Friday, April 30, 2010

Extension Ladders and Chainsaws don't mix.

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We have a rule at our house. It’s a rule that came from a series of mishaps that are funny in retrospect, but could have easily been catastrophic.

Our rule is: Chainsaws and extension ladders don’t mix.

Now I realize that there is an entire category of people for whom chainsaws and extension ladders are an integral part of their job description, but that doesn’t describe me or my husband.

It started on the day we decided that the large limb that stretched horizontally across our driveway was a potential hazard. (We had no idea how true this was, just not in the way we’d imagined it) The limb was a good 25 inches around and stretched out 60 feet from the trunk of the tree. It was about 25 feet off the ground.

My husband was the proud owner of a new chainsaw. He’d spent the past few weeks chewing up logs on our property and he was ready for a fresh challenge. He got the ladder out of the garage and laid it against the branch. The ladder was just high enough to reach and extend 6 inches or so above. He climbed up and down a couple of times to test it and it seemed stable. Now he wasn’t stupid enough to saw the wrong side off: we’ve seen enough cartoon characters to NEVER make that mistake. No, the mistake we made was subtler.

Do you see the problem? Neither did we.

With me watching from behind at a safe distance, my husband took his chainsaw up the ladder and began to cut the branch. He cut below, then finished cutting through on the top. The branch fell to the ground…

…and the limb the ladder was leaning against trembled, then it LIFTED 6 INCHES. The decrease in weight making it much lighter than it had been before. The top of the ladder was now BARELY making contact with the branch. My husband descended as fast as he could and made it safely to the ground before the ladder slid under the limb and crashed to the ground.
We both looked at each other in shock. He was trembling and so was I. That had been a REALLY close call. We took some breaths and laughed nervously about how dumb we’d been not to foresee the problem.

But after a bit we relaxed and began to talk of what to do about the remaining part of the limb. Husband says that he’s up for putting the ladder DIRECTLY on the trunk of the tree and then cutting off the limb from there, obviously we cannot lean the ladder on the branch again. So he positions the ladder (which had survived the drop unharmed) and he begins to cut through the limb…

…and I watch as the limb begins to fall, but then catches on a remaining part and swings like a pendulum and CRASHES into the middle of the ladder. Both our hearts stop, though I’m sure his worse than mine since he’s the one standing on it, 25 feet above the ground.

The ladder bends. It bends A LOT.

But it holds.

Again husband makes a flying dash down and gets to the ground.

And this is how we decided to enact the rule: Extension ladders cannot be used with chainsaws.

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