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I am not a lumberjack. I am not built to move quickly through trees with an axe or a chainsaw in my hands. I am, however, a guy who can’t say “no”. That gets me in trouble all the time. A while back I was having a conversation with my mother-in-law about her thirty-foot-tall pine tree, how it was filling the gutters with needles every fall, and the next thing I knew, I was in charge of the removal of her tree.
It wasn’t my mother-in-law’s fault. She is the sweetest woman to me, and she would never push me into anything. No, it was me– me and my ego. I just can’t admit when a task is over my head– and in this case, quite literally.
The tree in question was between her home and another home, with at least fifteen feet left to down the tree. No problem– plenty of room, I thought. I talked two of my relatives into helping me (and to this day they don’t trust me). We picked out a Saturday to meet up and take care of the problem. It was such a small tree when I said yes; I couldn’t believe how much it had grown in just a few short weeks.
Somehow, I neglected to notice the power lines running through the top of the tree or the chain link fence separating the two yards when I said yes. I measured the tree, then the drop area, remembering that old phrase “measure twice, cut once.” I certainly would only be able to cut once here.
We started trimming branches from the ground up, and before we knew it, we were twenty feet up that tree, among the power lines. Our plan was to top the tree just above the power lines and drop the tree between the houses, missing the fence. As we discussed this, I noticed sweat beads forming on my brother-in-law’s forehead. Dave was a self-proclaimed tree expert. He brought a whole arsenal of tools, including chainsaws, ropes, and ladders. At this point though, he appeared to be losing his confidence.
I wiped the sweat off his forehead, gave him a quick pep talk, and sent him up the tree with his saw and the phrase “Git ‘er done” ringing in his ears. He got up to the wires, pointed the saw toward the tree, let it idle for a minute, then came back down the ladder with a slight nervous twitch and a lot more sweat on his forehead, mumbling something about how hot it was getting.
I had only one option– my other brother-in-law, Carl. Carl had earlier professed that he could climb any tree God ever made, so now was his chance. This was his destiny. He did refuse to carry a running chainsaw up the ladder, so I sent him up with a handsaw. How much trouble could Carl get into with a hand saw? We were about to find out.
Just then, the neighbor got involved– the same neighbor that earlier in the day declined our plea for help, stating, “You guys have things under control.” He came out just as Carl was making the big cut, telling us, “Just wait a minute” and “Let’s talk about this.” Now, I’m not that close to Carl, but I could tell he just wanted to get this over with and crawl back down to Mother Earth.
I distracted the neighbor long enough for Carl to finish making the cut as Dave pulled on the rope we tied to the tree top, and– in an instant– it was all over. The tree was on the ground next to the fence, in between the houses, and– other than Carl– we were all relieved. Carl still had a death grip on the remaining length of tree, sweat pouring down his face, with that same nervous twitch Dave experienced earlier. I don’t think Carl has spoken three words to me since that time.
One more time, God had mercy on me, and I made it through a task surely over my head. I need to learn how to say “no.”