull very hard on the polyurethane rope I had attached, in my now alarmingly glib pre-planning, to the upper branches. In the event of a stiff gust of wind in the wrong direction, about as useful as dental floss. Fortune favors the brave they say, and between her pulling on the rope and me pushing on the bar we were able to rock the trunk just enough to yank the saw out. At that point, the tree felt a little wobbly in my hands. It was definitely going down now, but about 30 degrees off line. Away from the house, praise Jesus.
I pushed, she pulled, and over it went, straight through the trellis over the front of the walkway, which imploded like a house of toothpicks. Not a pretty landing, but never have I been so grateful for a fix-it project.
In my head I could hear the voice of Howard Cosell exulting: Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!
It’s a thin line between jackass and hero. If it goes your way, your wife looks at you like this. Glad I’m not living with the alternative.