“The Beech is Back”
I agreed to continue logging with my husband if he could find another way for me to get to the top of the mountain. So his task this week was to check out some other logging roads or trails (less treacherous, not by the side of a cliff, an incline of less than a 70 degree angle, etc.). I complained that I could not travel on such a treacherous road and be so far from the ground. So he suggested dragging me up the mountain behind the skidder. I imagined myself in a sled or on an inner-tube, but it didn’t sound like a good alternative. We agreed that I would drive our 4-wheeler up if he could find a more suitable road.
A week of equipment problems kept George busy and he was unable to look for a new trail. Early Thursday morning he came into our bedroom and asked what I was doing. I said, “waking up.” And he said, “I know a really nice place to wake up while smelling the flowers. Come on, I need your help.” Fifteen minutes later, I was laying in the fresh dirt of a hole dug underneath his skidder. My head was under the belly of the engine (where the oil pan usually sits) and I was helping him to attach a new hydraulic hose. I wondered if engine oil washed out of hair easily. He knew he was leaking hydraulic fluid last week when I worked with him. He did not know that it was the hydraulic fluid that led to his brakes. Good lord!! The thought of him losing his brakes going up or down that treacherous mountain added to my anxiety. Yep, I want my own transportation when we go to the top!
I had been looking forward to another day in the woods all week – so I was pretty disappointed when he said I couldn’t join him on Friday. But, true to his word, he found a new trail and we went to work this morning (Saturday). He told me there were a few rough spots that he wasn’t sure the 4-wheeler could handle, so he wanted to lead the way in the skidder. Oh jeeze….. here we go again!! Something about a huge rock and some big holes and other potentially unpassable obstacles. I felt that sick feeling returning in my stomach. And…. to add to the challenges, the 4-wheeler was coughing, choking, spitting and stalling. Curses!!
George had no idea that the 4-wheeler was acting up. The sound of the skidder’s engine and his ear protection prevented him from hearing me when I tried to tell him. So he just kept yelling, “COME ON!!! COME ON!!!” And I would explain to the trees in the forest that the 4-wheeler had stalled and that it coughed and choked when it faced any inclines (the entire road was an incline). George just stared at me blankly. Did he think I stopped to polish my nails?? I yelled, “Go ahead” and waved him to go forward. If I could give it enough gas, I could keep it going longer until it quit again – but I needed some distance between me and the skidder in order to do that. We reached a particularly tough spot and George parked the skidder to make sure I could pass it. The grade was about 100% and I had to drive over large rocks. Going over one particularly tough one, the engine coughed, it lost power, I started sliding backwards, then the engine kicked back with full power and I ended up with my two front wheels in the air going over the rock. An impressive trick for someone who wants to do that! I DID NOT WANT TO DO THAT!! George, who thinks he’s superman, lunged forward to catch me just as the front wheels returned to the ground and I pulled off to the side of the road to tell him that I had had enough.
George thought this was an operator error. He explained that I had to lean forward and give it gas. He looked at me like I was a child. And I not-so-calmly said, “The 4-wheeler is a piece of trash!! I was giving it gas!! It kept stalling!!” He tried to reassure me by saying that there was water in the gas and that after I drove it some more it would be fine. He suggested towing me with the skidder. And that was what we did next. The skidder can drive over anything. 4-wheelers can not. Even if they are being towed. If only one or two of the wheels goes over a rock or log it can flip. I know this. I also know that a flipped 4-wheeler can kill the person riding it. So I tried really hard to steer the 4-wheeler to avoid all the life-threatening obstacles that George was casually driving over. Who ever said, “getting there is half the fun.”??
We finished going over the rocks and George suggested that he stop towing me because the rest of the way was flat. “FLAT”, he said. I learned today that we have a different definition of flat. So, off he went. And I choked, coughed and puttered behind him – stalling every 10-15 yards. A few minutes into this “flat” section, I went over a small but steep bump, dropped over the other side and the 4-wheeler was completely stuck. George came back and towed me the rest of the way. He detached the cables and offered to drive it the last 20 feet. He was shocked how poorly the engine was running as it choked and spat to it’s final resting place. He said, “is this how it’s been running all this time?” And I just glared at him.
I used to have anxiety about logging. But that was before I knew how challenging it was just to get to the job site. Reaching Plot #8 on Sunrise Mountain is such a huge accomplishment, that everything else seems like kids’ play. I quickly got to work and started cutting trees. Most of the trees I am cutting are beech trees. The philosophy of the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program is to promote the growth of the underbrush to provide food and shelter for wildlife. In previous plots, George has noticed an increase in raptors and other wildlife. My stamina today was much higher, the heat index was much lower and I felt like I had a productive day. Then it was time to go down the mountain. My anxiety returned. George told me I remind him of his mother. I don’t think it’s because she’s weak or cowardly – but because she’s over 80 years old. Thanks, George – your praise and encouragement is very helpful 🙂
George was going to take the death ride down the ridgeline while I took the tamer, less rugged path. He agreed to check on me at the two most dangerous points of my trail. My anxiety heightened. He offered to turn the 4-wheeler around. It wouldn’t start. Secretly, I was very happy! He tried and tried and tried. I offered to walk – trying to hide my enthusiasm. He kept trying. Finally, he gave up and we hid the 4-wheeler in a huge pile of brush and branches. He left with his hitch of firewood and I started my 45-minute hike down from the top of the mountain. As tired as I was, it felt so good to be coming down the mountain with my feet on the ground. Even with the tall grass trying to wrap itself around my ankles and trip me, I knew I didn’t have very fall to far. With trees on either side of the trail and the deep abyss out of view, my safety net felt complete.
At dinner tonight, George and I talked about the day. I didn’t mind the hike down the mountain and think I can be brave enough to stomach the ride up straddling the back of George’s seat in the skidder. He’s still trying to convince me how comfortable it will be to sit on the hood. I’m not too sure about that. But next week, I will go up in the skidder and come down by foot. I asked for some tree-cutting advice to add to my 5-minute lesson last week. When George talked about “notching” the front of the trees, I just stared at him with a confused expression. He said the word “notch” louder, as if I didn’t hear him. Then he asked, “you don’t put a notch in the front of the tree?” And I reminded him that he didn’t really teach me how to cut trees – he only taught me how to start the saw. Next week I’ll be an even better logger!