Of Storms and Saws
Posted: Mar 15, 2010 11:51am ET
The weekend forecast called for heavy rains and damaging winds. When the storm that has no name had finished pummeling southern Connecticut, more than 80,000 people in my state were without power, and an untold number of trees had fallen, the victim of wind gusts that peaked at near-hurricane speed, 70 miles per hour. One of those trees was on my street.
The tree was a very large and considerably old oak with a double trunk. In the height of the storm, the root system, weakened by the rains had given way, and the 50-foot-tall tree fell across my road. On its long way down, it fractured a telephone pole holding a transformer, pulling down the power, telephone and cable wires with it, along with two, considerably smaller trees. Like many people in the region, we were now in the dark.
It has been a trying winter in the northeast, with heavy snows and drenching rains. Up to this point, however, southern Connecticut had been relatively lucky: we had been spared the truly heavy drifts that had hit neighboring Westchester County, New York, and faced nothing like the disastrous pileups that had hit New Jersey and even the nation’s capital, where it only takes a few inches to paralyze normal life. This storm was nasty. On Saturday night, when the tree fell, power went out, taking our heat with it. By Sunday morning, the old water main on our street had given up the ghost as well, so we were without water to boot. My wife and I walked out into the aftermath with our hound dog (our young son had spent the night at his nonna’s house, far inland) and accessed the damage.
We, of course, were lucky. My wife and I took a drive around the area and saw no fewer than a dozen downed trees, a few even larger than the one on our road, and three that had toppled onto houses. One had crushed someone’s car. No one in our town was killed, but the storm is being blamed on at least six deaths in the region. In that light, the loss of some creature comforts such as water, heat and electric power seemed like no great crosses to bear. We certainly couldn’t complain about losing something as mundane as a little cable television in the wake of something so powerful.
We milled at the site of the downed tree. The upper branches were blocking the entrance to the cul de sac at the end of our street, blocking in some of our neighbors. We spoke with old friends from the neighborhood, and even met some newcomers we hadn’t run into before. Funny how a calamity seems to bring everyone together.
After a while, my friend Dave came out with a saw and started working on the tree limbs, hoping to clear a path so he could access the road. He was joined by two of his neighbors on the cul de sac. I went to my basement and reached for an old tool I hadn’t used in many years.
I’m a fan of hand tools, and I have a nice collection of them on a large pegboard that dominates the far wall of my basement. Among the tools I treasure the most are those that were owned by my relatives: my father’s old Stanley hammer holds a prized place, as does an old nail prier once wielded by my Irish grandfather, who was a blacksmith. And then there is the double buck saw.
The saw was owned by my great uncle, Carl, who we all called Collie. Uncle Collie was a great guy who spent hours working in his yard, which he kept meticulously clean and well manicured. He took pride in his tools, and he had this wonderful two-man saw that was passed down to me after his death. It’s about three feet long, with good-sized teeth, and a traditional handle at one end and a tall pull handle on the other. It could be 50 years old, but it’s in fine, fine shape. In short, it was just what we needed—especially since no one in the area had a chain saw.
I brought it out and set to one of the bigger limbs. Dave grabbed the other handle. Soon we were sawing away at the tree and slicing it up nicely. After about 45 minutes of work, we had cleared a path. Cars could pass again.
It was time for a smoke. I returned to the basement, and reached in the dark inside one of my humidors. I came out with some Avo LE 10s. Dave and I lit up (the other lumberjacks passed on the smokes) and we puffed away and admired our work as a big old SUV moved through the road we had cut.
It wasn’t a bad way to spend a morning without power, all things considered.
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