Monday, December 12, 2011

No Help Wanted

Everything is easier with help - or so I've been told. Dividing the workload leads to increased productivity, right? Not necessarily. Sometimes it's faster, and easier, to forego the help. Or maybe it all depends on who is helping.

Back when I lived in Wyoming, my dad and I used to make regular fall trips to the mountains to cut wood for the winter. On one such excursion, we took along another guy who had volunteered to help.

Due to the high fire danger level, chainsaws were banned, so we opted for the old standby of yesteryear, the crosscut saw. For those of you too young to remember, or not familiar with this type of saw, I'll explain how it works. A crosscut saw is typically 7-8 feet long with a handle on both ends. Using it is a two-man endeavor. One guy pulls, keeping pressure against the tree, while the guy on the other end holds just enough pressure to keep the blade in place, allowing his arms to extend with the motion - but not pushing. Then it reverses. The second guy pulls while the first one relaxes. Back and forth, this continues as the sharp teeth on the 8-inch wide blade do their job. While not as efficient as a chainsaw it does work remarkably well - but only if both men have at least a small amount of coordination.

Arriving at our favorite tree-cutting site early in the morning, my dad and I cut down eight or nine dead evergreen trees. After clearing the branches from the trunks, we sectioned them into 8-foot logs. Then, we loaded the logs into the pickup and my dad left for town to unload them, leaving me and the other guy to cut another load while he was gone. At least that was the idea.

The two and a half hours he was gone should've been ample time to have another load ready - with time to spare. Should've, would've, could've - wasn't.

That's the day I learned some people just aren't cut out to use a two-man saw. The guy tried, really tried, but it just wasn't in him. I'd pull, and he'd pull, or push hard, bending the saw, which doesn't work either. After several frustrating attempts to explain the concept, I realized that having help that day might not have actually been much help. When my dad returned, we had just one small tree cut - and I'd had to finish that one off with a bow saw. (A one-man saw that requires no help).

The guy felt bad so we allowed him to redeem himself by clearing the branches off the trees as we cut them down. We soon had another load ready to haul and took it back to town. We made several more woodcutting trips, that year and others, but I don't remember ever taking anyone along to help again.

The saw we used has long since been retired but recently, we found a new use for it. This past weekend, while visiting my parents, I painted a picture on the blade, an oil painting of a mountain scene with evergreens, similar to the place where we once used it to cut our firewood. The rustic antique is now hanging on the wall in my parent's home, a picturesque reminder of days gone by. Yeah, I reminisced a little while I painted. The project did take a fair amount of time - and yes, some work - but no, I didn't have any help.

Bruce A. Borders, author and songwriter has over 500 songs and 9 books. Over My Dead Body, his latest ebook, is available on Apple I-Pad®, Amazon Kindle®, Barnes & Noble Nook® and Sony Reader®. For more information, visit or

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