“Been doin’ this awhile.”
That’s what the tree guy said to me in answer to my questions regarding, mostly, his own safety.
This same guy is at the moment taking down a 150-year-old oak whose demise has been under way for about 20 of those 150 years, at least according to him, and he’s “been doin’ this awhile.”
His estimator suggested that we begin by removing the two branches.
“We’ll see if the rest of the tree perks up,”The estimator confirmed my request, and booked me in for Monday.
I was curious as to how the signals were crossed on Monday. There was no sign of a chainsaw or the large truck I associate with tree-pruning companies.
My most recent (prior to this one) attempt at “judicious pruning”To save the oak at the back corner of my garden that, along with many other valuable objects, blocked my view to a huge transformer had been about four years ago.
I was convinced it was futile trying to stop its decline, and even advanced the cause in the past.
I was shocked to call the arborist, whom i consider my dentist in good faith, and have my call returned by his son.
The tree was in such a poor state that it had dropped leaves in the blizzard and that I had to stop trying to clean the walkways and patios.
When out-of-town guests remarked on the ankle-deep leaf carpet, I explained that I shred my autumn leaves so, no, these aren’t leftovers. I explained to them, or at the very least my oak tree, that fall arrived early in Minnesota this season.
Most people who don’t live here will believe anything you tell them about Minnesota weather, even as our famously fierce winters of old — back when your ears froze instantly upon leaving the house without a hat on — aren’t remembered or much believed in by Minnesotans under the age of 40.
My tree guy has a 5-year-old daughter. He has dark brown hair and a full head. I’d peg him for about 36.
It wasn’t until he personally inspected the tree (after the Monday no-show) and gave me a new estimate for total tree removal, that I learned that the son no longer works for his dad. He has his own company now and his own way of doing things because he’s been “doin’ this awhile.”
To be precise, since the tender age 6. Time is relative. He is quite the old timer … in his mind.
Judicious pruning was avoided. The entire tree was dead. Pure and simple.
“I’m saving you money in the long run,”He said. He said that his cost was four-times that of taking down two large trees. However, considering the tree’s 14 massive branches and a trunk as large as a grand piano, it was an excellent point.
“So what killed my oak tree?”
“I’m guessing old age?”
“Ain’t that old.”
“I don’t expect the drought helped,”I said. I’d read somewhere that Iack of rain has pushed a lot of oak trees already coping with disease, the most common being oak wilt, into the death zone.
“It could be anything,”He admitted, but didn’t admit, that climate change has brought new pests to the region.
“You ask me,”He concluded by saying: “something’s wrong with the soil.”
“Like, maybe it’s the asphalt they spread over the alley every few years?”I ventured.
“Who knows? Could be anything,”He said.
I wondered aloud if the oak might be affected by its close proximity to an enormous transformer, the biggest and most powerful allowed in a residential area — or so the power company told me, probably assuming I’d regard this as some sort of special perk associated with living in a fancy neighborhood whose residents consume far more electricity than does the average homeowner.
It was a sensitive subject, and he did not comment.
I kept mentioning the transformer in the context for his safety. It has not only one, but 2 live wires connecting it to the pole on the opposite side of my yard.
There are also telephone and cable lines nearby.
“Don’t you think they should turn off the power?”I asked him, vaguely referring back to the power company, as he was about climb into the bucket that attached the crane that would lift this beast into its belly.
“Been doin’ this awhile,”He said.
But I’m getting ahead of my story. Let me say it briefly: To replace the original transformer one must replace both the pole it was attached too and the pole to its immediate east. The result was a structure that looks like the gallows. Its predecessor, which was more fragile, had fallen over and almost ruined my garage.
However, that was many years ago.
I’ve written before in this space aboutMy little bit was conscripted without my consent. She was in a similar circumstance to the oak tree, but she was still living there at that time.
No mention was made of poles or transformers. Only the wires would be underground.
However, for reasons as yet to be conveyed to this homeowner, when wires disappear from one’s line of sight, so also does the unsightly aboveground infrastructure that supports them.
Even a pole attached to a guy wire to prevent the whole mess from collapsing is not allowed to sully the neighbor’s emerald expanse.
In my case, the amount I consume of energy is ininverse proportion to the infrastructure I need to look at.
To counter the visual effects of the power company’s investment in my yard, I have spent tens of thousands of dollars in trees and shrubs to cover them up. These newcomers, mainly columnar (eastern White Pines), were mainly newcomers. “Autumn Blaze”To transport and plant maples, poplars, birches and other trees, I have them all. The root balls are over 100 pounds.
