Move Up to the Power Pole Saw

One of our favorite movies is “Up,” a charmer about an old guy named Carl whose wife Ellie always urged him to move up and onward to new adventures. In some ways, me and Sena are like Carl and Ellie. There’s a lot more to that movie than a house which travels under balloon power to South America, carrying Carl, a boy named Russell, and the spirit of Ellie.

Like Carl, I tend to be reluctant to try new things—like chain saws, for example. Ever since the derecho over a month ago, a chain saw would have come in a lot handier than a handsaw, a bow saw, and a manual pole saw. Sena tried to coax me to get a chain saw for a derecho disaster in our backyard, which left an eyesore of a mess. The tangle of stout oak branches with a dense mass of dead leaves never hit the house and was not a hazard—unless you bushwhacked into the woods and stood underneath it with a non-power pole saw and jiggled it with that.

Even with the pole fully extended, I could barely touch the 7 or 8-inch-thick branches. I could tickle it, but I knew I would never bring it down. Sena thought otherwise.

And then one day, Sena came home with a gift for me—the power pole saw. It’s a battery powered chain saw on a pole extendable to about 15 feet. The picture shows it without the battery. There are many words to describe my immediate reaction. Gratitude is not one of them. I have never owned nor used any kind of chain saw. I was not eager to learn and was not convinced that it would help me bring the oak tangle down.

My first efforts using the power pole saw reminded me more of Russell trying to pitch his first tent than Carl succeeding in getting his house in the air with balloons. The battery took only a little over an hour to fully charge, dashing my hopes of returning a defective product without injury to my ego.

I figured out how to attach and tighten the pole extensions. It was heavier than I thought it would be. Amazingly, no lubricant oil was provided. I had to make an extra trip to get that and a pair of safety glasses (which had to fit over my prescription pair). Oiling the bar and the chain is a bit tedious using the thumb-sized plastic bottle provided—which I had to fill from a large bottle of motor oil I had to go out and buy.

Finally, I could stall no longer. I crept into the very cramped space in the thicket, the kind of place in which experts tell you not to use the power pole saw. It was also necessary to stand right under the branch I needed to cut—another no-no.

At least I had my safety glasses on when I finally turned on the saw and got a face full of sawdust and wood chips that somehow got into my eyes anyway. One thing I was very thankful for was the two-step trigger mechanism. I had to first press one safety switch backward with my thumb while pressing the power trigger with my forefinger. Only then could I lift my thumb off the safety switch and continue to cut—as long as I kept my finger on the trigger. If I lifted my finger off the trigger, the motor would immediately stop. That didn’t bother me a bit.

I was just starting to gain a little confidence with the tool when I got it jammed into one of the thickest branches over my head. I couldn’t jiggle or pry it loose. It hung there, apparently wedged between the two sections of the limb and by one of those pesky strips of bark. I could hear faint snaps and pops that worried me more than a little bit.

I hurried out of there and looked back. The saw hung in mid-air in the wedge. I could hear more distinctly now a crackling noise and could see smaller branches slipping down through the foliage distal from the big branch. Gravity was playing a role here.

I grabbed the manual pole saw, extended to its full length and quickly scraped at that stupid strip of bark, holding my breath. The popping noises suddenly got a little louder and I rushed for the opening in the thicket, but got hung up by the manual pole saw which got stuck on some smaller trees. I yanked like a maniac a couple of times before realizing that I had to move back a few steps towards the thicket to unhook my saw from the brush before moving forward. I guess life is like that sometimes.

I got out—but the tree limb just wouldn’t drop. I used the molded hook on the manual pole saw and wrestled with outer branches in an effort to pull the thing down. It finally fell, releasing my power pole saw, which fell to the ground. By some miracle, neither the saw nor I was harmed. In its path to the ground, the branch passed the spot where I had been standing.

I wish I could tell you I reformed right then and there, stopped my foolhardy, reckless, death-defying acrobatics and levitated to the Himalayas, there to meditate for the rest of my life.

But I didn’t. I went back in there, retrieved my power pole saw and—got the thing wedged again in a different branch. This time, I could free the blade but had to take the chain off, brush the wood chips out, and put the tool back together. This involved repeatedly turning the chain over and over, trying to understand how this was supposed to be refitted on the bar to match the image stamped on the bar. This took a while. I dropped the bar a couple of times, but it didn’t break—dang.

Now you would naturally suppose that by this time, I saw the error of my ways, sought counsel from aliens who took me in their spaceship through the nearest wormhole back to their home planet in a distant galaxy where they reengineered my genetic code and built me a new brain thereby setting me free from the ancient human pattern of refusing to learn from mistakes.

But no, that didn’t happen. I just kept cutting. Against all odds, I cleared most of the derecho debris. It just goes to show you; sometimes it’s better to be lucky than smart.

It also helps to have a persistently encouraging wife who says, just like Ellie, “Adventure is out there!” Sena gets all the credit.

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