Tales from the Tail End Our mommas would have whipped us
- River Clearing on the Lumber - You gotta figure you're in for an
interesting day when you show up for a chainsaw party and at 53
years old, you are the youngest one there by 22 years, and the first
thing you hear is how glad everyone is that you showed up.
Five people with chainsaws, saws, hatchets, crowbars and other
instruments of destruction and tiny little boats, in 100 degree
heat, decided to take a trip way back up in the woods in a swamp.
If we had told our mommas what we were doing, they would have
whipped us for doing stupid things.
Frank and Omer brought chainsaws that were as big as they were.
Marshall brought a monster that I was afraid I couldn't lift and was
bigger than Frank or Omer. Rudy brought advice and encouragement.
Even though we had 4 chainsaws, only two of us brought any gas.
Turns out that Rudy's main job was to harass Frank.
Omer demonstrated his usual "I'll tackle anything" attitude early on
as we began to clear trees. The huge trees outnumbered the
reasonable ones and there were a lot more big down trees than any of
At my first big tree I lost the cap to my chain oil tank, I wondered
what caused that Exxon Valdese oil slick going down the Lumber, so I
spent the day cutting with a dry chain, which means it didn't work
very well and didn't last very long.
We had a couple of interesting experiences. Late in the day we came
upon a couple of trees down across the river, one in the water and
one out of the water. The higher tree had a log wedged in the
branches and out of the water. The log was about 10 feet long and
probably 18 inches in diameter and only partially rotten. Rudy and
I were standing upstream guarding the boats while Omer cut the top
out of the tree in the water. His tree shifted with his cut and one
of the branches shook the tree with the wedged log. The wedged log
fell out of the tree and Rudy tried to walk on water, backwards, but
only succeeded for a few feet before he fell over backwards. If he
hadn't lost his balance, he might have able to claim divine
intervention. Old men can move surprisingly fast when they have to.
If you are going to buy a chainsaw, get a Stihl Farm Boss. The five
of us were chest deep in the river trying to cut a 20 inch tree that
spanned the entire river. Omer was cutting and the tree pinched the
bar so the saw couldn't cut. I got my wedge and while Omer drove
the wedge from the other side, I (being taller) took over running
Marshall's big Farm Boss saw with the 500 horsepower engine and saw
teeth the size of baseballs mounted on a 3/8 inch logging chain.
When I cut through the log, one end slid down into the river while
the other end stayed in the air. Since the bar was pinched, the
tree dragged the chainsaw down into the river, still running, while
I held on to it. Once the two ends of the tree separated, I pulled
the saw from the river. Marshall's moaning was louder than all our
chainsaws combined. Marshall knew then that he had a new mailbox
post. I took the chainsaw to the shore and after about 10 pulls it
started and ran! We cut several more trees with it by day's end.
There's a spot in the river where a big bend has been cut off by a
new channel that is by now about 16 feet wide. Apparently there are
4 houses that are located on the shore of the old channel. One or
more of the owners have attempted to dam the cut-through. They have
put tremendous effort into driving steel bars and pipes into the
river bed, weaving boards into the reinforcing bars, and hauling
multiple tires with rims to this spot in an attempt to stop the flow
of water. We tried to remove the obstacles but couldn't budge
them. A bit further downstream, where the old river bend returned
to the channel, we had stopped to clear another tree. A man came
walking down the old, sandy river channel and wanted to know what we
were doing and why we were cutting trees. What he really wanted to
know (without saying directly) is if we were tearing out the dam. I
asked him if he was the one doing the damming but he said it was his
neighbor. They hope to force the water back down their channel,
especially during the winter, to flush out the sand and debris and
open back up their part of the river. I think the Lumber is not
interested in their wants, all it's going to do is cut the new
course wider and deeper, rebar be dammed (sometimes you just can't
walk away from a good pun).
Anyway, those other four old men on the trip embarrassed me by out
working me. I was glad to see the bridge, this was the longest 3
miles I have ever done.
The next time we do a river clearing, the rest of you have to come,
just to see the sights of chainsaws cutting in water and old men who
won't give in to age or infirmities. And if you do come, bring some
gas and a cell phone and a first aid kit, things that we didn't
think we would need