The Man Who Cut Trees

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He came to cut our trees, sky-tall pines and redwoods that shoot into the blue, crusted limbs like broken teeth waiting to tear loose. I shook my head when I saw him, his gray beard flecked with dust and wood chips. He drove a broken-down truck and dragged along a chipper that looked like the saddest caboose you ever saw.

"Where'd you find him?" I asked my husband. "He's old." I imagined him hiking up the trunks along our hillside, his body already bashed by time.

"He's good," my husband said.

I watched, pretending not to watch. I poked around outside the house as he snaked his harness around his waist and straddled the trees. "Look at him," I said to my sons. "Look how high he goes."

One day I lingered as he came down. "What's it like," I asked, "being so high?"


He paused and looked at me straight, eyes as clear as a mountain creek. "You feel alive up there," he answered. His jumpsuit was smeared with sap. He wore a cap.

"I get that," I said. "I bet it feels good."

He worked throughout the week, coming to the door for his check at the end. I thanked him and paused, saying his name. "Why do you do it?" I asked.

And the man who cut our trees told me a story that went like this: When he was a younger man, one day his first wife came to him and said that she was leaving. And he decided that was it. He was done. He got a job trucking logs, driving from Weott up through Oregon, and while he drove he came up with a plan, the spot in the Klamath River where he would drive his truck and end it all. And then, his ex-wife called.

"Our son won't listen to me," she said. "He needs you."

So the man who cuts trees decided not to drive into the river, and when he let go of that plan he discovered that he wasn't afraid of things anymore. He just wanted to feel alive.

I looked at him after he told me the story, grateful. "That's a good story," I said. He nodded.

With a Perspective, I'm Susan Dix Lyons.

Susan Dix Lyons is the founder of an international nonprofit basid in Angwin.