Four weeks ago tomorrow, the storm came through our neighborhood. Both damaged and living trees continue to be cut down and chipped or hauled off. (Four weeks! Have I mentioned that we lived in a heavily wooded area before the storm knocked down our trees?)
The tornado/ 100 mph straight line winds struck here at 4:29 Sunday evening on May 29. Within a couple of hours, neighbors and relatives of neighbors were out with their chainsaws, getting some of the branches off of houses, clearing some of the trees to make a single path along the road. This was a bit nerve-wracking to watch, especially with across-the-street Mark’s grandkids running around, and occasionally parents yelling at them to get out from beneath the limbs they were sawing.
Although no injuries happened at the time of the storm, that dark Sunday evening (without power, naturally), as our next door neighbor’s son-in-law was chain-sawing a large limb from one of the several trees on Rob’s house, the limb’s weight swung around and knocked his feet out from under him. He fell 20’ to the ground and got a large gash on his head and didn’t know where he was. The fire truck and ambulance had to park two blocks away because of the fallen trees across the roads. Watching in the twilight as the EMTs rolled that stretcher down the debris-strewn road is an image I won’t easily forget.
The next day (Memorial Day), our son came in from Milwaukee with a new chainsaw and sawed away for his 24-hour stay. Ironically, seven years ago, when we moved from the Black Hills of South Dakota to Michigan, we’d given away our own chainsaw because we were moving from the Hills to a city in a populated state. We’ve needed a chainsaw here a lot more than we ever did in the Black Hills.
For the two weeks following the storm, professional tree removal services crowded our narrow little street with no painted lines upon it. There were literally dozens of companies represented both from town and from all over the state. We have no curbs and gutters. Our lawns near the road became muddy parking areas filled with heavy trucks.
The day after the storm, we called the local C&D tree service, recommended by neighbor Mark. We could never get a hold of them. Whenever a tree removal truck drove past, we all watched it like salivating dogs. Please come take the trees off our houses. On Wednesday, a woman canvassed the neighborhood, taking down names of people for Joe (not his real name) to come and remove the trees from our house. Four days later, after my husband called Joe to find out when he’d be coming. Joe got mad at him and grouched that he was different from all the other tree removal services because he completely finished one job at a time before moving on, but he’d be there the following afternoon. That evening, an out-of-town man knocked on our door. (Contractors and roofers and tree and stump removal companies knocked on our door from 6:15 am, at the earliest, to 9 pm.) He talked us into at least getting a bid on our tree removal, even though Joe was to come the next day. Joe hadn’t even seen our house and yard. He hadn’t made a bid for removal. He was just going to come cut trees away and haul them off, and then tell us how much we owed. This out-of-town guy was friendly, happy, and gregarious. Although he seemed expensive ($4,000), we liked him, but we had made this verbal commitment with unseen Joe. Neighbor Sue gave us the name and number of their company, coming Wednesday, no, Thursday, no, Friday. We were discovering that there was no uniform way of contacts with tree-removal people, with some giving bids, and some not.
The following afternoon, Thursday, we received a generator from friends who had power restored to their neighborhood. The C&D company we’d called, but never could get a hold of, was cutting the part of our tree which had fallen on neighbor Julie’s house. They had stopped at our property line, which was what we’d expected. It would be less tree for our own people to remove. My husband and I went into the basement doing generator-related things. When we emerged an hour later, we’d discovered we had a ten foot trunk stump in our front yard. They had cut the rest of the tree off our house! Yay! But… Surprise! My husband went out and negotiated the full yard, then cancelled grumpy Joe who was to come later that day, or whenever.
So, we went from trying to contact one company, to agreeing to Joe’s removal service by some woman (never sure about her relationship to Joe), to actually getting a bid we never used, to the original company cutting off our trees without our knowledge.
We’ve had convicts remove shoulder-high brush hauled to the roadside. We’ve had another city come to remove our hickory tree close enough to the road to be considered city property. I’ve seen two wooded lots, across the street and to our west, harvested and bulldozed down. Our eastern next door neighbor sold two of the three surviving living trees bordering our yards and providing welcomed shade. (I’ve heard people can get paid $2,000 to $5,000 per tree, if they like it. They didn’t like any of ours.) Our neighbor’s two trees were harvested and removed in one afternoon. And now it seems we’ve returned to family and friends cutting down trees. The remaining oak, about twenty feet from our living room picture window, is being removed by volunteers from their church.
Two days ago, these young people (at first I thought they were the youth group) put up four levels of scaffolding surrounding the tree and cut off the lower branches damaged in the storm. It’s now day three of continual working and music playing, including cutting some of the fallen trees at the back of the property. I’m guessing our neighbors are gone for this, since the workers have asked to fill their water bottles from our outside spickets, which is fine with us. Have I mentioned that these trees are huge? Up beyond the scaffolding, they have nailed sections of 2” x 4” strips to the trunk as a ladder. It reminds me of an old way of getting up to a tree house, but those were closer to the ground. Then, these people drag a chainsaw with them as they climb and sit on a limb to saw a higher limb. No helmets. No goggles. Fuddy-duddy me simply can’t look. I’m waiting to find a human limb falling from 100’ instead of a tree limb. I’m waiting to find a once-youthful body impaled on our chain link fence far below.
My writer-imagination is worse than reality. (I hope.) I just can’t decide whether to draw the drapes and ignore them, or keep a nonchalant eye out on them, with my phone nearby, of course, ready to dial 911 if necessary. Maybe I should just write – I mean, non-blog writing.