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John Lamb, Published July 30 2011

Lamb: Power-tool purchase is another rite of passage

Sometime after I closed the lake cabin last fall, a large tree fell across the road.

I was quite thankful that someone started cutting it up but wondered why they stopped, leaving half the road blocked. Did the chain saw run out of gas? Did someone get hurt? Did they get bored? Did they realize they had the wrong address and I wouldn’t pay them?

Seeing I’d have to finish the job, the time had come for me to take another step toward manhood and buy my own chain saw.

So when a co-worker told me about one her dad was selling in fine shape for $10, I bought it unseen. She warned me that it didn’t have a case. No problem, I thought.

One problem – the blade was wrapped in a child’s pillow case, giving me a chill as I wondered if I bought a yard tool or a cherished murder weapon some hockey mask-wearing psycho would come looking for late one night at the cabin.

There was also no safety break, a concern since what I lack in being handy, I make up for in being clumsy, a combination that could leave me handless.

At the same time, another friend found a great deal on an off-brand chain saw; I think it’s called a Tonka. That one had full safety features, so we bought it. The problem was, assembly was required, and as stated above, my mechanical skills are only slightly better than my complete lack of good judgment.

I imagined my future with chain saws as a great way for me to meet nurses. I joked that the next time I gave someone the finger, it would be in the emergency room and I’d be asking them to reattach it.

Last weekend I finally got both saws revving and took to the fallen tree. The brand-new saw cut through the wood fine, and I realized how thrilling

it is to watch the blade effortlessly turn through the wood, kicking out fragrant chips.

But the thrill died shortly after it arrived, when I noticed the engine was smoking more than people standing outside an AA meeting.

Even with ample blade and fuel oils, the machine was so hot that the label sticker curled off.

I fired up the stream-lined serial killer special, only to get that wedged in the tree as the wood bound back with the deep cuts.

So I did what any frustrated woodsman would do and brought out an ax.

I swung low and chopped into the bottom of the suspended trunk like Jim Thome leaning into a sinking fastball. It wasn’t good for my back, but it was great for my pride and sense of accomplishment to watch the wood chips fly.

There is a sense of satisfaction when a sweet swing makes solid contact. I imagine Thome has felt it on each of his 596 homers.

I was able to get the Tonka going again and eventually got the log cut and rolled off the road.

It wasn’t an epic man vs. nature battle, but there is a sense of gratification in physical labor that I don’t get from my job here, sitting at a desk, typing stories.

That said, I also didn’t burn through two computers and wreck my back writing this column.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533