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"Branching Out"

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For centuries, nature lovers and people with too much time on their hands have asked a perplexing and frankly ridiculous question: if a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, will there be a sound? For weeks, I had asked an even dumber question: if a tree falls in my backyard, and I am there to hear it, will it land on my head?

I got the answer recently when a tree did fall in my backyard. It landed on the ground and did, indeed, make a sound, which wasn't nearly as loud as it would have been if the tree had landed on my head.

A few years ago, a large oak on the edge of my property fell on the house next door. My neighbors got the firewood, which I happily gave to them, not just because they were so nice and understanding (insurance paid for the damage), but because it would have been extremely dangerous to use the wood to start a fire in my house for the simple reason that I don't have a fireplace.

This year, my wife, Sue, and I worried about falling trees every time a violent storm was forecast. We also worried about the skylight in the family room. Skylights are nice when the sun is out, but essentially they are floods waiting to happen. And our skylight would leak during a drought.

"If a tree fell on our house, and we were there to collect the insurance money, would we get a new roof and skylight?" I asked Sue.

"What a ridiculous question," she replied, adding, "Although it worked next door."

Storm after storm raged, we lost power, we lost food, we lost patience, but no trees fell. Then, one day, Sue noticed that a slender oak was leaning precariously, its branches almost touching the power lines and its roots coming up from the soggy ground.

"It's going to fall on the lines," she predicted. "You better call the power company."

Two days later, a couple of beefy guys came over to size up the situation.

"The company isn't going to send anyone to take the tree down," one of them said.

"Maybe you can take it down yourself," the other one suggested. "Do you have a chainsaw?"

"No," I said. "Just a handsaw."

"Get a rope, tie it around the tree, tie the other end of the rope around this other tree," the first guy said, referring to a larger oak several feet away, "and start cutting."

By this time I was at the end of my rope and was about to make a cutting remark when the second guy, who looked like Paul Bunyan, suggested all three of us try to push the tree over.

I felt like Paul's pal, Babe the Blue Ox, not because I am strong but because I am dumb as an ox, which I proved by saying, "Good idea!"

It actually turned out to be brilliant. We huffed and we puffed and we pushed the tree down. It landed far from my head. The sound, which we all heard, wasn't deafening.

"Now you're a lumberjack," said the guy who looked like Paul Bunyan.

"Or a lumberjerk," I noted.

After the men left, I got my trusty handsaw and, with the help of WD-40 and beer, started seeing that the sawing was easier than I thought. By the end of the afternoon, I had cut off all the branches, cut up the trunk and dragged the whole kit and caboodle to the curb.

The next morning I could barely get out of bed.

If another tree looks like it is going to fall, and I am there to cut it down with a handsaw but am afraid it will land on my head, will I say the hell with it and call a professional tree service?

What a ridiculous question.

Stamford Advocate columnist Jerry Zezima is the author of "Leave It to Boomer." Visit his blog at www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com. Email: JerryZ111@optonline.net