In December, 2003, I decided that a dead 100-foot tree next to my log home was endangering my roof.  Instead of cutting it down at ground level, I decided to save the bottom 20 feet so that woodpeckers could use that much of the rotting tree to peck for bugs and worms.  Incidentally, it was more than 20 feet from the house so the remaining stump wouldn’t present a danger to the building.  Never mind the unthought of dangers it might cause me.

So, I got my ladder and chainsaw and prepared to cut off the top 80 feet of the tree.  At that time, I only had a short 12-foot ladder, meaning I had to foolishly stand on the top step and hold onto the trunk of the tree with one hand while I used the other to apply the running chainsaw to the tree trunk just above my hand.  Normally, the tree makes a very audible creaking sound beore it falls which gives you enough time to get out of the way.  You may already have guessed what would obviously go wrong if you have ever used a chainsaw.

The teeth of a running chainsaw pull their own way through a tree trunk once you have started the cut.  So, with one hand firmly afixed to the tree and the chainsaw drawing its way through the cut it was making, I didn’t have the strength in just one hand to withdraw it from the cut.  The last thing I remember is seeing this 80 feet of sharpened wood hurtling toward me, and thinking that’s like a freight train coming at me.

My next thought, I don’t know how much later, was hearing Christine’s voice coming from an open window of her study in the loft that overlooked that portion of the yard, asking me:  “Are you alright?”I think I squeaked out a feeble, “No.”  Then how she managed it, I don’t know, but she dragged me from the yard, up the steps and onto the deck  and into the house.  As I remember it, some first-responders arrived next and then a rather rickety ambulance that took me to the hospital emergency entrance.  After a CAT scan and some X-rays it was determined that I had a collapsed lung, some cracked ribs, a part of my stomach had been pounded up into my throat (where it still is), a cracked shoulder, and some of the flanges that hold muscles to the spine had been broken off.  In other words, I was in a bad way.  In fact the doctor, a very kindly gentleman, told me two days later that they had done all they could do and that now they were releasing me to go home and that I should ‘begin to make peace with my maker’.

A few weeks later when I was partially mobile again, I walked out into the yard with my portable oxygen tank and only then realized I had been knocked about 30 feet from the base of the tree and had landed directly on the running chain saw blade.  The snow was still covered with feathers where the saw had ripped through the back of my down coat.  Apparently I had fallen on the brake so that it had, miracle of miracles, stopped before it cut through to my spine.

Taking advice from a close friend, I had the good sense to tough it out, and removed the shoulder patches and dumped all the pain pills, believing that I would never get better with all that stuff coursing through my blood stream.  Apparently that was sound advice since I am still here many years later, but admittedly with a bad back.  Perhaps, a small price to pay for the right to continue living.


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