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11/16/2011 @ 7:56am

Last week I was up on a machine shed roof with a chainsaw.

It's not something I'm going to need to do again for a while.

Here's the thing about machine shed roofs.  Made of smooth, shiny metal, they are fairly easy to walk on.  Until they're not.  You can be striding along without a care in the world, then one foot hits a little slick patch and slides away, and the next thing you know you're careening downhill like an Olympic skier.

That alone can be a problem and if you're carrying a chainsaw, it can be more of a problem.

It can be a problem even without the chainsaw.  The building that existed on our farm before the one I was walking on also had a steel roof.  Back in the 60's, someone, who shall remain nameless, was clearing snow off it and discovered that taking a run and sliding down the roof was just as effective and a whole lot more fun than shoveling.

Until, in the midst of one 50 MPH slide, he discovered a nail that had been left sticking up about an inch and a half.

Actually, it was the seat of his blue jeans that first discovered the nail, but the rest of him found out about it in fairly short order, too.

Since it didn't happen to me, I thought it was a hilarious story.  That's just the way the world works.  Wasn't it Mel Brooks who said, “Tragedy is when I have a hangnail; comedy is when you fall in an open manhole and die.”

I hadn't planned to be climbing around on the roof with a chainsaw, but I have two buildings only about three feet apart where several trees that had sprouted and started to grow.  I'd walked by them for about ten years, occasionally thinking, “I really need to cut them down,” but I have to admit it wasn't a real priority.  It became a priority the day I was in my shop and heard what could only be described as scampering noises, followed by the sound of a raccoon saying to his mate, “Well, Agnes, I think this will be just fine.  We'll live here, the kids can live at the other end of the attic, and we can entertain guests in the middle.  I'll start chewing through electrical lines while you ruin the insulation.”

Turns out that the trees had grown tall enough that various critters gained access to the attic of my shop. I disapproved.  

I started lopping off trees.  A couple of them were almost eight inches in diameter and spread out above the buildings.  When I cut them off, they didn't move.  The branches, because the buildings were only three feet apart, held the trees in place - and still provided an easy invasion route for vermin.

I had to work fast.  The afternoon was wearing on and my wife would soon be home from work. She's never felt that ladders and chainsaws go together and while I've never asked her how she feels about chainsaws and slippery roofs, I know she hates it when I bleed on the floor, so I wanted to get the project done before there was a chance for anyone to provide commentary.

Everything went fine until I'd created a smattering of sawdust on the roof, which served as kind of a lubricant.  Since I'm all about safety, I went to the edge and swung one leg over so I could stand on both roofs.  I imagine I looked a little like Charlton Heston driving a chariot as he stood on both horses.

What Charlton never had to contend with, though, was that as the various limbs were chopped, the center of balance of the tree shifted. This allowed the bottom half to pivot upward, with the stump ending up more or less where I was standing.  If you're making a mental picture in your mind, by now you've figured out that for a guy in work clothes wielding a chainsaw, with his legs three feet apart on two different roofs...my position left me feeling a little vulnerable.

Oh well.  To make a long story short, I finished the job before my wife got home, there was no blood on the floor and I was fine except for a slight...limp.

And the raccoons are out of luck.

Copyright 2011 Brent Olson

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