Travels with MaryE

Most things I love best are about good light and good timing. That's where the adventures start. Don't be in no hurry here. Here you'll find a little bit about bluegrass music, fox hunting, life on the road, time on the mountain, and a whole lot about other things, too.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Catskill Chill...and New Light is CHILLY here this morning. It's nice - and kind of lonesome - to look out the back window and see an open field instead of an imposing line of limb-locked 90 foot high pines. The crew yesterday were amazing. Three guys took them down and did a very tidy job - in about 9 hours. I simply couldn't believe it. The first tree fell about 8:30 and they seemed to go faster as the day moved on. It's a pleasure to watch people who are good at what they do, be they musicians, artists...or laborers. Surely there's a science - and a sort of art - to felling huge trees and these guys were artful and resourceful. There was the chainsaw guy, Joe, and his assistant Mike (who turned out to be a Cornell pre-med student who aspires to be an orthopaedist), and then Tommy was operating the big Cat. Tommy and the Cat crouched behind the giants, house side, and the Cat reached its huge paw up and leaned against the trunk about 15 feet up and kindly pushed a bit. Joe, quick and small of stature,, a man of few words and deep quiet eyes, grabbed his Husqevarna and yanked the cord, triceps flexing, and got 'er done, biting into the trunk with skill and precision. Seconds later the tree decided to ease on down to the ground without much fuss at all. Joe and Mike jumped over the trunk, Joe deftly cutting each branch off where it joined, Mike grabbing two and three at a time and feeding them into a ravenous industrial chipper which spit tiny bits of mulch into the back of a dilapidated one ton dump truck. The truck was a sight with about 5 different colors of doors and body (they use a lot of salt on the roads up here!) with rickety board sides and looked like it belonged to Jeff Foxworthy if ya know what I mean. It got 'er done.

So here's this 90 foot tree stretching out across the open field behind the house. Tommy has moved into a new position with the Cat and jumps down to help feed the limbs into the hungry chipper. Joe is so fast with the saw (he's switched to a "smaller" yet equally deadly Husqy) and is flying up and down the trunk zzzzip zzzzip zzzip like some guy trying to win a hotdog eating contest or some lucky woman who has won a five-minute shopping spree to pack as much as she can into her cart. He doesn't waste his breath on talking, he just _does_. Mike has this sort of young and swift grace as he tirelessly rams the limbs down the chippers throat. In what seems like the blink of an eye those limbs have all been munched and spat into the truck and Joe's saw is still a-whirrin' as he whips out a tape measure and sections off the trunk into 12 foot segments ready for the log truck. He throws down the "small" saw and whisks up the big, fires her up with a yank and makes short work of pushing down through the trunk several times, turning the tree into huge logs. Tommy jumps back into the dancing Cat and clutches and maneuvers the logs onto what became a huge pile.

Then I have another surprise when they take the top 20 or so now branchless feet of the tree, cut it in half, heft it to their shoulders....and feed THAT into the cruel and wicked teeth of the chipper. Yikes! One time Joe doesn't like the way it's feeding in and jumps up onto the lip of the chippper, dances around, pushing on the trunk all the while as Mike has jumped up onto the front and is guiding the chute so the tree chips fly into the corner of the truck that's got the most room.

That was the first tree and the other eight went much the same way. It was like a flawless kind of dance as they went at their task as if it were child's play. Tommy later said he'd hefted the saw a time or two to cut a branch and it wore him out. He's a bit older than Joe and Mike and he said, "That's why I'm an equipment operator" with this knowing grin. But Mike - and especially Joe - the chainsaw man were absolutely amazing. They sat down for a very brief lunch then jumped up again and worked a breathless few hours. They really made it all look like it was nothing. Joe and Mike's tanned and lean, sinewy arms were nothing short of marvellous and I felt a huge admiration for the amount of work they were able to pull off in a day's time. They were blessed with one of the pleasantest Catskill days I've seen - a rich blue sky with puffy white clouds, a nice cool breeze, and though it was sunny it wasn't too hot (though it surely was for Joe and Mike). Cheers, boys!

This morning the house is brighter for the openness at the back and the cool of impending fall is all around. It'll be a good night for a fire.


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