Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stop And Think Before it's Too Late

So here we go...
Today was the perfect day to take down a couple of trees on the property.  The wood would be piled up to dry for use next winter, and besides, I wanted to clear some woodland for more useable property anyways.
So on went the boots and out came the chainsaw.

Just to make it clear, I have been felling trees since I was a boy scout.  At summer campouts, My friends and I would set out with bow saws and axes in search of dead trees to use for the camp fire that burned 24 hours a day.  We would have competitions to see who could drop a tree right where we wanted it.  This friendly competition honed our skills at judging height, lean, and the dozens of other variables that would determine the fall line. I must say, we got pretty good at it.

In my mid teens, my father introduced me to the chainsaw.  A Homelite 16" with a 54cc engine.  Properly sharpened, it would rip through any wood put to it's bar.  He taught me how to keep the tip clear from debris to avoid kickback, and how to hold it so that if it did kick, the chain brake would grind it to a halt before any flesh could come in contact with the teeth.

So now that I have established my 30 years or so of experience felling trees, let me tell you how confidence can bite you right in the arse.  After lining this tree up, I decided I could drop it right behind and parallel to the house.  This would make staking a breeze as I would be right there at the wood pile.  So I began with the wedge, slightly more than half way through.  Then, after verifying my escape route should the trunk buck from the stump, I started the back cut.  Within seconds the 22 year old poplar tilted and started to fall. I pulled out the saw and took a couple steps back to watch it go.  Then I started to think....what if I messed up, this baby was to drop within feet of my house.  A branch from a closeby tree, a less than clean back cut or any other variables could send this thing right onto my home.

Luckily, my aim was perfect.  The trunk landed perfectly parallel and about 6 feet from the back of the house.  Within minutes it was limbed and cut to 16" logs ready to pile.  As I gathered up the pieces, I couldn't help but think "what if...".

Believe me folks, as experienced and skilled as any of us may be, stop to consider the consequences of missing your mark.  No matter what you are doing...felling trees, operating farm machinery, or whatever.  Once the action is started, you can no longer control the outcome.  So please....PLEASE....stop and think before you say "I can do that, NO PROBLEM".

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