Monday, September 22, 2014

Man vs. Stump: Age-old enemies do battle once more

My friends, gather round and I’ll tell you s tale, a tale of a man who gets himself in too deep, but who also finds redemption with the help of a chainsaw. If you’re thinking “That sounds like the way Alexander Aja would pitch his next movie,” you’re absolutely correct. Alex Aja’s “Chainsaw Capers” will be released next month from Cheese List Productions, Inc.
                But it’s also the story of what the hell I’ve been doing with myself for the last three weeks. I mean, there was a wedding, a trip to upstate New York, a zombie party, and some other life events thrown in there, but for all intents and purposes, it was mostly the thing about redemption.
                It started like all redemption stories do, with a tree.
                This one didn’t give wishes or tickets to concert events or sporting events. It didn’t really do anything except be mostly dead and drop weird fruit in the backyard. So one day, with the help of my girlfriend’s father, we cut it down with a chainsaw.
                It was a yet another glorious example of man asserting his dominance over nature with the help of tools powered by the stuff nature leaves behind. The tree came down, was sliced into pieces and was gradually passed on to the local trash company over the period of several weeks. And so ends the story.
                Wait no, there’s more. There’s a stump. Like many trees, this one required a way to be affixed to the ground and to draw in nutrients. In our haste to remove the tree, somehow the stump got left behind.
                After a good solid year of having to mow the lawn around the unsightly tree anchor, I said to myself “Someone should do something about that.”  Unfortunately, that someone turned out to have to be me.
                About three weeks ago, I wandered outside ready to do battle with the stump. At my disposal, I had the following:

                A shovel
                A circular saw, and most importantly of all
                The unadulterated, near-mythological strength of a 140-pound writer and cat aficionado.
                Needless to say, it seemed like the former tree anchor stood zero chances. But shockingly, the stump put up a hell of a fight. Apparently it didn’t want to vacate the ground. Also apparently, it takes more than a shovel and the strength of a lanky 27-year-old to get a stump out of the ground. I won’t even mention the circular saw, which was zero help and complained literally the entire time that it was not the right tool for the job.
                The weekend ended and the stump remained. I’d uncovered most of the roots, but I’d also broken part of the blade off my shovel when I attempted to use the shovel to pry up the stump.
                The following weekend I retired the circular saw and added a reciprocating saw to my arsenal. Despite the pleasant-sounding name, this was also little to no help. The stump remained frustratingly attached to god’s green earth.
                After my embarrassing defeat during week two, I decided a new approach was needed. If earth was what the stump wanted so badly, then earth I would give it. All the earth it could stand and then more. Rather than trying to remove the stump, I would just cut enough off the top that I could bury it in the ground and pretend that trees were just scary stories adults used to make kids brush their teeth.
                But removing the top part of the stump would not be an easy task. The circular saw had already proven itself to be of no help during this project. The same with the reciprocating saw. The only thing left was to get out the big guns: the chainsaw. The very same chainsaw that was used to remove the stump from its tree roughly one year earlier.
                It was the rematch everyone was waiting for, only the person operating the chainsaw for round two was in no way capable or qualified to do so. After all, I’d only used the chainsaw once before and it was under adult supervision. The only reason it was still in my possession a year later is due to space issues at its owner’s house.
                I guess I could have called and asked for help, but the owner is a busy man and besides, this fight had become personal. It had all the makings of a day of yard work that would surely end with a trip to the emergency room and a stump needing to have people-blood hosed off of it.
                The first day was a rousing success in that it ended with me still having all of my limbs attached to their usual spots. It was a rousing failure because so did the stump. After sitting for a year, the chainsaw required fuel. So lame.
                I returned the second day with fuel and the stump and I battled ferociously. I wielded the chainsaw like a toddler wields a AK-47: with deft control and total, inbred know-how. The stump was a worthy adversary. It launched pieces of itself at my face to try to dissuade my attack, but my stylish and safe $10 sunglasses repelled the massive blocks of wood with ease.
                When the day had ended, the stump was in two places: my garbage can and buried six feet underground. Actually, way less than six feet because that would have required way more digging than I was prepared to do.
                To anyone preparing a similar project of their own, I have these recommendations:
1)      Make sure you have the proper tools. If I had any idea what I was getting myself into and was in any way prepared, it would have taken my one day to complete this project. Two at the very most. Go to a hardware store, find the biggest saw you can and then ask an associate to point you in the direction of a larger one. If they say no such thing exists, invent one.
2)      Don’t do it. It’s way easier to mow around a stump for the rest of your life than it is to remove it or hide it. Let it be.

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