Sunday, August 10, 2008

Backyard Chainsaw Massacre

About a month ago, a maple tree in our backyard gave up the photosynthetic ghost and came crashing to the ground at the edge of our property. The last leaf had barely fluttered to rest before my wife Kara had whipped out her favorite landscaping tools, the credit card and the telephone, to set about making the tree disappear. When I realized what she was doing, I dove across the room like a bodyguard taking a bullet, yelling, “Nooooo!” in slow motion as I lunged for the phone. I knew a Tool Purchasing Opportunity when I saw one, and Kara was about to waste it.

No tool can bestow undeserved coolness upon its owner like the chainsaw. You don’t even have to use it. You can just take the chainsaw out of the box and mount it on the garage wall like a trophy. Your friends will look at your trophy and admire it, while you hook your thumbs through your suspenders and say, “Yup, that’s an 18-incher right there. Bagged it just down the street at a little spot I know. Put up quite a fight. Took all I had just to wrestle it into the shopping cart.”

“Oh, no, that’s the last thing we need,” Kara said. “Remember when the chain snapped on Nelson’s chainsaw and smashed his safety goggles? He had to get stitches on his forehead.”

Leave it to Nelson to wreck all the fun for the rest of us.

“What if we talk to Gary first?” I asked. Our friend Gary works in landscaping and has actual credibility on a topic, a peculiarity among my buddies.

Kara reluctantly agreed, and when I broached the topic at lunch with Gary, he replied, “Oh, there’s a great five-hour safety course you can take. I’ll email you the contact information for the instructor.”

I wilted. Five hours. You could cut a tree apart with left-handed scissors in five hours. Besides, what could an experienced safety expert tell you in a full day of hands-on instruction that a Google of “chainsaw safety” couldn’t tell you in thirty seconds? Not much, I’ll continue assuming.

After reaching an agreement with Kara not to fire it up without adult supervision, I purchased a chainsaw and the sundry quart bottles that the hardware clerk threw into the cart. If you’ve never owned one, you might not know that you can’t just put regular unleaded fuel into a chainsaw; it requires a special mixture of gasoline and testosterone.

Even though the chainsaw is still sitting in its box in the garage, I already feel tougher. There’s not another tool that has captured the popular imagination quite like the chainsaw, and for good reason. Nobody would go to see The Texas T-Square Massacre. Jason Voorhees never donned a hockey mask and went after campers with a plumb-bob. Chainsaws are a powerful, scary tool, and mine is much less likely to halve me when it’s packed safely away in its styrofoam. I don’t regret the purchase, though. A homeowner should have a chainsaw handy; you never know when another tree might fall or a summer camp full of promiscuous teens might open up nearby.

Meanwhile, our tree is still out there in the backyard, awaiting proper dismemberment. Fortunately, it fell away from the house, so for now I can just kind of pretend it isn’t there, like a tip cup by the cash register.

On my twenty-first birthday, a friend of mine bought me a sadistic shot called a “prairie fire,” which consisted of tequila and Tabasco sauce. After I let the shot sit for ten minutes, my friend asked, “What are you waiting for?”

“For it to evaporate,” I replied.

The tree is pretty much the same thing. I’m waiting for it to biodegrade. That’s probably what the safety instructor would tell me to do once he saw me with a chainsaw, anyway.

You can put Mike Todd back together again at


  1. Yet another cutting-edge post by the MT dog.

    Bet you SAW that joke coming didn't you?

    OK, OK, I'll stop with the tree-chopping puns; it's about time I turned over a new leaf anyway.

    By the way - what's a tip jar?

  2. Mike! When can we come visit so the men-folk can cut down the tree and the women-folk can go exercise our landscaping tools at the nearest mall?!?

  3. JL -- What's a tip jar? Seriously? Dude, I'm moving to Ireland.

    Jengary -- Dude, visitors who volunteer to assist with yardwork are always welcome.

  4. Be husband burned his arm using his chainsaw. It touched the motor or something. I'm not sure if that was before or after he made Tim Taylor type noises. He probably hurt himself after that. I think he was making different kinds of noises by then.