IF you are new to my diatribe ramblings, you may enjoy the diversion, or get frustrated, hard to predict ahead of time really. I like to write in my country, folksy, dry sense of humor style, telling life from a perspective that many of us enjoy and promote, and many others have never known or forgotten about. I know my writing isn’t up to publication standards, and I’m “comma happy” as my writing teacher used to say, but even with the run-on sentences, rabbit trails, bad grammar and punctuation, I try to use my project stories and Blogging to document the turns and twists of the personal Journey I’m on. I conceive the stories I choose to share much like a personal diary that I don’t mind others reading, telling the ins and outs of the life I’ve chosen here in Kansas, struggling to run a one-man studio, raising two kids with my Wife, and enjoying all that God has Blessed us with. I hope you appreciate the perspective and diversion for a few minutes.
I’ve been very busy with work this year, Thank God, and so I’ve not had much time or energy to dedicate to any blogging or story telling for awhile. So many cool things have happened to me and my little one-man-show here in Kansas, and if I don’t start blogging them, I’ll move on by them and forget to document “things” here in the Flint Hills.
Wow, A Big Tree
Recently, the State was pulling out an old bridge to replace with a new bridge on one of the old gravel roads North of my house a little ways. In the path of this work was a humongous Burr Oak tree. The man with the State, and the contractor running the Track Hoe love wood, and they hated to see this old gem pulled out and pushed into a burn pile. So, they started calling around trying to find someone that would take the tree, and use it for something, anything, even fire wood.
The Last Time I was notified of a Huge tree free for the taking, it was in New York State, and I had two days to remove it from the job site. So, I don’t know what happened to it, I couldn’t handle that one. This however was a tree about 4 miles from me, so I was ready to pounce.
Several folks looked at it for firewood, and decided it was too big, and so they “passed” on it.
Getting The Call:
Then, my neighbor lady heard about the situation and suggested my name. I was on site the morning after the call, and hauled the tree away the following morning. After talking with the excavator operator and setting up a plan for saving the oak and loading it on a trailer, I looked around to enjoy the day a little. I spotted an even bigger double-trunk sycamore tree beside the old oak, and on the other side of the road a big old monster walnut tree. I inquired if those other two trees were also available…...and they were not. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, and so I happily went on my way, brain running fast, trying to come up with a plan for cutting, loading, hauling, unloading, and slabbing the big old oak.
I would have taken the tree the first day I was on site, but with the 100+ degree days, and the heat already rising pretty quickly mid-morning, I was glad the excavator operator would let me start at daybreak the next morning.
So this is what the Sunrise Looks Like?
Daybreak? I never start anything that early, except maybe a dream. I’m a late-nighter, or used to be that is, these days if I’m not snoring by 9pm, it’s a good day. Now that I’m an “artist” I don’t carry a watch, don’t set an alarm clock, and pretty much enjoy the fact that I’m living beyond the grasp of modern society and everyone’s need to be connected and facebooked, and cell phoned, and walking around with electronic gizmos attached to their ears, running on tight schedules…..multi-tasking they call it. I used to live that life also, except it was a Bag Phone in those days and a pager, oh how I’m so glad that is all gone. Life isn’t like that around my shop and home, at least not most of the time. Anyway, I dusted off the clock, plugged it in, set the alarm and got up early.
Introducing My Faithful Helper:
Here’s my son in a couple of photos. My son wanted to come along, and at 5:15am the next morning when it was time to go, he was regretting that decision. But, with a couple of shakes and prodding, he hit his feet, put on shoes, and away we went, carrying a couple of pop-tart packs and some water. Remember getting out of bed and heading toward the day without brushing your teeth, or your hair, or even putting on clean clothes? Oh, the joys of being a boy. Oh, but I do have to admit that I still do that some these days myself.
He loves to go Logging. He was so excited, I don’t think he stopped talking the entire trip. Although, he spent most of the hard work time throwing rocks in the creek….remember those carefree days? Although at this point most of the real work falls on my shoulders, he does like hanging out with me whenever I’m on a big adventure like this, especially if we can drive a “monster truck” while doing it. At the end of a day, he feels that he’s really helped me, and from an encouragement standpoint, and the talkative company he is, he does help. It will be interesting to see how he grows and develops and what he decides to do with his life in the next years. Right now, he’s convinced that he is going to “move out” when he grows up, but he wants to settle down not too far away, like out behind the shop. That makes me smile every time we talk about him growing up, finding his own way in this world, making decisions. He’s already pretty sure that he’s ready to be the “boss”, as he’s tired of everyone telling him what to do.
