Photo 1

Elizabeth and I had a huge pine tree behind our house (henceforth described as the “huge pine”) that likely would have crushed our house and perhaps killed us if it fell during a storm (Actually, if the pine fell it would be the same regardless of whether it was a storm or something else that brought it down) (Photo 1).

Photo 1. The fellow in the middle is the huge pine that elicited my concern.

Even though the huge pine was healthy, I nonetheless worried during the past year or so whenever we heard there was a storm approaching.  I decided that the huge pine required elective surgery.  One of the arborists I called for an estimate referred to the removal of such a healthy tree that doesn’t really require it, “fear factor” removal.  I plead guilty.

I knew pine trees didn’t have very deep roots and that entered into my thinking about having the huge one removed.  When I was younger, that sort of thing didn’t seem to occur to me.  It wasn’t age per se that accounted for my disregard, but rather some degree of recklessness and foolishness.  I now recognize that pine trees have no conscience when it comes to such considerations.

We have a whole forest of pines in our backyard, but this huge pine was the largest of them all and it was the closest one to the house (Of course, now that it’s gone, there’s another one closest to the house and it’s not much smaller than the huge one was).

As long as I was going to have the huge pine removed, I decided to have two other trees removed as well.  One of them in the forest was dead though standing and another one in our front yard drops a lot of leaves in the fall which I no longer wanted the task of raking up.

I should mention that the proposals I received from four companies I called ranged considerably from $1800 to $3300 for equally rated companies.  Guess which one I chose?

On the appointed day, the crew arrived with two trucks (Photos 2 & 3).

Photo 2

Photo 2. The truck pulling the “chipper,” a fantastic machine that can make chips out of just about anything that fits into its mouth (gaping open on the right). The spout (now facing right, to the rear) is turned around when in use so its stream of chips is directed into the back of the truck.

Photo 3

Photo 3. The truck that pulls a trailer with a tractor used to carry branches to the chipper. There was a 3-man crew; José, the climber, Pepe, the ground man and Lamar, the tractor driver. The crew was experienced and quickly went about their tasks. Lamar placed plywood panels on the grass to prevent the tractor from tearing up the grass (Photo 4).

Photo 4

Lamar drives the tractor toward the plywood panels laid over the grass. Unfortunately, it was a wet day with light rain so the plywood was too slippery for the tractor to climb the small hill to the tree. As a result, the tractor tore up the grass (boo, hiss). José and Pepe brought out the equipment they would use to take down the tree (Photos 5 & 6).

Photo 5

Three chainsaws, 2 smaller ones to cut branches and a larger one for the trunk.

Photo 6

Two 275-ft rolls of rope, orange and green, and José’s climbing spurs (or spikes) and safety belt.

Photo 7

The first thing José did was to throw a weight with a cord attached over a high branch of the tree next to the huge pine he would take down.  Both pines were about 125 ft tall and I was amazed that he could throw the weight that high, let alone accurately, but he succeeded on the 5th or 6th try in throwing it over one of the highest branches on the tree (Photo 7).

José leaps off the ground as he throws the weighted cord over a high branch on a pine adjacent to the huge one he would cut down.

Photo 8

José then tied one end of the orange rope to one end of the cord and with the cord pulled the rope up into the tree, over the high branch and back down to the ground.  Then he threw the weighted cord over a high branch on the huge pine (Photo 8) and with the cord pulled the green rope over the high branch and back down to the ground.

José throws the weighted cord over a top branch of the huge pine [both ends of the first (orange) rope are seen hanging beside him, the green rope on the ground, left].

Photo 9

The purpose of the orange rope was to lower the sawed off branches to the ground.  José tied the orange rope to each branch before he sawed it off.  Then when he sawed off the branch Pepe lowered it to the ground.  In this way the branches were guided safely to the ground without damaging anything close to the pine (like the roof of my shed).

The purpose of the green rope (on the huge pine) which was attached to José’s safety belt was to prevent him from falling while he climbed up and around in the tree.

The next thing José did was to sharpen the chainsaws with a file (Photo 9).

Photo 10

Then he donned his spurs and safety belt with additional gear attached (Photos 10 & 11).

José straps on his climbing spurs.

Photo 11

José in his climbing spurs and safety belt with an adjustable rope positioning lanyard (orange) and other gear.

Photo 12

Before climbing the pine, José cut down two small trees adjacent to the pine to facilitate the work and to which I’d agreed (Photo 12).

Photo 12. José cuts down two small trees to clear some space around the base of the huge pine. He and Pepe cut up the small trees and Lamar hauled them off with the tractor to the chipper (Photo 13).

Photo 13

Lamar, José and Pepe dispatch the small trees.

Then José began to climb the huge pine (Photos 14 & 15).

Photo 14

José begins his ascent with the orange lanyard around the tree and the green rope attached to his safety belt.

Photo 15

José quickly climbs up half the height of the huge pine (Note the chainsaw dangling from his belt).

Meanwhile Lamar used the tractor to carry the small trees to the chipper (Photo 16).

Photo 16

Lamar feeds the small trees into the chipper.

When José reached the first branches on the huge pine, he tied the orange rope to one, sawed it off, Pepe lowered it to the ground, untied the rope and then swung the rope back to José for use with the next branch (Photos 17 – 19).

Photo 17

José working in the upper reaches of the pine.

Photo 18

Pepe swings the rope back to José up in the pine.

Photo 19

Pepe swings the rope back to José up in the pine.

José worked carefully and methodically in coordination with Pepe, though there was little communication between them.  José did, however, always whistle loudly each time before he cut off a branch to alert Pepe it would be falling.  It was clear they and Lamar had worked together many times before and knew how each performed his responsibilities (Photos 20 – 25).

Photo 20

José cuts away branches as he works his way up the pine

Photo 21

Another branch is lowered to the ground.

Photo 22

Lamar unties the rope on a branch that Pepe lowered to the ground.

Photo 23

Pepe saws the large branch into pieces Lamar can pick up easily with the tractor.

Photo 24

Lamar picks up the branches with the jaws of the tractor before hauling them to the chipper.

Photo 25

Lamar prepares to feed a bundle of branches into the chipper.

Photo 26

About two hours into the job, José had removed all the lower branches of the pine and was close to the top (Photo 26).

José approaches the top branches of the pine.


Ronald D. Nadler, PhD Professor

Emeritus Yerkes National Primate Research Center


The Emeritus College Emory University

Atlanta, Georgia 30322 USA

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