Sometimes doing a bunch of stupid stuff can add up to something sort of smart, like how multiplying two negative numbers produces a positive result.
Yesterday I broke quite a few chainsaw safety rules. But if I hadn't ignored all of them, I probably would have gotten hurt.
Chain saw stupidity... let me count the ways.
(1) I stood on the top of a folding ladder while using the chainsaw.
(2) I held the chainsaw high over my head while cutting.
(3) I did the work with nobody else close by.
(4) I failed to consider how a branch could snap back after being cut.
I probably ignored some other chainsaw safety rules also. Not smart.
I've got a healthy respect for chainsaws, having heard horror stories from people a lot more skillful with them than myself, including a couple of pros who handled damage to a very large oak tree on our property a few years ago.
These guys laughed while relating a story about how one of them got whacked in the forehead by the very same small Stihl chainsaw model that I own. The tale was indeed funny... in retrospect. But there's nothing humorous about a chainsaw injury, which I've managed to avoid so far.
Even yesterday -- when we had bark dust blown into our non-easycare yard, as we've had done every spring the past three years. The bark and two man crew arrived in a large truck which always has difficulty navigating our narrow, steep, tree-lined driveway.
After the driver backed in almost as far as our carport, I congratulated him. "I'm getting better at it," he said. "There's still a problem with some tree limbs, though."
Looking at the side of the tall truck, I saw what he meant. He'd managed to back in by pushing some fairly substantial (2" thick, or so) protruding oak branches out of the way, along with some smaller fir branches.
They were pushing against the right side of his truck. I told him, "I'll cut them while you spread the barkdust. Then they'll be out of the way when you leave, and next year it'll be easier for you to get the truck down our driveway."
Good intention. It was the execution that was the problem.
The more I've used my pleasingly light Stihl chainsaw, the more comfortable I've become with breaking some standard safety rules. Like, not cutting anything above shoulder height. So I took a quick glance at the branches, figured I could reach them if I stood on a folding ladder and stretched my arms out, and got out the equipment that I needed.
Chainsaw. Ladder. Gloves. Safety glasses. Ready to go.
What I should have done, though, is spend more time pondering the position of the thickest oak branch. Semi-consciously I assumed that just the very end of it was being bent back against the side of the truck. However, actually the entire branch was under quite a bit of backward pressure.
That could have been bad news if I'd been following the safety rule: do not operate a chainsaw above shoulder height. Because if I'd leaned an extension ladder against the truck and climbed up until my head was higher than the branch, I'd have gotten a nasty physical shock to add to my mental surprise.
Wow! I thought, watching and feeling the oak branch snap backward with surprising force after the chainsaw had cut most of the way through the wood.
I was happy that the branch had whipped over my head, not into my head (or neck/chest). I wasn't pleased, though, with how the chain had gotten stuck in the cut.
I was still holding onto the chainsaw with my right hand, leaning backward now on the folding ladder, rather than forward, owing to how much the branch had moved after most of the pressure had been released from being against the side of the truck.
I pulled on the blade. Stuck. I pulled harder. Still stuck. What the hell, I said to myself. Done everything wrong up to this point; might as well keep going.
I decided my best bet (though perhaps not the smartest one) was to try to cut the branch completely through from my precarious leaning one-handed position on the ladder. At first the chain wouldn't turn at all. After a few more tries, it did. The end of the branch dropped to the ground. The part of the branch still attached to the tree snapped back a few more feet.
Hey, that wasn't so bad, said my overly optimistic self. I got off the ladder, pulled the cut branch out of the way, and moved to the next branch that was stuck against the truck. And after that, another one.
Here's the most amazing part of my chainsaw cutting adventure: basically the same thing happened with the next two branches. Guess I'm a slow learner. The branches snapped back after being cut most of the way through, but the chain didn't get caught, and I was a lot more mentally prepared for the whoosh.
Better to be lucky than smart, I guess. Better yet, though, lucky and smart. Next time I use my chainsaw I'll do more thinking about what I'm doing before I do it.