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My first ‘chainsaw’

By David Schriemer, M.D.

Operating a chainsaw is a small-town rite of passage into manhood. There is a primal relationship between men and their chainsaws. A well-sharpened chainsaw cutting through wood like butter soothes and satisfies the soul.

When we bought a home in Vicksburg in 1989, many of our trees needed pruning. My father and my older brother Dale came down to help. My father owned the chainsaw. He was not about to let his 30-year-old and 38-year-old sons use it because “It’s too dangerous!” My father began cutting using his criteria of cutting any limb his 6-foot 3-inch frame could reach. It was a wet, drizzly Saturday. My dad cut a branch but it got hung up in other branches and vines. He set the chainsaw down and let it idle. He grabbed the branch, pulled hard, slipped and fell on all fours with the blade of the chainsaw directly under his chest. It would have made a perfect sternotomy scar had he fallen another 10 inches. He looked up, surprised and somewhat exhilarated: “That was close!” My brother leaned over to me and said, “That’s why Dad doesn’t worry about retirement. He’s not going to have one.” My brother and I never touched the chainsaw. Apparently we were not ready.

About 10 or 15 years ago I needed to trim some branches off a pear tree in my front yard. My neighbor, friend and former partner graciously offered to help. He came down the street with his chainsaw. Not wanting to give up all the fun, he did the cutting himself. I wondered again when I would be deemed worthy of operating a chainsaw.

My office staff hearing me repeatedly bemoan my fate of never being allowed to operate a chainsaw knew they had to take action. At Christmas, they gifted me with my own chainsaw. This is what they gave me (pictured below).

I hope to get a Carhartt jacket this year.

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