September 29, 2016

The Affordable Professional

Dangling from trees of 100 feet high with a chain saw in one hand and a rope in another, Tim Simmons has one of the jobs that few people would dare to attempt, but many would marvel to watch.

by Paul Markosian

As a die-hard do-it-yourselfer (a.k.a., cheapskate) the prospect of cutting down a dangerous tree by myself stirred up agonies of indecision. Serious injury would make a mockery of my long-standing, cost-cutting ethos. I could picture my wife and her mother taunting me in the hospital, “Didn’t save too much this time, ‘ey Mister Penny Pincher!” And, awake in the middle of the night, wondering if a 59-year old diabetic should even consider pulling it off, I contemplated the liability. This boxelder tree rose fifty feet between two houses built five feet apart. The neighbors already disliked me. (I told them their dogs bark too much.) Timber on their roof would undoubtedly trigger ugly consequences from both them and their animals. Details such as these only aggravated my insomnia.

Tree Cutting is a dangerous profession

Tim Simmons is a professional tree cutter

As a die-hard, do-it-yourselfer (a.k.a., cheapskate), the prospect of cutting down a dangerous tree by myself stirred up agonies of indecision. Serious injury would make a mockery of my long-standing, cost-cutting ethos. I could picture my wife and her mother taunting me in the hospital, “Didn’t save too much this time, ‘ey Mister Penny Pincher!” And, awake in the middle of the night, wondering if a 59-year old diabetic should even consider pulling it off, I contemplated the liability. This box elder tree rose fifty feet between two houses built five feet apart. The neighbors already disliked me. (I told them their dogs bark too much.) Timber on their roof would undoubtedly trigger ugly consequences from both them and their animals. Details such as these only aggravated my insomnia.

Reprieve began with a knock on my door. “We’ll be in your backyard cutting limbs by the power line.” Before they left I asked a crew member if they did private work? He produced a business card and said, “This guy can help.”

A few weeks passed before I actually called the number on the card. Five days after the call was a Saturday morning. The point of no return had arrived. The Professional was already up in the tree when I showed up. At first glance I saw there the symbol of my defeat among the proud fraternity of do-it-yourselfers. I felt testosterone oozing out of my ears and inside my head entire populations of Home Depots everywhere were laughing at me with unabashed contempt. Yet even in this morbidly self-centered state I could see that something incredible was taking place. I was seeing something I could never do and shouldn’t expect to do without training. Training? Where would an old goat even find such training except at something like a high-priced fantasy camp?

tree cuttingDuring my lifetime I have been lucky enough to personally see Roberto Clemente rifle a baseball from right field to home plate; see John Stockton flick a basketball at lightning speed through traffic in the paint. Seeing a superstar in action was what I was seeing now from Tim Simmons with branches, rope and chainsaw, athlete and artist. Yes I had to part with some cash, but not nearly as much as I had expected and the price for cutting and hauling was almost free when you added this road-side seat.

Tim Simmons literally cut that tree down by the hand-full. A rope provided most of his stability. It hung from a limb higher than the one he was cutting and that higher limb changed throughout the process. He would swing into position, cut one side of the limb then it’s opposite, then he’d leave the chain saw chugging in idle, clip it to his belt and break the limb off in his gloved hand. The whole tree went down this way. He would toss the hand-full to the ground away from my roof and the neighbor’s. He was finished in about three hours, including two rest breaks.
“Pretty impressive,” I said.
“Thank you.”
“You have a lot of skill.”
“Thank you. That makes me feel good.”
“I should do a story on you for my son’s magazine.”
“Cool.”

Tree CutterTim wore a helmet, safety glasses, earplugs, harness and storage belt, steel-toed boots. Also, a device called gaffs are attached like a baseball catcher’s shin guards but their purpose is to provide spikes for climbing and securing footholds. A person could buy special pants to prevent chainsaw cuts, but they cost too much and he had never been injured as a tree cutter. He used several knots in his work; clove hitch, blake hitch, figure eight, and bowline. Tim is 28-years old; been in this line of work for 3 years. He called today’s job moderately difficult. More difficult would be a bigger tree, one with more girth. More dangerous would be working above a high-voltage line, which he had done several times without incident. More common hazards are cramps due to dehydration, bee stings and fatigue.

Tim Simmons is not a big guy. Wiry and tough like a cowboy at a rodeo, the rest breaks he took were about getting rested, hydrated and smoking a cigarette. I didn’t like that he smokes, (compromising his physicality, let’s say), but I didn’t say anything. I was glad I was not a do-it-yourselfer in the case of that pesky box elder. He proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would have been in over my head and made a mess of things. And it was nice to meet him. He’s a humble hard-working, highly-skilled professional. I’d recommend him to my mother and I did. He did a great job for her too. In that case, trimming a tall tree to accentuate its natural beauty.

Reach Tim Simmons at (eight zero one) 913-0604. Maybe you can help him with breaking his bad habit. But maybe you too have skills and daring I don’t have.