Hard Head 1
Sunday, February 20, 2011

I’ve been asked several times recently how my face managed to get in the way of a hard-hitting tree branch. I was going to write this a few days ago but my headaches just wouldn’t let me concentrate very much. Things seem to be better today so I’ll get this out now while I’m thinking about it.

If you really want to know. Keep reading and don’t complain about the length!

I’ve always been told that I have a hard head and late on a Thursday afternoon (10 Feb 2011), I found out that having a hard head isn’t always a bad thing.

I’m living in the boonies so there are challenges that occasionally arise that one doesn’t normally encounter in city life. This was one of those challenges. I have two ways to get to the dirt road that leads to the highway ... one short and rough and the other is long and bumpy. Some time ago, a storm blew over a couple of trees on the short track. Most of the branches were bound up in the upper part of other trees so only a couple of large branches actually blocked the track. I cut them out of the way.

Over time, the large tree has been gradually easing downward. A couple of weeks ago, I finally had to cut another branch that had sunk low enough to prevent me from driving out. I frequently walk the track when I walk the dogs to check it. About a week after the last branch had been cut, I discovered that the tree had sunk even lower with several branches now blocking the path. I procrastinated until that Thursday afternoon. I wanted to go to town on Saturday morning and I figured that I could easily cut and clear the branches in two days.

I put some water, the pruners, and a pruning saw into my little backpack and slipped it on. I put on my boonie hat, grabbed the machete which I always take with me when I go into the woods, and grabbed the ax. The dogs were excited to go for a walk and we all headed up the track.

The Track ... You can see the cut branch that got me in the middle of the photo

Since the branches are only about 5” (12 cm) thick, I decided to cut them by hand just because I like to work up a sweat and I had the time. The first branch was actually one of the easier ones to get to. It was off the ground ... just above my knees. I had an ax and a pruning saw. The branch was broken and bent on the other side of the track. It appeared to be bound up in such away to actually be bending and hold the end of the branch down but not down to the ground. The curvature in the branch was concave ... That is to say, it had a slight U shape to it. I could see that to cut where I needed to cut it, the tension would bind the blade of the saw or continuous close the gap from the ax if I were to cut from the top.

So I grabbed the pruning saw and made an initial cut on the top to see how far I could go before it pressure bound the blade ... not very far. I started cutting from the bottom and side ... not difficult with a pruning saw. I realized that releasing the tension could make the branch snap up so I was careful not to lean over the branch itself as I cut deeper and even put my left hand on the branch with the intention of stopping that side from snapping up or at least deflecting it. I was out of the way of the other side. All was going well. Actually I was a bit surprised that the branch wasn’t cracking. A couple of times I cut on the top a well just to release some of the tension. I was down to just a small bit left and it still hadn’t cracked. Normally by now it should have cracked enough to release the tension but not come completely apart. I stepped back and kicked it a couple of times. Obviously I didn’t want to jump on it because if it snapped while I was on top, it would either bash my leg or catapult me a few feet possibly into a small ravine ... neither one was a good option. I kicked it again. Nothing. I cut a little more and kicked it again. Still nothing.

I was to the point that I didn’t feel comfortable with cutting any more until some of that tension had been released. I put the tools down and put my hands on my hip as I thought about it for a second. I was thinking maybe I should take a couple of whacks with the ax but it snapped up at the wrong moment, it could dangerously knock the ax out of my hands. I leaned to the right ... but not over ... the branch to get a look at the cut. I leaned over some more to get a better look. At this moment I heard a loud ... CRACK! ... And my world went dim!



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2011 February