Big Yellow Taxi

Yesterday, we cut down a 100 foot white oak tree in our back yard and I have been hearing Joni Mitchell’s song in my head ever since. This tall, straight tree stood high above our house next to the red oak that fell on us during hurricane Isabel.
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I grew up in a house that backed up to a forest and have always wanted trees around me, so our decision to cut this one was not easily made. There were still plenty of leaves on the tree, but Gretchen and I have felt a growing sense of unease about this tree since Isabel. It seemed to move more freely than the nieghboring trees when the wind blew. Now that we have plans to put a shed near this tree, it seemed right to have an expert look at it.

If you have to put down a living thing, you want help from someone who does it with compassion. For a tree, there is no one better than Henry Chandler. He and his crew climb the trees and deal with their problems hand to hand. None of this giant crane stuff with operators sitting safely in the cab below. He sent a man high up the tree to tie a rope on it so the the crew could pull while Henry delivered the fatal cut. I notice that this 14 inch tree is shaking like a sapling while the man climbs, but I figure these men know what they are doing and I trust Henry’s judgement.

In the final moments, Henry kneels at the base of the tree and looks up the trunk. He has great respect for the many tons of wood towering over him and he carefully issues last minute instructions to his men. They have cleared a five foot wide path through the yard where this tree is supposed to fall. Henry notches the tree in the direction it is to fall and then steps around to make the final cut. This is the moment of greatest danger, as the trunk can break off and shoot back, crushing the workman instantly. In this instance the tree creaked and fell directly along the expected line.

FatalFlawHowever, when Henry made a cut to level off the stump, the section of trunk fell in two separate pieces. This gave us cold chills. I now had an explanation why this tree moved in the slightest wind and shook when the man climbed it. The trunk had been split through for weeks as a result of Isabel and the tree could have fallen on us at any time…
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