Normally, we putt around the hills in my old 1972 GMC Sierra pickup truck, so he’s a fan of old trucks and big trucks. Recently I overhead him showing my parents the “truck my dad bought me…”, an old non-running 1970 Chevy Pickup truck that I traded even across for a non-running Ford 8N tractor. They guy wanted my tractor so bad he showed up one day with the truck on a trailer, so we unloaded it and sent the tractor home with him. Now my son thinks the “new” truck is going to be his. I guess I’m proud to have him adopt “my” old truck like that, and I hope to find the money to get it running some day for “us”.
My son enjoys bumming around with me, he loves summer time, and if nobody else cared I don’t think he’d do much else. And, he loves to go anywhere that he can throw rocks into some water. Since the tree was at a bridge project, throwing rocks in the creek was pretty good motivation for getting him out of bed early. He has learned to skip rocks pretty well, a strange little flick of his wrist that he’s learned, which just makes them tap, tap, tap, tap on the top of the water for a good 10-16 bounces. My old-man wrists, ruined by carpal tunnel back in my sit-at-a-computer-corporate-job-years, can’t do it like he does, and my old pitcher’s shoulder won’t spin as fast either. So, I’ve had to admit that already at 9 years old, he’s passed me on by in the rock skipping (what’s next?). I can throw harder and farther than he can still, but he can out skip me by at least double now.
The tree was too big to pull out of the hole in one piece, so the track hoe operator laid it down so that I could take off the limbs and lighten it up some. The limbs are 18”-24” dia, and so I gathered them also in a second load that I didn’t get a photograph of. They are big enough to make some really nice coffee table slabs out of.
Once the limbs were removed, the root ball and log were pulled up on level ground where I could really inspect it well. The bottom 15 foot or so of the tree is hollow, rats!
I cut off the root ball and about 8’-10’ of the log base, making it small enough that I could almost get the 42” chainsaw bar through the tree diameter. I still had to cut on both sides, but now I also have a hollow section to use, and it fit on the trailer.
I’ve become a huge fan of “Picker Sisters” on the television (who wouldn’t be?), and those two creative ladies have inspired all kinds of new creative brain movement for my future work. I don’t know yet where it will take me, but I’m inspired, and have started piling up rusty junk for whatever comes.
So I know I’ll figure out how to use this hollow section at some point, so I took as much of it as I could. The rest of the Log will be slab cut from edge to edge, through the large branch crotch section to make a few table tops to use in Nakashima Style furniture pieces. I can buy plain old oak boards pretty cheap about anywhere, so when I go Logging, I’m looking at making big boards, the type that I can’t buy anywhere else, or at least that I can’t afford to buy anywhere else.
Where to get this Big Baby Cut UP?
Nobody around me has a mill that will slab cut a tree this size. So, a friend and I are building one. I’m hoping to have it ready this Fall to start cutting up the growing pile of logs I’ve been accumulating for the past 12-18 months, in expectation of this new log mill. When finished, I’m trying to get a wide cut in the range of 66” across, big enough to take a portion of the limbs and main crotch from these big trees here around where I live.
Yuck, Sweat and Itchy:
Sorry for the “sweaty” shirt photo, have you ever tried to wield the biggest saw Stihl makes with a 42” long bar. Takes a bigger man than me for sure. I’ve used Stihl saws for several years, clear back when they were mostly made of metal. I can assure you that this big model is no normal saw that you are used to. When started up, it pops and pops like some sort of bored out drag bike at the Harley races. Pop, Pop, grrrrrrrrr, as I pull the trigger in slowly. Cutting through green wood on a 24” dia. oak limb with this saw is about a 20-30 second delay. Feels sort of like what I imagine holding one of those hot rodded saws on the Timberjack competitions is like. Way to go Stihl.
I was so excited to get this log “home”, that I didn’t even notice the huge vines of poison ivy growing all over it. So, I’ve been dousing myself with bendryl lotion ever since. I just hate that stuff, but even all of the sweat and itching are going to be worth it when this majestic tree becomes something cool for a person’s home or business.
Wow, What Equipment:
In the photos, the only thing I own are the worn out t-shirt and jeans and old tennis shoes. I borrowed the truck, trailer, and Stihl saw from a great friend.
thanks for reading and traveling along (and you didn’t even get in the poison ivy!)
-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com