My First Chainsaw (#5)

Years ago some friends of mine took a course and got their motorcycle licenses. After, all but D--- bought a bike. “It's a death machine,” he said, mostly joking. But he didn't ride again.

That's how I always felt about chainsaws. I'd used one once – to cut the legs off of a friend's couch when it wouldn't fit through a door. But living in a city, I figured that would be my first and last need for a chainsaw. And I was fine with that.

But that first day on the land very clearly illustrated otherwise. Owning a chainsaw wasn't optional.

Parts of the land are a shit-show of downed and leaning trees. A never ending supply of firewood, yes. But also not very pleasant to look at or navigate. And to install a driveway and cabin I would I need to clear back about 175 feet and then create a large space.

At Tractor Supply Co. they sold two brands of saws, and with an 18-inch blade they had one which was cheap ($169) and one which wasn't ($370).

I had no idea how to buy a chainsaw. Did one ask questions? Was some sort of license needed for this zombie-killing weapon? What supplies did I need? My brother had showed me how to use his, and I'd cut a couple of small trees, but standing there in the store all I could see was … saw.

Obviously, I went cheap.

Back out at the land, armed with oil and gas and glasses and gloves, I looked around for the first tree to cut. There were so many that needed to come down just to get access to the land, so much brush to clear, so many downed trees to cut into manageable pieces.

It turns out, chainsaws are a hell of a lot of fun. Turning “tree” into “wood” is a powerful feeling, and the sound of the motor is intense and distinct. I spent the day clearing space and cutting trails, my face and beard and hair all covered in sawdust.

It was slow going. In scrub that dense, trees don't fall. They just sort of lean on another tree. Sometimes you can push them off, or pull them down with ropes, and other times it takes a series of cuts to finally bring it down. Slow going.

I was cutting up some of the wood, but also just pushing aside smaller trees and moving ahead. At one point it occurred to me that I had no idea what I was doing. Was I doing this correctly? Was there a method?

I turned around and looked back down the slight hill where I planned the driveway. It looked like every other ugly piece of land awaiting development I'd ever seen. Stumps outlined the rough shape of a road, felled trees lined the edges, small orange survey flags waved in the wind.

Later on my brother would just laugh. “Yeah, there's nothing you can do with all that wood right now. Just keep cutting.”

Posted on May 8, 2015 .