I rose up Friday morning to the blessed sound of a backup beeper, approaching and receding as some hefty piece of motorized equipment maneuvered below my window. My heart leapt, for yea, on the neighboring curb I beheld the Woodchipper Of God, accompanied by a Very Large Dump Truck and a small platoon of stumpy gentlemen in work clothes, collars up against the raw wet of a Tidewater morning in December. They were heading for the Oak of Damocles,.which, dying and rotting, bark peeling in huge sheets from its trunk, sucker growth sprouting like unwanted facial hair from its upper regions, has loomed over the west end of my property for five years now.
I really had no confidence the dimwits next door would follow through after I offered them money to help pay the cost of taking it down (they didn’t accept it, but I think the offer was what shamed them into finally doing something). My only hope hung on the way the man of the house, eighty-seven if a day with four artificial joints, suddenly went in for Dynamic Geezing and began clearing away a treated-wood ramp from the base of the behemoth, even shoveling up a few wheelbarrows of “dirt too good” to be commingled with stump grinding.
A crew of rednecks has been pinching this thing to death for a few years now, and I have been holding my breath lest they, after everything, be hired to finally take it down. Said rednecks work with a few chainsaws, bilhooks, ropes and a vintage pickup, really far out of their league tangling with an oak twice as high as a house. But no, the crew fanning out across the lawn bore the insignia of an outfit called Precision Tree, and the woodchipper was the size of a bus.
Before I had my car to the curb, out of harm’s way, the Seven Dwarves — they were Nicaraguans I think, banty little characters with wide shoulders and wedge-like bodies — were throwing ropes through the first crotch of the trunk, and began shinnying up it.
A few minutes passed. They shinnied back down.
The foreman allowed as how I could put my car back, because the crew had informed him in quite definite terms that the tree was too dangerous to work in without a crane, and they would come back next week. I can only compare it to the most wrought-up, gratuitous episode of coitus interruptus you can possibly imagine. Through the pranayama I was practicing to avoid dissolving in shrieks, I heard him explaining that they would uncouple my phone and Internet cable to get it out of the path of anything swinging from the crane, and the outriggers would go right here and here beside my driveway, if that was OK. Fine, fine, I was saying, whatever it takes to get that monster out of here, focusing meanwhile on the right hand that was disturbingly not emerging from the cuff of his jacket sleeve. It was sure wet and cold out but I kept thinking of the Engineer’s dad, who worked in a saw mill for a while as a kid until he noticed that the older the sawmill workers were, the fewer fingers they tended to have.
The dimwits next door called to let me know they’ll be back to start work tomorrow.
I only hope they know what they’re doing with the cable. The guy seemed pretty accustomed to doing this kind of thing. Cross your fingers.