Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Tale For Father's Day

Growing up on the farm on Cherry Fork Road was a lot of fun. We raised tobacco, had a HUGE garden, dabbled in the hog business and had a few cows and chickens. We had a tractor, a wagon, and a manure spreader as well as various lawn mowers, rototillers and chainsaws.

My dad loved his chainsaw. I don't remember what the name brand was but it was yellow and matched his pickup truck. Throw in a Kool cigarette dangling out of his mouth and a John Deere hat perched on his head and he was ready to do some sawin'.

I remember the year my father got his new chainsaw. It was Father's Day, 1974, and let me tell you, that saw was needed. A late spring thunderstorm had blown through and there were trees everywhere. Trees across the road, trees down in the yard. It was like a tornado had come through. It wasn't that long after the storm had passed when you could hear the roar and the whine of the chainsaws as neighbors up and down the road got to work clearing a path.

Dad wasn't one to be outdone by the Dotson's so he grabbed up my brother, the chainsaw, and a couple of axes and headed towards the road. Never one to be left behind, I decided to tag along.

The destruction that this storm had caused was amazing. Big, bold and majestic trees had fallen victim to Mother Nature. I'm not talking about the scrub pines that are so prevalent where I live now; I'm talking about maples, poplars, elms, and sadly, the big oak tree in front of the barn. Strong, sturdy trees that were toppled like matchsticks.

I started to follow Dad onto the road when I was quickly told to get my butt back up in the yard. This was no place for a kid and I was just going to be in the way. The road had begun to fill with the volunteers from the local fire department checking to make sure everyone was okay. Some power lines had fallen across one part of the road and traffic was being diverted around it.

The major concern was the big oak tree; there was no way to go around it. You would end up in the ditch if you went one way or in the creek (which was flooded) if you went the other way.

Gentlemen, start your chainsaws!

And so it began.

The neighbor nodded at Dad and hopped up onto one end of the big oak. He pulled once, twice, three times, and finally, the damn thing belched to life. The neighbor lined his saw up at the widest part of the fallen tree and began to slowly eat his way through the massive trunk. He kept looking at Dad, waiting on him to get started. As he reached the deepest part of the log his arms began to strain from the exertion of pushing the saw through. Sweat started to stain his overalls and beads of perspiration began to drip off the brim of his cap. The chainsaw began to whine, to sputter, to spit, until at last, it just stopped.

Dad chuckled to himself, hopped up to where the neighbor had been sawing, pulled the string, and that new chainsaw roared to life. Dad pulled the brim of his hat low, chucked his cigarette towards the swollen creek, set himself and started to saw.

Dad finished the cut that the neighbor had started and began to work his way up the log. From time to time you could see him glance at the neighbor who was struggling mightily to restart his saw which didn't seem to be cooperating. Finally, in exasperation, he threw up his hands in defeat and asked my father if he wanted to take a break.

"Nah, that's all right," he said, "I'm just getting warmed up."

As I look back on this memory with amusement, it was amazing just how prophetic Dad's statement was. Once he started to use that chainsaw, he never stopped. He cut everything. He trimmed all the limbs on the trees that surrounded the house. All of the wood from the oak tree was sawed in perfectly measured lengths so they would fit precisely in the wood stove.

Within a year's time, he had run out of things to saw, and the chainsaw was laid to rest. It was no longer needed, almost forgotten; in fact, Dad never used the saw again, until he moved to Georgia.

And he took the chainsaw with him.

Dad never really used the saw that much in his first couple of years in Georgia; there really hadn't been a need for it. That is, until the late winter blizzard hit in 1988. It was like a northern snowstorm; almost 21 inches of snow fell in North Georgia. And to make matters worse, it started to thaw quickly and then froze again, and then everything was covered in a sheet of ice.

That's when limbs started cracking, and branches started snapping, and before you knew it, any tree that was within 15 feet of a power line toppled to the ground. No lights. No furnace. No stove. No nothing.

It didn't take long once things had settled down before the locals started to work on all of those fallen trees. Dad had gotten the old yellow chainsaw out of the storage building and it cranked on the first try. Dad was able to cut his way down the driveway and cut the limbs away from the power lines so the electric company could begin to restore the power to the area. The saw was over 14 years old and still worked like a top.

After that, I'm not really sure what happened to the saw, it just faded from memory. Until a few weeks ago. Mom was having a yard sale and was cleaning out the old shed when she came across a familiar object. It was the old saw and it seemed in pretty good condition, so she put it in the yard sale to sell.

It was late on Saturday evening and we had begun to put the things away that hadn't sold. An older gentleman in a beat up Chevy pickup pulled up in the driveway and asked if he could look around. We said sure and stopped what we were doing and watched the old guy browse what we still had left out. I didn't think he was interested in anything until he noticed the yellow chainsaw. My goodness...his eyes lit up, he picked up the saw, turned it this way and turned it that way. "What'cha want for this old saw?" he asked. "I had one just like it for over 35 years and it just cut out on me recently. It was the best dang saw I ever had."

I looked over at Mom not exactly sure what she was going to say. "My husband loved that saw; we got that for him on Father's Day back in '74. I'll tell you what, since it's so close to Father's Day, I'll let you have it for free on one condition."

"What's that?" he asked.

"Use it," Mom said.

"Yes, Ma'am," he said. And with that he pulled his hat down low over his eyes, lit himself a cigarette, and gave that cord a yank...

Happy Father's Day!

1 comment:

Bob said...

A very sweet story. I think I'd like your Mom too.

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