Howard Delo

Let’s get this out of the way from the start – no moose this year. In my limited discussions with other moose hunters, and from comments I’ve read in group postings on Facebook, it appears to me that the moose harvest for the 2020 season is on the lower side of average. The warmer fall weather inhibiting animal movement may have contributed to this.

With the moose season over and the weather holding fairly well, I need to get after the last big outdoor project for this year. We have two spruce trees in our front yard that need to be cut down. One tree is totally dead from spruce bark beetle infestation. The other tree hasn’t been hit as hard by the beetles so far, but it’s just a matter of time before the tree dies. Surprisingly, the two trees are only about six feet apart.

Both trees survived the 1996 Miller’s Reach fire. I should have cut them down back then since they’re only about ten feet from the front of our house. The tree that is still alive is leaning almost perfectly for being dropped away from the house. I plan to cut it first to get it out of the way. The dead tree will be a little tricker to drop because it is a double trunk tree and leans more toward the house than the other tree.

I’m not a self-taught “lumberjack.” Back in the early 1970’s, while I was attending college at Fairbanks, I got a summer job between semesters working for the US Forest Service on a trail maintenance crew working in Southeast Alaska. While there, I was shown how to properly handle a chainsaw to start it, different types of cuts to accomplish how to make the tree fall a certain direction, how to sharpen the chain correctly, and other safe methods of using a chainsaw.

The crew boss who taught these things to me and the other crew members was a young but very experienced saw operator. To explain proper starting procedures, he showed us a nasty looking scar he had on the bottom of his chin and one on his chest. He explained that he was holding a saw off the ground with one hand while pulling the starting rope with the other. The saw fired up while rotating in his hand. Before he could flip the kill switch to stop the spinning chain, it rotated up in his one hand with the tip of the bar touching his chin. The saw’s engine died as the saw chain started cutting his chin and was starting to cut into his chest. A painful lesson to learn.

I don’t claim to be an expert here, but I do okay. A few years later, I was in Georgia visiting my parents. Their next-door neighbor had a tree within a couple feet of his house that the neighbor wanted gone. My dad mentioned that I had some felling experience and that I could drop the tree for him. The neighbor asked me if I would cut the tree.

I told him yes and started to study the way the tree was leaning. To drop the tree, I needed to fell it across the neighbor’s driveway and into my dad’s front yard. When I was getting ready to drop the tree, my dad asked me not to damage the magnolia tree he had growing in his front yard. I learned later that my dad had told the neighbor that if I screwed up and damaged his house, my dad’s insurance would cover things.

I told both my dad and the neighbor exactly how the tree would fall and where in my dad’s yard it would land. I started making the cuts and using some wedges to control the direction of the fall. I should have placed a 16-penny nail in my dad’s front yard where I said the tree would fall. I would have driven the nail into the ground with the center of the trunk.

After the tree was down, my dad took a “see, I told you so” approach in talking with the neighbor. The neighbor was very appreciative and, I think, my dad was relieved that I actually did what I said I would do, and things turned out in a best-case scenario.

I chuckled after the whole incident and every time I tell that story. I’m hoping things go as well in my upcoming efforts to clear the two trees in my yard.

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