Friday, May 2, 2003

Tennessee Christmas 2003

Christmas day was a very special family gathering. We gathered together at Mom and Dad's in the Great Smoky Mountains. Granny, Lynelle and Jim and the boys, Steve and Kathy, Mom and Dad, Connie, Melissa, and I were all gathered around the chimney with care...I guess. The Kathy Grinch was especially dressed up this year and slid around delivering gifts to all. There was plenty to eat and many laughs of joy as the family got caught up with stories of the past. We all got a shock when the "Hooter Girl" showed up! I guess that Mom had been given a Hooter girl outfit from Steve and Kathy during a previous visit and so we got the "pleasure" (or something) of seeing her showing it off. I believe it was mostly laughs. It was a very Merry Christmas.

Today is the lumber jack day. The MEN were going to clean up the storm damage and fell a few trees while the woman folk went to spend money...I mean to do some shopping. I guess there must have been about fifty cord of wood that had fallen on the side and behind the house from the last serious wind storm. The trees had broken out a bedroom window, tore up some siding, and put a hole in the roof.

Well, with a couple of chain saws and the six men, we went to picking up. We were throwing the wood back on the neighbor who owned the wood. Dad got a chain saw for Christmas and we put it to the test. By lunch time, the yard was clear and all we had to do is fell the three trees after lunch. We were very proud of our progress. We endangered a few shrubs with rolling logs, but no serious damage. Remember that this is taking place on the side of a mountain.

The first tree to come down would be the one that was already broken at the base and leaning on another dead tree. I guess a definition of a tree is important: Three feet in diameter and somewhere around three hundred feet tall. Basically the clouds would separate as they went around the tops. I have never dropped a tree of this magnitude, but how much difference could there be?

Now remember that we have college trained minds at work here. I'm sure that you have all seen the tree swing drawing by the engineer. After much deliberation, we were ready for the first cut. Important note to all: Safety is the very highest priority in the McBride family. Escape routes were planned for all parties involved. Dad fired up the old Christmas present and we all watched in anticipation. It didn't take long for that first all important move by the massive structure. We now had a very nice looking chain saw stuck in the middle of a very large tree. Not a big problem for problem solvers such as us. The chains and come-a-long came out. It didn't take more that ten different set ups before we realized that we would just have to go ahead and make another cut.

The minds got together and the second cut was planned. I started up the next chain saw and showed dad the proper technique from my days in lumbering. With the panic scream, the mad run of all involved in the up hill direction, we had an action packed few seconds. The result was of course, one broken Christmas present, and a tree in the same position, but five feet shorter.

No problem for problem solvers. Another cut was planned with the notch in a different position as figured with our abacus. A scream, a panic run, and we had a tree in the same position, but ten feet shorter. Out came the chains and come-a-long. Another engineering feat...and we had a broken come-a-long. While the come-a-long was being repaired we went for another cut. Scream, run, shorter tree. How long before it gets dark around these parts? We decided to upright the tree with the now repaired come-a-long. We got it lifted up with only two little branches holding on to the other tree. That was it. Now what? So we let the tree back down when we heard the cracking noise. There was the scream, the run, and branches everywhere. It took down three other trees that we didn't have to drop, but luckily the body count came up 0. After everything cleared, the tree from hell was now standing fifty yards away. Shorter but proud. To hell with it.

Now onto the "easy" trees. The next tree was the largest of the trees. We decided where we wanted it to fall and made the notch over half way through. Look at the safety clause one more time. Steve stood up hill in the warning position. Dad stood at the end of my escape route just in the case that we would actually have to use this route and I were to fall, he would pick me up. Jim was sizing up from a third position. A confident hush fell over the crowd as the man started up the saw. As the cut was progressing, with all of my experience in cutting, I was thinking that the tree should be moving by now. My eyes were focused on Steve to let me know what he was seeing. I looked at my saw and could have sworn that I saw my cut get smaller. I pulled out the saw and looked back at Steve. He had the look of shear terror in his eye and was making that motion for "Exit stage left." I looked down and noticed that my feet had "left the area". I tried like hell to catch up with them. I'm not sure if Dad figured out what was going on, but by the look on his face I could tell that he felt that he was about to get run over and took off. Dad had a twenty foot start on me and I noticed that as I passed him that he was starting to roll down the hill. I looked back to see the tree falling right down the exit path and I knew that Dad was safe as my feet left from under me and I too rolled down the hill. I never turned the saw off. I figure that some how I had managed to use up all the oxygen around it and it choked off during the "run" portion of the trip. I covered up my head as the tree exploded around us. I didn't hear the window breaking or the water pitcher exploding. The yard looked just as it did this morning before we started. Wood everywhere. Body count 0.

So far everything was going as planned and we only had the one tree left that was the closest to the house. We tried to pass that off to the women as they came back. Everyone took cover as the final tree was attempted. Chains, come-a-long, escape paths, proper cuts, and the tree fell like we had experience. It only took five hours to cut those three trees down. Not bad for lumber jacks. Some Scotch was taken in that night as the stories were told over a good card game.

Day three was spent at Dollywood with some very good rides and shows. It was a very nice Christmas and I am glad that as with every adventure with the McBrides, nobody was injured during this performance. That is not saying that the sore bodies won't take some time to recover. Connie missed out on the adventure part as she had to leave Christmas night to work the next day. Melissa and I left after Dollywood and she snored for me on the way home.

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