It was one of those perfect days, cool with new blue sky showing through shredding low gray clouds. Our son, Nathan, and Tsuga the Wonderdog and I were immersed in this place and time, there on the banks of Nameless Creek to enjoy, there to bring in one more load of firewood as a reason to be together before he headed back to Missouri on Sunday.
With the job done and as we prepared to go, I spotted a standing cherry snag near where we had been working. Ten inches at the base and truncated abruptly without branches at maybe 12 feet length, it leaned out 45 degrees about 10 feet up a leaf-strewn 45 degree bank.
It would be an awkward approach, especially for cutting a notch on the downhill side without sliding down the hill with a spinning chainsaw in my hands. So contrary to my better judgment but thinking the bit of tree rotten enough to snap and heading steeply in the right direction anyway, I decided to just cut through on the uphill side and let the weight of the tree complete the cut. Bad idea.
With the bar half way into the tree, the cut began to open on the back side. Another half inch, the tree was noticeably beginning to sag toward the floor of the meadow. I considered my path of escape, but as steep as the bank was and with the saw in my hands, I wouldn’t be able to move very far very fast, but no matter: this little chunk of tree would pose no hazard. What could go wrong?
Another half inch, and the velocity of fall increased and I turned off the saw and began to move laterally as much as I could. But before I had moved far enough, the tree dance took an odd turn. A slab of the uncut downhill third of the tree persisted six feet up and became a fulcrum point about which the remainder of the tree tipped. In this manner, as I watched in disbelief and in slow motion, the remainder of the tree trunk (not an entire tree, mind you, but still 3-400 pounds of wood) tipped toward the ground, hitting first on its top.
And here, another surprise: the top was far more resilient and alive than I would have guessed because (still in slow motion) as the top hit the ground, it did not break. Instead, it acted like a spring and threw the fallen body of the tree back up the hill, its cut end landing to the left and higher on the hill than the stump from which it had been cut!
And this, dear friends, was exactly where I had retreated to get out of the way of the wee tree as it fell. I reacted quickly. But not quite quickly enough .
Suddenly, I was on the ground, both legs out in front of me, and the left knee not exactly right. Considering what I had just seen coming my way (in slow motion) I wondered at first if I was dead, because the flash-forward scenario included this outcome. I’m gonna die.
To make a long and ongoing story short, after only a small persistently bleeding puncture wound to the knee cap, I had NO pain. I walked all the way down the valley to the house for some antibiotic ointment while Nate loaded the truck. (Yes, I’m sure I’m okay, I reassured him, and hoped I was right about this unlikely hope. He, understandably, was terrified to have watched his old man’s stupidity almost get him killed!)
After several hours of no pain whatsoever (adrenalin?) the pain did come, and the stiffness. And I have crutches for now. I went to a doctor friend’s house last night for a tetanus shot. And we’ll see where this goes.
I’m typing this from the laptop sitting sideways on the couch, because the knee is not happy about staying flexed. Ann will drive us this afternoon to take our son to the plane. I’ll ride in the back with m leg out straight.
It is a miracle I am only badly bent and not broke. Makes a fella believe in Woodlot Angels. I’m very thankful to be here drinking coffee, blogging…I swear life is interesting. As I was typing that sentence, a large flame leaped up from the top of the woodstove not four feet away. Ann, in charge of building the fire with me in my crippled state, left the freaking box of matches on the top of the stove!
I expect social services will be along soon to see about getting us in a rest home, for our own safety and health, you understand.