It was like Paul Bunyan meets Cirque Du Soleil and it all happened right in my front yard.
It was Saturday morning. I saw him before he reached the house, he dropped a pile of orange rope on the ground and rang the bell. I hoped it was the tree guy and not just a random stranger brandishing a chainsaw as though it were a tinker toy.
Above the high-pitched commotion of two yapping dachshunds, he introduced himself.
“Hi, I’m Bobby, the tree guy,” he said.
A tiny wave of relief rolled through me.
He wore faded jeans and a grey muscle man t-shirt, and the slight swagger in his stance contradicted the modesty in his eyes.
“Sorry I didn’t get here sooner, I had to take the chipper in. It kept overheating, smoke was coming out everywhere. I told the guys at the shop what I thought was wrong, but instead of doing what mechanics should do, and figure it out, they took my word for it.
“What were they thinking? I’m a tree guy, they’re the mechanics. Sheesh!” Bobby ranted.
I laughed and said, “You should have sent it into the shop with a woman, because the mechanics never would have taken her word for it.”
He cinched the harness belt and strapped the tree spikes on over his boots.
One step at a time he secured his foothold and walked up the tree. His powerful hands grasped the rope and he pulled himself higher and higher.
I held my breath as I watched him maneuver. Suspended in air, held only by a rope, he swung through the tree and cut off one branch after another. He worked with his ground crew to drop each one to the ground with precision and a surprising grace.
He said, “One tree down, and one to go. I’ll be back on Monday.”
Bobby returned. It was Friday, not Monday, but nonetheless true to his word he was back.
The surface of my driveway was barely visible under the tangled mass of branches and leaves.
As I approached, the ground crew of two shouted out in unison, “Customer! …… Customer!”
“Is that a warning so everyone knows not to talk bad about the customer?” I asked.
“No ma’am, it’s so we know there’s a lady present,” was the reply.
I smiled and my eyes followed the direction of their tilted heads.
Bobby was more than 30 feet in the sky, framed by the two limbs he straddled, his dark grey t-shirt blended into the backdrop of darkening clouds.
I watched through a window of two fingers as he planted one foot into the branch and stretched his body along the length of it. Bobby swung the rope repeatedly until he secured a safe position to slay the next member of the tree.
Thunder cracked and the sky exploded, announcing the end of the day but not the end of the job.
The following morning was sunny, Bobby’s mood was not. There was no swagger in his stance and his entire body drooped with defeat.
He sighed and shrugged his shoulders, “I underbid this job by a longshot, it happens, but you still gotta finish the job and finish it right,” he said.
I watched him scale the mountainous locust one last time, there was only a glimpse of his red t-shirt visible between the leaves until he emerged at the top. Outlined against a sky of white and blue he balanced on the uneven branch and began to claim the tree.
For the next seven hours the chain saw whined and whirred through limb after limb, tree parts thudded to the ground and sawdust swirled through the air like a winter flurry.
At 6:42 p.m. the work to cut the remaining twenty feet of the locust tree into manageable pieces was still underway.
Unable to stay away, I watched the day come to a close. The trunk stretched across the neighbor’s yard and my view from the patio was partly blocked by the four feet that remained standing.
The buzz of the saw whirred and puttered into silence, “Damn it!” Bobby shouted.
It was the first time he had raised his voice since he started the job. Dusk fell around us, the saw had died, the job was not complete.
I’m surprised “damn it” was all he said.
In the days that followed I tried not to lose faith that Bobby would return. I wanted to believe that he would “finish the job and finish it right.”
One month and three days after the work was scheduled to start my doorbell rang.
It was Bobby, a man of his word.