I defy you to find a more manly setting than a bunch of guys using a chainsaw in the middle of a swamp.
The day oozed of testosterone, as six of us set out to clear a stream on our family land. I am fairly certain, had we wanted, any of us could have immediately sprouted a ZZ Top beard on command. Even my six-year-old nephew. It was that manly.
Weekends are often spent at what I affectionately call the 100 Acre Wood. I call it that because I have fond memories of reading Christopher Robin’s adventures with Winnie the Pooh and his friends when I was a kid. I have shared those stories with my kids, and the 100 Acre Wood just seems like a magical place where adventures come alive. I also call it that because, well, it’s 100 acres.
Our goal on this particular Sunday was to clear some of the logs and debris in the stream that runs through the heart of the land, in an effort to open up the stream for smooth sailing with a canoe, which is somewhat difficult when you have a 70-foot sweet gum sprawled across the stream.
When my son and I arrived, two of my brothers-in-law were already hard at work. Jim and Keith were in their waders, chain sawing through a large tree that was blocking the path.
Parker quickly donned his waders and was in the water in no time with his cousin. My dad tended the boat, ready to ease it through as Jim and Keith cleared passages in the water.
Did you hear that? It was me, just now instantaneously growing a massive beard because I thought about the manliest of manly days.
Jim and Keith did most of the heavy lifting in the water, as I was without waders and not planning on getting in the water. Note that I said I was “not planning on getting in the water.” Like most times at the 100 Acre Wood, I ended up in the water, as trying to step from a canoe to a downed tree rarely yields success.
We cleared a few more areas and made our way to a bend in the stream where another large tree was blocking our way. We surveyed the log and we all weighed in with our opinions of what we could do.
“We could cut it right there in the middle of the stream and try and move the two halves aside.”
“We could cut it here on land, and see if we can move it that way.”
“We could wait until it rains a good bit and the water level rises a solid foot.”
I think most of us were leaning toward the last option, when my dad spoke. “We’re here. We’ve got the chain saw. Let’s cut it up.”
I looked at Jim and Keith. The Chief has spoken. Fire up the Poulan.
I took the first turn. I was standing on the land where the tree had fallen. I began to saw through the wood, the roar of the chain saw filling the swamp air, my hands tingling with the vibrations from the saw. I sawed. And I sawed. And I sawed some more. I stopped at one point, and then looked over at my brothers-in-law. They had been doing this while standing in three feet of water. They were not impressed. I sawed on. Eventually, the log gave way. Jim and I moved the large piece of lumber out of the way, figuring we could move the rest of the log across the water, clearing the way for the boat. Turns out, the remaining part of the log was roughly the weight of the Sphinx. Time for more sawing.
Keith took his spot in the water and eventually sawed through another chunk, where we were able to make a decent passageway.
We made our way a few hundred more feet, clearing out what we could as we went along. We still have more to go, and I welcome the challenge. After all, when we get out there and convene with nature and a chain saw, we become manly men doing manly things. It taps into our primal beings. It makes us who we are. I embrace our next woods clearing adventure, chain saw in hand. Granted, if some heavy rains come on and raise the water about a foot, I’d be good with that, too…
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.