It takes a dolly and a car jack (I can’t afford a crane, sadly) to move these monsters from my trailer and maneuver them into the planting hole, the latter having been dug, naturally, by yours truly.
The two-story “carriage house” wasn’t cheap either. I built it not to store carriages but to block my view of the cable companies’ more recent contributions to the esthetic degradation of my garden.
Ironically, my home will be the first to get solar panels on its roof.
These promises will allow you to share in the electricity your transformer makes available for your neighbors even more than before.
I won’t be the only one “off grid”However, I can still get electricity from an electricity provider for $30,000 (for installation or panels).
The oak tree is now in spitting distance (I know because my new tree guy knows what to spit) of a transformer and high-voltage wires. He also has wires that are not switched off despite the fact that his bucket (on top of a crane) is moving in and between them.
The power company’s tree guys maneuver their buckets in and around powerlines in similar fashion, with equal agility so …
“Don’t you think we should have the power shut off?”I ask for the hundredth.
“Been doin’ this awhile,”This is all my tree guy knows about the subject.
Why did the son leave the family business?I found it impertinent to ask this question, but he answered. He’d learned everything he could at his father’s knee, and a few new things on his own.
The bucket is most transformative. Whereas his dad’s crew wore pitons and scaled the trees in the manner of an assault on Everest and wore harnesses to save themselves in the event of a misstep and tied ropes to any large branches designated for amputation (so as to guide the sawed-off limbs downward), the son mostly dispensed with all that.
He arrived an hour early for the scheduled day. He donned a hardhat and climbed into a bucket that was attached to a crane. He then maneuvered his bucket among the live power lines, wrapping the left arm around the branch. This one was just a few yards from the transformer.
He raised his right arm, and began cutting until the section was completed. The arm then returned the chainsaw to its holster, and grabbed the section.
Both arms were now freed and lifted the section into the air. “Look out below!”
No wonder I’d been asked to remove “any loose bric-a-brac.” Any shrubs and smaller trees in the flight path … well, they were on their own. The maple saplings and tree hydrangea reminded of WWII London Blitz survivors, who refused to stay in shelters.
“The jobs go a lot faster this way,”He said it to defend his tree-removal method. He can do multiple jobs quickly and does them all well. Perhaps he enjoys his work hours, which can range from 10 to 3, with long lunch breaks.
I’m wondering when and/or if my tree guyDo you intend to return (from lunch)? to finish off the tree, when, shortly after 2 p.m., my doorbell starts ringing and it’s the neighbors whose garage doors are blocked by the arborist’s chipper.
The enormous rig with bucket crane and crane is not to be found. I leave frantic phone messages, such as: “WHERE ARE YOU???”
One of the neighbors has a daughter to pick up at school and a dad to get to a doctor’s appointment.
Just as I’m begging her to take my car even though she’s never learned to drive a manual transmission, the big truck comes into view up the street.
I run towards it shouting and gesticulating wild.
Although he smiles and waves, he is still very nonchalant.
One of his crew members moves a chipper, and all the neighbors are smiling. He says he’ll be back in the morning to finish.
One of the crew whispers to me as he’s cleaning up that he does some log-splitting on the side. I grab a pen to take his number.
My garage will be filled with the oak tree remains by tomorrow night. I’ll definitely need some help turning it into firewood.
Or so I’m hoping when the phone rings on Wednesday morning and I’m told there’s been an accident. My tree guy is now at the hospital being given the antidote for beestings. He was allergic to Birch trees and fell into a beehive.
I don’t bother asking why the son isn’t at my house, finishing the removal of my oak tree, which looks a bit like a giant rake planted in the ground, business end up and half its tines missing.
When I think of how it looked only yesterday, its magnificent canopy still intact …
I don’t think about that.
“Tell him to take care, OK?”I’m telling you.
“See ya tomorrow?”
There’s a pause as if the guy who splits firewood on the side wonders if he’s authorized to make any such promises.
He continues, “Sure.”
“Nine a.m. and done by sunset?”
I know the answer. I’ll be lucky if they’re done by Halloween.
I thought it would be fun to decorate my tree using fake webs and a few plastic bone hanging from its amputated legs.
I could even turn the garage into a haunted house, with jack o’ lanterns flickering in the cupolas and tombstones along the apron and spooky music playing.
All of a sudden, I’m wondering why I’m in such a hurry. I’m actually hoping my tree guy won’t come back until, say, the first week of November.