Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

While Sawing a Tree, I Vault to New Heights

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

While Sawing a Tree, I Vault to New Heights

Article excerpt

It was the dead ponderosa pine tree that the bald eagle had perched in when I rode the ranch's small motorcycle within 50 feet of the tree and stopped. The eagle looked at me but stayed where it was, less interested in me than in everything else going on around us. I said, "Hey, eagle, how's it going for you this morning?"

Either the eagle didn't like the motorcycle, or it didn't care for conversation, because it flew from the tree and up Trout Creek Valley. I rode on to my morning's work repairing fences.

The next time I went up the narrow dirt road along the creek, I discovered that the tree had blown down. Its roots had rotted underground, so when Whitney Valley's strong winds encouraged it enough, its roots broke and it fell across Trout Creek. It also fell over the barbed wire fence on the other side of the creek. It brought with it a large piece of the earth that was still clinging to its remaining roots.

Had I looked carefully at the pulled-up chunk of earth, roots, and the tree, I might have noticed the delicate balance of forces and angles and weights. I might then have foreseen what was going to happen. But I just figured that when a tree is down, it is down.

I was going to have to cut up the tree because it was lying on my fence. I would have to get it off and repair the fence to keep cattle where they were supposed to be. And, I figured I might as well add the tree to my firewood pile. In any case, the tree probably would have behaved just as unpredictably and dangerously however I approached it and wherever I started cutting.

I rode the motorcycle home and got my pickup, my chain saw, and associated tools. Then I drove back to the fallen tree. I climbed onto the tree, walked up to the top of it, and started my saw. I began slicing off limbs and cutting the trunk into firewood lengths, slowly working my way down the tree. …

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