Theory and Practice

Not With a Whimper, but a Bang

The last thing I expected for dessert was a 40 foot long tree trunk crashing into our tiny back yard.

The first sign that something was going on was a load “crack!”, followed by a series of sharp pops and bangs, and finally the unmistakable rustling and crashing cacophony of a tree falling to earth. We had just finished dinner, cleaning up the dining room table. Karen grabbed the tyke and hustled her into the kitchen. I’m not sure exactly what I did, but I recall that it was something lie jumping up and shouting “CRAP!” then scooting away from the back of the house.

A few seconds later, we gathered our wits and went to see what had happened. And all we could see was green. Leaves and branches had fetched up against the screen door of the open slider at the back of the house. The rain was still coming down and the back yard was a mess.

Mere hours before we packed the car for our annual vacation to Cape Cod, an old Ailanthus on our neighbors property succumbed to a combination of added weight from rain and a hefty batch of samaras combined with a dose of good ole inset damage. A giant branch, really a horizontal trunk, snapped free from the bole of and crashed down on the fence that lies along the property line between our cluster of townhouses and the house behind use. This monstrosity straddled the fence between our yard and the neighbor’s townhouse and managed to come down on a spruce in his yard and our kousa dogwood.

Amazingly, the damage turned out to be minimal. The fence and tree had caught the falling wood and the house received only a glancing blow. A scrape, really. There were smaller branches, still covered with leaves and clusters of samaras scattered about, torn explosively from the main branch. After we managed to pry away a couple of larger pieces from the door, I slid out to look at the aftermath while Karen called our neighbor.

All of the various stuff in the yard, my 25 year old bike, the Parisian cafe table, the tyke’s sandbox: all came away unscathed. It’s not exactly good luck when a huge tree falls into your lap, but if you can walk away from it with no real damage, that’s something.

The real problem turned out to be timing. We’ve been renting places on the Cape for a fee years now and this year’s trip was going to start in a few hours. And we have to figure out to get rid of an extra large log that has suddenly gone from provider of shade to total pain in the ass.

Fortunately, my friend Seth is a landscaper and I knew that he’d hook us up with someone who could help us out, fast. And by midday on Saturday, Ben the arborist and one of his guys were already cutting that huge hunk of newly minted firewood into chunks. By the time we packed up the car, the whole thing had evaporated like a bad, chlorophyll-tinged dream. And not long after that, we were one our way to the Cape, crawling down I-93 with the rest of the South Shore-bound traffic.