Friday, May 29, 2009

The Intolerable Berry Menace Is Removed From Mrs Stevie's Skyline (And Placed On Her Lawn)

This sorry business began here. The events related here occurred about three weeks ago during a momentary lull in the torrential rain.

Oh c'mon, you know you want to.

Forget it brain. Some of the wounds have only recently healed, and I still wake in the dead of night screaming and rolling around tangled in the sheets after reliving the highlights of the last attempt as graphic nightmares.

Don't be a baby. You still have all your fingers.

True. I note your reticence on the subject of my toes and skin though, perfidious organ of ratiocination.

Pah! The nails grew back once they had turned fully black and fallen off, and the scars make us look more manly.

There is that. Nope! Not doing it. All my previous objections to felling the remaining trunk stand viz: It is leaning over Crazy Joe's yard and will certanly fall on his collection of prize vintage 1980's Chrysler vehicles.

Not if you bring the majority of the tree down in stages. Most of it can be cut so that it doesn't drop into Joe's yard. The last bit can be pulled with a rope so that it falls on our side of the fence. Newton, parallelogram of forces. Ring any bells?

Now we come to it! You are trying to kill me with a cunning "mistake" involving vector diagrams! Well answer me this, so-called "brain": How am I going to reach the various cutting points on the tree that must be subjected to saw violence in order for your miserable excuse for a plan to work?

The polesaw...

And don't start in with "the polesaw" because your scheme calls for numerous cuts to be made at something like the twenty-five foot mark and the pole saw is only ten feet long when fully extended. Yesyesyes I know it should be twelve feet but even with all the oil cleaned off the telescopic part the clamp doesn't hold it securely enough agaist the spring and it slides back two feet every time.

You could try tightening the adjusting bolt on the clamp.

Really? Which bolt is that then?

Right here, see? A couple of turns with Mr Socket and Hey Presto! Twelve foot long chainsaw-onna-pole! How manly is that?

An Interlude With Socket Wrenches Later

Blimey, it worked! It does stay out to twelve feet now.This'll work a treat on that...No! Nonononono. Oh you almost had me there! Luckily I saw through your seductive Polesaw Enhancement Ploy in time! There is no way I'm trying to limb the tree with a chainsaw attached to a twelve foot pole while climbing up said tree to reach the hard bits!

Calm yourself. No-one is suggesting you climb the tree. That would be madness, not to mention hideously dangerous in your state of bodily disrepair.

I'm glad we got that straight. Wait, what?

Not when you've got this here twenty four foot extending ladder lying hardly used on the garage floor.

Hmm. I do have a twenty four foot extending ladder that has seen very little use, don't I?

Yes you do.

Yes I do. Of course I get the heebie-jeebies every time I climb beyond about eighteen feet on it, which is why it sits barely used on the garage floor. It shakes about in the wind you see.

Yes it does, but you wouldn't need to extend it would you, not now your polesaw is a majestic twelve feet long? You could maybe make do with only fourteen feet of ladder.

I could! I could tie the ladder to the tree with this rope to stop it shifting about too!

You could! I'll bet the footing is as good as on the ground when the ladder is tied to the tree with stout rope, or even that length of ratty clothesline you hold in your hand.

Well I'm not sure about that...

Nonsense! Why with the mighty Ladder of Climbing, combined with the Ratty Clothesline of Ladder Securage, you'll be able to triumph against the Intolerable Berry Menace in no time!

You're right! I'll get to work digging the ladder out of the crap it's buried under.


Which was how I found myself standing on the top rung of the ladder1, at times on one foot2 while attempting to cut the branches in the upper part of the remaining trunk of the whatever-it-is tree wth a ten inch electric chainsaw fastened to a twelve foot fiberglass and aluminum telescopic pole3. It wasn't really that hard at first. I was able to get the ladder attached to a stable part of the tree in a configuration that allowed me to ascend the ladder through an old, venerable and above all spiky Arbor Vitae bushtree, sustaining only superficial flesh wounds as a result, then pull the assembled polesaw up to me with a length of rope. Then it was simplicity itself to grab the polesaw pole with both hands while wrapping one leg around the trunk of the tree. Then, getting a good grip on the well-textured bark with my teeth, it was possible with only a minimum of tottering back and forth on the ladder to get the saw positioned somewhere on the branch to be cut, engage the saw drive and hang on until the limb was severed.

My plan called for me to cut most of the way through, then allow gravity to swing the almost-severed limb inward toward the trunk where its kinetic energy would be spent thrashing the tree. Then I would cut the branch free to fall into the Arbor Vitae, partly to cushion the drop and reduce damage to the already punch-drunk lawn, and partly to give the ruddy thing a damned good thrashing for scratching me up to buggery and back. This plan worked.


I had not kept my guard up for treachery in the brain department, and so the first realisation that the ladder being tied to the trunk of the tree, anything crashing into the tree would a-priori be crashing into me too, was when it happened.

