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"Out on a Limb"

12/22/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

"I think that I shall never see/a poem as lovely as a ... TIMBER!"

This is how Joyce Kilmer might have begun his most famous poem, "Trees," if he had been alive and in my yard recently. That's because one of my trees, a lovely oak, fell like a drunken reveler and landed on the house next door.

I was in my own house on a rainy weekday morning when I heard what sounded like an explosion. I looked outside and saw that a massive tree had collapsed, crashed through the fence on the edge of the property and come to rest on the garage of the home owned by Mike and Corrie, a very nice young couple who took this act of nature in stride by saying that their insurance company would cover the damage, which wasn't small.

First, though, Mike called Peter Fiore, who owns Pete's Arbor Care Services of Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.

"You have root rot," Fiore told me when he came over with his crew.

"I shampoo regularly," I replied.

"No, I mean the tree," he said, adding that I also had ants.

"Yes, Aunt Jo and Aunt Jennie," I said.

"Carpenter ants," Fiore explained. "They can take down an entire tree."

Actually, they took down half the tree, which had a double trunk. The other half, about 60 feet tall, was still standing. "It's been compromised, so we'll have to take it down before it falls down," Fiore said. "And if it does, it will land on your house."

That's all I needed to hear. I told Fiore and his crew to take down the rest of the tree, cut it up and give all the wood to Mike and Corrie.

"Don't you want to burn it?" Fiore asked.

"That would really destroy the house," I said. "We don't have a fireplace."

Later, I told Fiore that I am a Connecticut Yankee by birth and that I had always loved oaks until my wife and I moved into our house, which is surrounded by them. "Now I hate the damn things," I said.

"I love all trees, especially if they have root rot and carpenter ants," said Fiore, 42, who has been in the tree business for 16 years. In that time, he has never fallen out of a tree, although he has occasionally had a falling out with humans, dogs and various other creatures.

Fiore recalled the time he warned a homeowner about the double maple next to her house. "I told her it should be removed because it had root rot and trunk separation," he said. "When I gave her the estimate, she said I was out of my mind and told me to leave. Five days later, half the tree fell. It was leaning against the house and destroyed her chimney. She took me to court, but the judge said she was out of her mind and dismissed the case."

Then there was the time Fiore was doing work for a customer who had a Newfoundland. "The dog was huge," he said. "It was supposed to be behind a gate, but it got loose as I was bending over and bit me in the butt. My crew thought it was the funniest thing they ever saw."

They also thought it was funny when Fiore had to answer the call of nature on another job. He went into the woods wearing only a pair of shorts and climbing spikes when he stepped into a nest of yellow jackets. "I was getting stung and tried to run away with the spikes attached to my legs, which made me look really stupid and clumsy," Fiore remembered. "The guys were hysterical. They said, 'Hey, look, it's Forrest Gump!' It's not always easy being a tree guy."

Nonetheless, Fiore said he loves his job and that the vast majority of his customers are wonderful, Mike and Corrie among them.

"They're great people," said Fiore, adding that I was a good customer, too, but that I would be even better if I had him take down another double oak at the far end of the property. Since I don't want that one to fall, either, I am going to call him for an appointment.

I think that I shall never see a yard as lovely without that tree.

Stamford Advocate columnist Jerry Zezima can be reached at JerryZ111@optonline.net. His blog is www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com.

Copyright 2008 by Jerry Zezima