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The chainsaw started on the second pull.

Made me wish I’d bought a lottery ticket instead of cleaning up the yard. It seems a shame to waste that much luck on a tree limb that would have disappeared on its own in a decade or so.

Chainsaws and I have a complicated relationship. Yes, without a chainsaw I would have been too lazy to heat my house with wood, but without one, my small children probably wouldn’t have heard certain words until they left for college. But today? It started on the second pull.

I’d been avoiding looking at the fallen limb, but now the snow was gone, the grass was growing, and the damn thing fell right in the middle of a chunk of lawn easily seen from the road.

On closer inspection, I could see the branch broke because it had nearly rotted through - a potential problem since the decaying tree stood in a row of trees I saw almost every day of my life. Downing a tree like that is like getting a front tooth knocked out and just living with it for a decade. I guess if you had more money than you could spend, you could get a full-sized tree moved in, but that’s not my neighborhood.

I didn’t want to cut it down, but then this thought popped into my mind.

“At least I’ve planted more trees than I’ve cut.”

I thought I better write that down. It seemed like something to save for my funeral.

I don’t dare leave stuff like that to chance. Unless my survivors have some guidance, I’m afraid my memorial service will just have one person stand up and say, “Well, he’s dead. Who’s staying for lunch? We’ve got those baked beans with pineapple chunks and little sausages.”

I mean, the beans might draw a crowd, but I want more of a show and I don’t think that we can trust a reasonable person to come up with a list of my good qualities on a moment’s notice. A little prep and more than a few hints might be in order.

I think I’ll lead with the trees. My family came to the prairie in 1880 and we’ve been planting trees ever since. And sometimes, cutting them down. Occasionally, you do need to remove a tree. In the wrong place, it’s like a weed. A tree rotting from within needs to be taken down. But I look around this country and see far too many people flailing about with chainsaws, cutting down trees willy-nilly, destroying what’s taken decades to build. I’m so tired of people willing to tear down, just because it’s easy. Building something better is a lot more work. As Sam Rayburn said, “Any jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a carpenter to build one.”

I’ve cut down quite a few trees in my life. I’ve tried to cut the right ones, the trees in the wrong place, the ones that were rotting from within or had stopped bearing fruit. I do take a certain amount of pride in thinking I’ve planted more than I’ve cut.

My Dad planted trees until he was almost 90. I’m not quite sure how to describe someone who plants trees they’ll never see grow.

But I know we could use more of whatever it is.

Copyright 2021 Brent Olson

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