TRUTHS AND HALF TRUTHS
Not a lumberjack and I’m not okay
Last month, a nice fellow from the Department of Forestry stood in my backyard with me, and the two of us looked up at the giant tree that had shaded the deck for years.
It was about 60 feet high, a giant poplar. Or aspen. Or beech. Or something. Some kind of tree. Definitely made of wood, with branches and leaves and such. The particular brand isn’t important. What was important was that it had gotten very sick.
The forestry guy scooted up a ladder and clipped off a branch. He brought it down to show me.
“See that?” he said.
I nodded solemnly, the way guys do. “Yup.” I said. “Branch.”
“Well, of course,” he said, with perhaps just a bit of an eyeroll. He deals with guys all the time. “But look closer. See these spots, the coral coloured ones? That’s a fungus.”
“Right,” I said. “A fungus. That can’t be good.”
“It’s not,” he agreed. “It means this tree is dying. And it’s pretty close to your house. I’m afraid you’re going to have to call someone and get them to cut it down.”
Now, that right there sort of ticked me off a little.
I mean, I live in a big old farmhouse. I have a barn. The doors of the barn were open, and he could see I keep all kinds of manly stuff in there — a ride-on mower, a big old table saw, shovels, hammers. Why, it was a seething hotbed of testosterone, that barn. Why did he just go ahead and assume that I didn’t have a chainsaw and wouldn’t be able to handle this job myself?
“Yup,” I said. “Reckon I’ll take ’er down before she falls down.” (I love talking guy talk.)
“Yeah,” he said. “I can give you some names of guys to call.” He wrote some numbers down for me and left.
Later that day, I told my wife about the conversation. She didn’t seem nearly as affronted as I by the assumption that I was some sort of girlie man who couldn’t chop down his own trees.
“Well, dear,” she said, gently. “There was the whole thumb incident.”
Honestly. You sever one little piece of thumb with an ax, and it’s like you’re now unfit for any manly duties.
A couple of years ago, I was chopping kindling for my woodstove. I had a piece of wood that wouldn’t balance on its own, so — like any guy would do — I held it with one hand and swung the axe with the other, and long thumb short, I missed by just a little. I blame it on a gust of wind, actually. A minor incident that certainly shouldn’t disqualify me from doing studly stuff.
“And there was the last time you rented a chainsaw ...”
OK, the last time I rented a chainsaw it was because a tree had fallen over behind the house and I needed to take it apart. I did a fine, hairy-chested job of it, too. Now, it’s technically true that on one pass of the chainsaw I overshot just a tad and ended up cutting into my jeans just a little. But it was barely a scratch. Could it have been worse? I suppose. But I stopped before any body parts were lost. And they were old jeans.
(Incidentally, on the chainsaw I rented there was a warning label. In big red letters, it said: “CAUTION! DO NOT ATTEMPT TO STOP BLADE WITH HANDS!”. I bet you could count on one hand the number of lawsuits it took before that warning was printed up. Assuming you weren’t the plaintiff.)
Last Sunday at breakfast, my wife ratted me out to my daughters. “The tree out back needs to come down,” she said. “Your Dad is thinking of renting a ch – ...”
“No,” they said, in unison. And there was to be no further discussion.
So this week I called a guy. His name is Chainsaw Jim. Seriously. That’s how he is listed in the phone book. I would love a nickname like that. How cool would that be? Chainsaw Nils. (“Need a tough job done? Call Chainsaw Nils”.)
But no. Instead, I’m Keyboard Nils. ( “Have some gruelling typing that needs doing? Worried about paper cuts or printer jams? Concerned that your computer might have to be re-booted? Call Keyboard Nils.”). How emasculating.
Well, Chainsaw Jim came and took the tree down, and he did a fine job. I’m still convinced I could have handled it. But I guess it’s just as well.
Much as I don’t like the nickname Keyboard Nils, it does beat “Lefty”.
This feature: From Nils Ling’s book Truths and Half Truths. A collection of some of his most memorable and hilarious columns. Write to him at RR #9, 747 Brackley Point Road, Charlottetown, PE, C1E 1Z3, Canada.