Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I think that I shall never see,
A stump as lovely as a tree.
But in my attempts to loose it free,
It seems the tree has stumped me.

Rented a stump grinder yesterday because, well, I have stumps, which are a common side effect of chainsaws. The stumper is a helluva thing. A big ugly combustion engine bolted to a spinning metal disc with large toothy claws that will rasp their way past the centre of the earth and all the way to Mongolia, if you don't throw your weight into preventing it. There are no gears, just a choke, throttle, and kill switch. You pull the starter cable and the thing roars to life, grinding whatever it happened to be sitting on, so you have to be sure to lean back on it as you fire it up, with its angry maw hovering over the stump, like a hungry dragon pulling on a leash. I wasn't sure what I was doing.

It frightened the children, and neither could I explain, exactly, why the stumps needed to be ground down, or why, even, the trees had to go in the first place, but it's a Daddy thing. The family watched from the garage as I lowered the angry machine onto the first stump, holding on for dear life, and trying to maintain the upper hand as it made contact. Wood chips, rocks, dirt, twigs, small burrowing critters -everything went flying, ricocheting off of nearby homes and parked cars, and creating a blast zone of about a full square acre. When I looked up, everyone had ran to some hidden bunker.

Actually, I rented the smaller of the two available stump grinders. The bigger one is the nuclear option, they told me, and robotically lowers itself onto the stump and performs the bulk of the devastation on its own. The smaller, cheaper one, they warned, works fine but "takes muscle," and today I am feeling it, from neck to heel. But the stumps are gone, and I did it without breaking any of my, or my neighbor's, windows.

When I came back from returning the beast to the rental place, it looked as if some rogue military unit had shelled my yard during Happy Hour. The house was still standing, but it was surrounded by foot-deep holes where the stumps were, several mounds of earthen debris, and flak and shrapnel extending into the surrounding yards, driveways, sidewalks, and the street. It took longer to sweep up the aftermath than to do the grinding, but it was satisfying to have conquered the stumps.

Some of my neighbors have stumps, where it seems their labors were abandoned just shy of glory. Stumps, like their namesake, can be confounding in their seeming immobility, rooted and anchored into the earth so stubbornly and so firmly that they could sit there for a century -but there's a tool for that. There's a tool for everything, and even a way to unfix the fixed things.