Jun 5, 2005

It was a long short week

Like I said, 14 stumps on Tuesday and me thinking, for the first seven, the before-lunch seven, that I liked pulling stumps. When you're pulling stumps, the medium stumps where they're not big enough to hire in a machine and not small enough to just hit with a shovel and where you gottas do it by hand (trying not to hit the rose bush that’s behind you or the house foundation with the wide side of the pick axe), people leave you alone.

A lot of jobs, your co-workers or your bosses will decide that what you're doing is more interesting than whatever they were doing or thinking about doing, so they'll come and watch you. Which is fine, right, let them watch. But then they start kibitzing, like running seven different mutually exclusive possible scenarios for how you could go about doing what you were working at doing, before they came to watch and how they would think what maybe you ought to do is. But there's always the option of giving them the job, stepping aside and saying, why’n’t you show me. And no one wants to be given a stump, so nobody comes to watch.

It's mostly brute strength, with a medium stump. You have a shovel and an iron bar and a pick axe or a maddoxs and you rotate them. Digging, spiking, choping, and then you step on it, try to wiggle it to see where the tensions are running out into the ground. You stop and squat back on your heels and stare at the stump. As if you're waiting it out, playing chess with it or staring it down. And nobody says, hey, get to work you lazy bastard, because stumps are hard work and besides if you’re so crazy to take on a row of stumps in a rock bed, then maybe you’re crazy enough to scare them out of the ground.

Sometimes the home owners come and watch. Mostly because they can't believe the brutality of it and they hired you thinking that, really, this stump is the stump from hell and will be around longer than sin and poverty. And then they see you, dirt from finger nails to elbows, getting down on your knees, on the ground grabbing this thing in its hole with two hands and twisting until something snaps. Sounds like a broken neck. You pull it up, hold it up like it was a giant’s head just removed.

So for the first seven, I’m enjoying this. And then for the second seven I'm thinking, why couldn't we leave this tree damn well standing? By 14 I was thinking that at 15 I was just going to lay down and die defeated. But I was done and went to hobbling around carrying out the crippled up chores of the end of the day.

That was Tuesday. Wednesday we start working on the bluff above the port of Port Angeles, topping off the trees blocking out the view of the Strait. You can't cut more than 30 percent off the trees or they die and if they die, their roots don't hold the bank bluff there and the neighborhood will wash down into the water. And you can't just drop the tops down to the 50, 60, and 80 foot bottom of the bluff, because they'll dry up, dead, and that's a fire hazard. And if the trees along the bluff all burn, the roots won’t . . . so you pull out or pack out everything you cut.

We rig up the ropes and climbing harnesses and two of our guys climb down the drop off. I think this is called a Plake hitch, he says, Don't remember. It's a climbing knot. If you know this knot, you can climb. You can use it to climb up or down. It feels a little like show-'n'-tell and I don't want to climb. At all. So this looks a little silly, but the knot is pretty interesting. I’ve seen it tied at least 20 times, and I can't figure out how it works. Dear God, I think later as I try to tie it myself, what did they do when they only had one-directional knots?

So they climb down and over, leaning against the knot and feeding themselves down the rope to a tree to climb up into. I spend the day feeding them ropes and tools and pulling out brush with an extended out pole – it looks like I'm marlin fishing and catching trees – and when the other guy on the telescoping lift pulls in to the bank with a basket full of brush he tips them over the edge to me. I pile the brush pulled up and the brush dropped down and drag around the house to the yellow chipper parked in the driveway.

We do this for 11 and a half hours. Don't quite finish, so the next day we come back and start again only the one guy quits. So we don't have him and it takes longer than it's supposed to, which may mean the company didn't make any money and every one wants to know but doesn't want to say they want to know what went wrong.

My sister points out, in a mix of disbelief and distain, that I'm falling asleep at nine.

When I wake up, at six or six thirty, I do the catalouge of pain. I notice what hurts, what hurts now that didn't yesterday morning or last night, and what hurts where I don't know why it hurts. Ankles? I say, how'd I strain my ankles. I think about it for a few minutes before I remember the standing for 11 hours on the slope that drops into the bluff.

Thursday I do mostly clean up and Friday I deadwood. Deadwooding's nice because when you're done the homeowner passes your tree, does a double take and says wow. I spend most of the morning deadwooding a fir, Japanese bonsai folding saw folded in my pocket and the large hand clippers out working. Snipping up one side of the limbs and back the other, blade flat against the tree. The second tree is something I can't name with flowers, thorns, and leaves that like to crumble so when I crawl out almost finished at the call for picking-up-time-before-quitting-time, I all clawed and scratched the hell up. The owner lady says wow, those look really nice, which is nice. I pluck a thorn out of the side of my skull, brush the dead leaves off my neck, get a shot of water and think I'm glad it's done.