I was at my friend’s place a few weeks back giving them a hand with a few things. They had a tree that needed to be cut down and I headed over to grab the axe. I’ve never seen them move so fast in my life, they got to the axe before me and said, “Ah, I think after what happened before, maybe I’ll do the chopping”.
So let me set the record straight, “what happened before” is an incident from nearly 25 years ago. I didn’t go on an axe-wielding spree or anything like that. In fact, I was merely chopping down another tree and it didn’t exactly go to plan.
So, let me elaborate…
In my early 20s, I was a police officer stationed in a small regional town. They had barracks accommodation for unmarried officers which was basically just an old house next to the police station. Rent was next to nothing and because there was one spotlight that illuminated the driveway to the watchhouse, the police force had to pick up the tab for our electricity. It was a good time living there with three other single police officers.
Outside our kitchen window, however, there was a tall tree, the genus of which I have no idea. I had no issue with the tree other than the fact that it blocked the sun coming in during winter, in autumn the leaves filled the gutters, and during the summer there was a constant risk that it would come down in a cyclone smashing our accommodation.
One night, we had one of many barracks parties. I drank a fair bit and at some point, in the night we were throwing a tomahawk at a target because that is sensible drunken behaviour. When we finished this without injury we went to walk back inside, I passed the tree and struck it with the tomahawk. It stuck in it, and I thought I will leave it there until tomorrow.
The next morning, slightly hungover and on a day off I decided I would do something useful. When I walked outside, I saw the tomahawk still in the tree and decided it was time for the tree to come down.
I went to the hardware store to buy a full-size axe (later I discovered that the next-door neighbour had a chainsaw that he would have willingly lent to me). Fully embracing my lumber jack purchase I returned to the barracks to survey how I would bring down this tree. I had been a boy scout, I held an undergraduate degree as an engineer, I could use an axe and I could work this out.
I calculated that chopping the tree at this certain spot would ensure that it did not land on the barracks, on the satellite dish in the backyard connected to the cable TV, on the three cars parked in the yard, or on the power lines that ran near the barracks. This tree was coming down in that spot where I allowed 1 degree of variance on either side.
I started chopping. Turns out I had underestimated the strength of the timber that had held up this tree its entire life. It was hard going, but fortunately, I was young and fit. What I was not, however, was a hard man. After an hour or two, blisters began to form on my hands, and then as I continued the hands would get a little bit bloody.
During the day, my fellow housemates would wander past and have a talk. Curious to know what I was doing and seeking reassurance that I wouldn’t leave them homeless or damage their cars. I clearly came off as confident because they accepted my reassurances without question and went on their way.
It was mid-afternoon and I had been swinging that axe for some hours now. Then I swung, it hit, and I heard the creak of this mighty oak (NOTE: I doubt it was an oak) start to move. I ran to the spot that I calculated would be the opposite of where it would fall.
Then I realised it was moving in a different direction.
I can still see it falling through the air, in slow motion. I watched, I stopped breathing, the leaves and branches taunting me as they tumbled to the ground…
Slicing through the powerline on its way down.
I stood there for a second, with the words “oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck” on repeat in my head. The Detective Sergeant’s office was less than 50 feet from where I stood, I knew that he’d know what to do. I dropped the axe and ran. I burst into his office and yelled, “I need your help”.
He looked up from his desk, surveying me for what felt like a minute but, was only a few seconds before he spoke. “Let me see”, he started, “You’ve been swinging an axe, your hands are covered in blood, and you race in here asking for my help. Whatever you say next is not going to be good”. In response, I blurted out, “I’ve taken down the powerline”.
Laugher filled the room, but I wasn’t in the mood for it. My tone changed from worried to angry and I yelled, “What the fuck do I do?” He gave me clear and direct instructions which I needed. I was to call the electricity company and he would tell the officer in charge of the station (I was never his favourite, and this certainly wasn’t going to change that).
Within fifteen minutes the power company was there, they thought it was hilarious as well. They had power reconnected within an hour. The boss of the station didn’t really go to town on me, we had discussed getting that tree cut down, so I saved some money for the station.
In the end, I was left with a reputation for someone not to be trusted with an axe, oh and a $3,000 bill from the power company.
I hope you enjoyed this tale. It is sadly, true.
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About the Creator
Amateur storyteller, LEGO fanatic, leader, ex-Detective and human. All sorts of stories: some funny, some sad, some a little risqué all of them told from the heart.
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