Words cannot adequately capture the sense of excitement engendered in me by the sudden sight of a large branch, maybe fifteen foot long and as big around at the base as my own wrist, arcing gracefully down to swat me from my perch with great force. I often find that in these situations it helps reduce any latent tension by emitting loud falsetto shrieks, a handyman version of Primal Scream therapy if you will. I have to confess that I defused a lot of tension as the day wore on.

In the space of maybe two hours I had removed all the branches from the tree and dragged them into piles on the lawn, forming a formidable structure remeniscent of the deadfall wall protecting the innocent dead from the contents of the Pet Sematary in the movie co-incidentally called "Pet Sematary". As I say, we are talking fifteen plus feet long affairs with a thickness of around two or three inches. A lot of wood. Now it was time to bring down the trunk.

Unfortunately this was problematical, since the trunk leaned decidedly over Crazy Joe's driveway. Dropping it that way was out of the question.

I ended up tying a length of rope around the trunk and tying the other end around one of the massive pruned limbs scattered around the landscape. By using a cunning combination of slip knots, sheer strength and hernias I arranged for this limb to be partially suspended so that the rope was under great tension. I then removed the chainsaw from its pole and undercut the trunk just above the point where the ladder was attached.

When it looked about ready to let go, I removed the ladder from the tree4, took up position an estimated two trunk lengths from Ground Zero and gave a mighty tug on the rope.

The partially-severed tree trunk gave a tremendous groan, as if the very earth itself were undergoing some sort of surgery, possibly dental in nature, with inadequate anaesthetic5 and the severed segment of trunk, encouraged by the elasticity of the rope and the weight of the tensioning branch, sommersaulted majestically through the air to land with a thump mere centimeters from my anxiously wriggling toes, which were clad in their usual protective cheap sneakers.

bleeping bleep of a bleep!" I yelled in sheer exhillaration, then I threw up for emphasis.

I popped indoors for a minute to use the toilet, and took the opportunity to rehydrate with a few glasses of orange juice as my electrolytes were obviously running low causing the old brain to make questionable decisions again.

One clean set of underwear later I returned to the theater of operations and brought down the rest of the tree by essentially the same technique, albeit with about twice the length of rope between the trunk of the tree and my tootsies. This time the tree attempted no Cirque Du Soleil acrobatics, contenting itself with a time honoured topple, culminating in an earth shaking "whump" when it touched down. Naturally, this extra length of rope had placed me very close to the piles of sawn-off tree limbs, and of course as the tree began to fall I wisely leapt backwards into their spiky embrace, in which I was dealt a goodly collection of flesh wounds.

Staunching my wounds with what was left of my tee-shirt, I broke out the Poulan twenty inch gas-powered chainsaw and began the arduous job of cutting up the assorted limbs, logs and whatnot, and such was Mrs Stevie's joy at having the tree removed from her skyline when she arrived in theater an hour or so later, she press-ganged The Stevieling into helping her bag the detritus for the garden refuse guys to take while I retreated indoors.

I was, by then, hors de garden chores due to extreme dehydration, exhaustion, and disabling ennui brought on by the sudden realisation that the superannuated members of the supergroup "Yes" are probably not just "on break". I spent the next fifteen minutes or so staggering around the house trying to remember where we kept the shower while my back tried to decide on whether it was going for agony or just almost-agony.

Still, Mrs Stevie was happy and that (I've been told6) is what counts.

  1. Not recommended
  2. Also not recommended
  3. Really not recommended under any circumstances
  4. A process involving undoing the paranoia-induced fist-sized granny knot I used to secure the wretched ladder to the tree in the first place, a titanic struggle of man against rope in a World Gone Mad that could easily have taken up four blog feet of narrative on its own, and did take up a good dozen class three Words of Power. I redact this saga of knotty derring-do out of consideration for my reader
  5. Purest hyperbole. The thing let out a disappointing "snap", but I don't deploy these amounts of toolage or deplete my reservoir of curse words so drastically for a mere "snap"
  6. By Mrs Stevie

Written In Paint On The Doors Of A Broken Elevator In An Appartment Building In Bellona

Mrs Stevie's head finally became unradioactive enough for her to have the PET scan.

This miracle of modern science apparently makes a picture in which cancer cells "light up", and as such it is the de-facto standard way of assessing the success of a chemotherapy/radiation treatment regimen. Mrs Stevie's oncologist called a couple of weeks ago to report that the cancer was in 100% remission accoridng to this test, so we declared a fortnight of celebraion in which we didn't shout at each other and cookwear was only used for the preparation of food. It is the only piece of good news to come down the pike in Lo! a very long time indeed. If only she could eat enough to sustain herself, we could call the whole business closed1.

Still, Mrs Stevie is now well on the road to recovery.

  1. As much as can be said for this bloody disease at any rate. Oncologists, as I've said before, never speak of curing it