Sunday, April 22, 2012

Man Work

Joe Jackson--"Real Men (live)" (mp3)

I used four different tools today--branch cutter, super-extended branch cutter, saw, and a kind of pick.  I'm not even sure what it's called.  Yeah, it was a real man day.  I cut, pulled, raked, dragged, mowed, wheelbarrowed, unloaded, spread, planted and cut down the biggest tree limb I have ever tackled in my life.

"A man who cannot use tools is not a man," says Willy Loman in Death Of A Salesman.  And he was right. 

I should know.  I used the crap out of them today.  And, guess what, I didn't use any pansy power tools.  I used man tools.

See, real men who know how to use modern tools and who know what the right tool for the job is are wimps.  They get out chainsaws to take down trees, which, to my thinking, is kind of like fishing with hand grenades.  When they want to cut a small limb that is 14 feet up and their super-extended branch cutter has a red line that you are not supposed to extend beyond, they don't extend beyond.  I do.  Why?  Because I simply don't know any better.  Check that.  Because I think that I know better.

Men like me who only venture out into big-boy world when we have to, when our property demands it, tend to fashion themselves "lawn care MacGyvers."  That's right, we use things not for what they are really for, but for how we think we can use them.  I don't know if that's because we don't really know what they are for, and some kid in an Ace Hardware shamed us into buying them because all of the men were, or if it's because we really are some kind of super-evolved beings who can look at a yard situation, know what we have in our arsenal, and put the two together in ways that none of the other billions of people on this planet have ever thought of.

Obviously, I hope it's the latter.  But, beyond hope, I can make the following ample boasts:
1.  I have cut down a limb with a 7-inch diameter with an 8-inch saw.
2.  I have sawed upside down.  (No, I wasn't upside down, the saw was.  Try it, sawing upward against gravity is not for the timid)
3. I have used a saw to free a saw that got trapped in a tree while sawing.

I suppose the latter needs some explanation.  When you don't know what you're doing and you tackle a large limb, you start sawing from the top, knowing with certainty that if you can saw deep enough, gravity will take care of the rest.  And that's what happened.  But at that point, the limb splits as deeply as you have sawed and the rest stays attached to the tree.  And logic told me that I could saw through the remainder with no problem.  But physics told the tree that as I sawed deeper, the weight of the limb would settle and close the cut I was sawing into, trapping the saw. 

So how to free the saw trapped by sawing?  I tried sawing a thinnner part.  That worked a little.  I tried sawing upside down.  That worked a little.  I got the branch cutters and tried to cut through the very thinnest part of remaining attached limb.  That worked a very, very little.  So I got the pickaxe and tried to pummel through the remaining connection.  That worked some.  What really worked was doing all of those things over and over repetitively, making miniscule progress from each technique so that eventually the weight of the limb had to pull itself down. 

Yeah, I was proud.  Yeah, the trapped saw came free.  Yeah, I sawed off the excess, trimmed up the tree.

And now I have a huge limb lying in my backyard and I have no tool on my Bat-belt that will deal with it.  Except that one I've already mentioned, the chipping away at a big thing using a number of small techniques.  Not MacGyver, really.  More like The Count Of Monte Christo in prison digging out a few handfuls at a time.  Oh, I have another ally, too.  Time.  Eventually, the thing will simply rot away.  I don't know, though, that my wife will give me those 10 years to spend.  We'll see.

Chances are that in the weeks ahead I'll tackle other problems just as stupidly--try to lift something I can't lift, try to break something with my foot that won't break, stand on something to try to get at something that I can't quite get at even on my tiptoes, cut at a limb that's bigger than the cutter, try to saw down part of a tree from the top rung of a ladder.

Given the infrequency with which I purchase lottery tickets, coupled with the odds of winning, it is unlikely that I will ever strike it rich by scratching silver panels off of a card or by choosing a series of numbers.  But my chances of winning a Darwin Award?  Very, very good.  But if I go out, I'll go out a man.

Sorry, I know I've posted this song before, but it fits so well.


rodle said...

If trees could talk, they'd call you the Honey Badger.

troutking said...

I hope you were listening to Radiohead's "The King of Limbs" as all this was going on.