How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Saw

  • March 03, 2016
  • Posted by Rebecca Winch

I stood underneath a huge Douglas fir. My heart was pounding - not metaphorically, seriously trying to pound its way out of my chest. My knees were shaky and I was sweating. This tree was over 50 feet tall, and I was about to cut it down with a chainsaw.

I had been using a saw regularly for a couple of weeks and felt pretty comfortable with one, and my face cut practice had been going great, but I’m a perfectionist. I hate being bad at things, and I’m always worried about messing up doing something new, but this time the stakes were just a tiny bit higher than I was used to. This time (maybe it sounds dramatic, but I sure was nervous) messing up could kill me.

I judged lean of the tree using my felling axe, sounded it, looked for dead branches and made sure everyone was far, far away. Then I started my face cut. I finally stopped shaking, only because I had to. I knew how to do this. I had done it dozens of times on stumps. I went in for the back cut, the cut that would take the tree down, and it was done. I turned and walked away as the (in my mind, absolutely giant) tree crunched satisfyingly to the ground. And then I shook for five minutes, because I’ve never had an adrenaline rush like that one.

It’s been 5 months, and I still get nerves when I’m felling a big tree. I definitely think that’s reasonable and healthy. 80 feet of solid wood and sharp branches is no laughing matter, and a healthy dose of the what-ifs definitely helps keep me adhering to safety procedures and thoroughly checking out potential hazards. But I’ve also never felt more powerful, more excited, and more in control than I do when I’m making that final cut. It’s thrilling to know how to do something well, to make a huge tree fall exactly where you want it to. I’ll always love using a chainsaw and hearing that incredibly gratifying crunch as a monster tree slowly falls to the ground, and knowing that felling these trees is helping an aspen grove or sagebrush habitat healthier makes it even more awesome.


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