Loggers suffer injuries at a rate that keeps them on the 10 Most Dangerous Occupations list. Even more dangerous are the weekend lumberjacks and jills, out gathering firewood or knocking down some pines around the house.
Citizens must wait three days to purchase a gun but any boob can plunk down a couple of hundred dollars and walk out of the store with a chain saw, a damnable diabolical device with a huge potential for destruction.
Perhaps there is no waiting period required because untrained fools will probably injure themselves before they can harm someone else, unless they go on a rampage like those so poignantly depicted in the CHAINSAW MASSACRE movies. And even then, untrained maniacs can't master the sophisticated chainsaw techniques required to bring off a good movie style massacre. It can’t be your first day with a chainsaw.
But anyone can fell a tree. The difference is that a professional logger drops the tree where he wants it.
Is any mission more doomed to failure than a week-end lumberjack attempting to drop a tree where he wants it?
If you own a chain saw and you are considering such a harebrained act, let me save you some expense and shame. Here’s what you are up against:
1. Use geometric triangulation to determine the height of the tree, so you can make a worse-case determination. Remember that a cut tree can grow an additional 30 feet while falling to the ground. Your calculations should include the electro-magnetic attraction between timber and nearby power lines,
2. Keep a cell phone handy to call the power company. Cut your tree down on a weekday morning. The telephone and power company crews will have time to repair your lines by 5:00 P.M. This means your bill won't reflect overtime pay and you'll have time to reset the clocks in the house before your spouse arrives home from work.
3. Wait until the kids have gone to school. Few things are more vexing than derisive laughter from those to whom you have given the gift of life. My own children taunt me with a ditty that begins, "He's a lumberjack and he's O.K..."
4. Get a neighbor's opinion on how to fell the tree so there will be someone to share the blame for your incredibly foolish deed. And your neighbor's words can be used against him when he complains that you've knocked out his power.
5. Call the bank to insure that your checking account balance is equal to the deductable on your homeowner's policy. Look for loopholes in that policy. Insurance companies and God have conspired to punish "tree removal by non-professional persons."
After humiliating yourself, there still may be moments when you want to chase the, fir, pine and larch, to feel a kinship with those who work among the tallest of all living things.
I still ached to be a woodsman after my heartless spouse gave away our chainsaw to a total stranger, so I went downtown to the Public Library and scoured the shelves for books on logging.
There were several. My favorite of all the logging books was WHISTLE PUNKS AND WIDOW-MAKERS by Robert Swanson. The book presents fascinating stories that consoled me.
These books also include glossaries so you can understand the jargon used by loggers.
Lots of people know the meaning of words like "bucking" and "undercutting". But few know that a "widow-maker" is a dangerous leaning tree. Or that a "schoolmarm" is a log that is forked (therefore doesn't roll easily.)
Now that I'm savvy with the lingo, I could walk into any lumber camp and shoot the breeze with all the brush apes.
And if one of them shouts out something like, "that's a butt swell you don’t see every day!" I know he's not talking about my ass.