Friday, September 29, 2006

A guardian angel...

This week we spent a day on the mountain gathering firewood.

Getting firewood from the forest is a rather involved ritual for us. There are many dead trees in the forest just up Fairview Canyon, only a few miles from us. But gathering the wood from standing dead trees is not as easy as it might seem. It involves felling trees, cutting them up, loading and hauling, splitting and stacking. Hard work but rewarding, and sometimes very enjoyable. But sometimes hazardous too.

We were felling a group of tall skinny spruces on the hillside. One of them turned the wrong way and lodged against an adjacent tree. The 80-foot high tree was suspended there, leaning uphill against its neighbor.

This is a very dangerous situation, to have a precariously balanced severed tree with half a ton of wood, teetering just over your head. Attempting to extricate it, I laboriously sectioned 6-foot pieces of the butt end with the chainsaw, cutting angled pieces that could slide off from each other and release the upper piece.

Unfortunately, the top ended up coming up nearly vertical after I'd sectioned out 30 feet or so of the lower trunk. It was not safe to continue cutting short pieces off.

At that point we made a serious mistake in judgement. We decided to try to drag the butt end downhill, chained to the ATV. My friend Ricky drove the machine up to the tree and wrapped the chain around, and gave it a pull. But the tree was held fast on the ground, and the top started to tip over, instead of pulling out at the bottom. His chain was too short to put him clear of the top of the tree, and the top was coming straight at him.

We yelled to Ricky, "Watch out!", as the tree ponderously toppled over, right onto the ATV.


Ricky responded quickly enough to scramble just out of the way, but it was a very near thing.

The ATV was mangled but repairable.

Ricky was unscathed.

We stood there for a few moments, listening to the ringing silence that followed the resounding crash of big timber.

When we recovered from the shock of such a near catastrophe, we breathed a prayer of thanks for the dramatic delivery of promised protection.

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