Zero Energy?

Just because it is on the ground doesn’t mean it is harmless. Photo courtesy of Tim Basham.
Just because it is on the ground doesn’t mean it is harmless. Photo courtesy of Tim Basham.

In the aftermath of the 1998 ice storm in Maine, while crown cleaning a large maple over a section of cemetery and road, I remember thinking, “Someone is going to have a handful taking this tree down some day.”

A few years later, I was removing some low branches from the same tree over the road for traffic clearance and was reminded again just how big and wide that maple was. Fast forward to April 2022, when I got a call from the cemetery committee saying they had some maples in serious decline and wanted them out to prevent damage to the stones.

My ground crew at that time had about five years’ experience in the industry, two years’ experience with each other and a year’s experience working with me. Being “modern,” they had fancy headsets so they could talk to each other at all times while on site.

We spent three days working on upper crowns and got more than 14 cords of wood from just five trees, most coming from the tree that had been on my mind for so many years. At last, all that was left of that tree was a single stem about 20 feet tall. We lay a “bed” of wood for the trunk to hit to reduce soil or road damage. When that was done, I called my wife to let her know the job was all on the ground and all the years of thinking about that tree were in the past.

Not so quick
Being the tail end of mud season, pockets of ice were still on the ground at the time; that may have played a role in what happened next.

The trunk was shaped partly like the letter “C” from internal decay, and it had nubs on it. One of the chain saws needed to be refueled, and the ground crew did so next to the trunk. This was at least 10 minutes after the trunk had been on the ground. And it rolled – in slow motion.

One crew member facing the trunk saw it coming and grabbed the other crew member, but too late. The second crew member escaped with a broken leg, but she was lucky not to be pinned under the trunk.

Never assume even a single stick of wood on the ground has zero energy. Hard lesson learned by all.

Tim Basham is owner of Basham Tree Service Inc., a tree care and removal service located in South China, Maine.

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