The Upside of Chainsawing


Leatherface; the Texas Chainsaw Massacre guy

Far back in the woods, our home was the first in a new subdivision. Newly moved in, the nearest cross streets were one mile to the south and two and one-half miles to the north. Across the street was a grown-over farmer’s field. At dawn, one would see deer at the pond.

Our home had a wood burning fireplace. Alone in the forest, I had my pick of downed dead wood.  It was always a fine fall day when I could set up my cut station and spend several hours chain-sawing and stacking wood against the Michigan winter.

I like chainsaws. They are loud, smelly, destructive, and dangerous. Highly effective, they are a perfect tool.

Earlier in the week, I stacked eight downed young trees near the side of my house. Each was twelve to fifteen feet long.  None was bigger around than four to six inches. They would make perfect fireplace logs. They lay there, tempting me every evening when I pulled into the drive from work.

On Saturday, I dragged my saw horses around to the cut station. My chainsaw was oiled and sharp. I was dressed in Carhartt bibs, a flannel shirt, a woolen watch cap, and a grease stained fleece vest. I donned my polycarbonate full-face shield, noise protecting headphones, and a pair of leather gloves.

Hard at it, I barely noticed the passage of time. I cut firewood. I stacked cut wood in the rack. I cut more wood. I yanked the starter cord on the saw. A slight grinding, no more. Out of gas. I stacked the remainder of the cut wood. Chainsaw in hand, I walked around the corner of my garage to refill the tank.

There was a strange car in my drive. Two very neatly dressed women were standing at my door. Bent over and peering forward, they were placing a rolled up tube of paper in my front door’s handle.

In my industrial strength noise suppressor headphones, I had never heard them pull up. Out of gas and cut wood stacked, there were no sounds coming from my cut station to alert them to my presence.

I stood silently at the edge of my driveway. I was just a step outside of my garage, and only several strides away from the women’s car.

The women turned from my door and walked down my front walk. They were speaking to each other. I could see their lips moving, silent in my headphones. Several feet from their vehicle, they turned and faced their car.

As Passenger reached her door, her field of vision and my silent, motionless figure had intersected. As she reached for the door handle, Passenger’s eyes fixed upon me. She froze. Eyes widened. Her jaw fell. Passenger’s face was locked; eyes wide and mouth agape. I was featureless behind the faceshield – vaguely human in ear muffs, filthy work clothes and gloves.

Driver looked over the top of the car. She saw terror on her friend’s face. Driver turned to see the source of the terror. Driver fell back against the car door. Driver screamed; a truly impressive scream.  I could hear her through my noise protection.

The women fumbled for their door handles. Driver won the race, leaping into the car and slamming her key into the ignition in one motion. It was an incredible feat of manual dexterity under great psychological pressure. Passenger was barely inside the car before Driver slammed it into reverse.

The skid marks heading down the drive were more than one giant step long. The car still had significant reverse-oriented momentum when Driver slammed it into forward. It bounced a few times as the transmission tried to deal with the contrary messages it was receiving. The car left skid marks several giant steps long in the street in front of our home as she fishtailed out of our subdivision.

I shrugged, entered my garage, filled the empty reservoir in my chainsaw, and went back to work.


This piece was first posted to my personal blog, Rants & Mutters, on 19 September, 2013.


The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at


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  1. “Stacking wood against the Michigan winter,” set such a visceral scene for me. Well-woven threads of humor in an emotive, sensory, summation. I loved it. Thank you for sharing.

    • Mike- thank you for the kind words. And for taking the time to leave a comment.

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