The Art of the Chainsaw


They say we have four seasons a year: winter, spring, summer and fall. I beg to differ.  There are many more seasons in a year: football season, snapper season, duck season, brim bedding season…hopefully you get where I'm going with this.  But down here in Florida we are in the middle of the most infamous season of all, Hurricane Season.  It's a way of life for us along the Gulf Coast and is just one of the pleasures of living in this beautiful part of the lower 48.  When one comes thru they make a colossal mess laying down the hollow water oak and snapping the pine trees in half like a toothpick.  Growing up in this part of the world and living through these storms, I had to learn one very important skill over the years, and that's how to run a chainsaw.

When I was 14 or 15 years old, my grandfather bought me a McCulloch chainsaw, back when they made chainsaws and were still in business.  Conveniently he had on old elm, or some kind of tree, he wanted me to take down out in front of his house; apparently it had been bothering him for some time.  From his chair on the porch, he directed me on how to cut the wedge and then the back cut so it would not fall back towards the house.  Looking back, I realized that I had too little chainsaw and too much tree, but at the time, I was the king of the forest and loved every minute of it.  From the porch, my grandfather just smiled and probably thought, "I could have sold tickets to this show", as struggled to lay it down.  

Twenty years ago when we bought our property to build on, which back then, was out in the country.  I upgraded to a "big ol" Stihl saw and, when the weather finally turned cool, I would come out every weekend in the fall  and cut, stack and burn as I slowly tamed our little piece of paradise.  I had four pair of Dickies work pants, all with holes in them on the left thigh where the slow turning chain would nick my leg as I was walking among the tangled limbs and cutting my way free.  The holes are all in the same place and all made at the end of the day when I was too tired and should have called it quits much earlier.  Complacency is the kiss of death when it comes to stuff that can hurt or kill you.  Anyway, late in the afternoon, Margaret would bring out a cooler of cold beverages, and we would sit by the fire and together visualizing what our future home would look like among our beautiful live oaks.  Those were some wonderful evenings and looking back, seemed like much quieter times in our lives. 

Nowadays, I let Will run the saw and lead the cleanup.  I no longer jump in the car to be the first one there to clean up a downed tree, I just send Will and a friend down in the old blue pickup and I watch sometimes thinking "I could have sold tickets to this show."    Hopefully this season there won't be any need for the chainsaw unless by choice, as it's not near as fun as it used to be,  and I certainly dont have the steam I used to either.  I pray that after last year's brutal season, we have had our fill of it for a while many are still trying to put everything back together along the beautiful panhandle and Gulf Coast.    Hopefully this season instead we just skip to the cooler of cold beverages and sit back enjoy the view.

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Taking down a dead water oak with my seasoned assistant Jorge as my spotter

Another day, another burn pile


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