When we first moved from Manhattan to this town near Boston, the maple tree in the park across the street was a spectacular sight in the fall, with its profusion of red, orange, and yellow leaves. My kids used to jump in piles of its leaves, and as recently as six weeks ago I hid plastic eggs among its roots and small, foil-wrapped chocolates in crevices in its bark for our annual East egg hunt. People who have lived on this street all their lives say that they can’t remember a time that this tree wasn’t here.
But now it must come down. Its branches are dying and snapping off and it’s become dangerous, especially to small children who play in the sandbox. And, last year, it produced probably only a quarter of the leaves it used to have. This morning, two men arrived to cut it down.
I knew it would soon be on the chopping block but still, it’s sad when we lose a gorgeous tree that holds so much history.
There is something so beautiful about trees like the beech, oak, chestnut, and maple that have been allowed to grow to their full height, unimpeded by other trees or buildings. This maple was in that rare category of long-lived, well-tended, majestic trees, but it had reached the end.
The men pulled up with two large vehicles, the first a cherry picker with a 76-foot arm, pulling a wood chipper; the second a truck with huge “grabber” claws and a large metal container at the back. I love doing and seeing work involving animals, trees, gardens, stone walls, and farms, so I stayed to watch.
First, the man in the cherry picker, whom I learned was named Dana, used a chainsaw to cut the smaller branches around the sides of the tree, probably to be able to move more easily around it, then went to work on to the crown. After cutting these branches, he carefully tossed them onto the street where his colleague Dave inserted them into the wood chipper.
Then, Dana moved on to cutting logs from the large branches.
He balanced each log across the top of the cherry picker, then lowered them to the ground to create a pile of logs too big for the wood chipper.
When the logs became too large to handle by cutting all the way through in one try, he cut a notch in the front of the trunk, and a notch at the back. Then he tied one part of a rope to the tree below his cuts, and another part of the rope to the tree above the cuts, using only one, rather than multiple, knots. The level of expertise in cutting the notches and tying the rope was quite amazing to watch.
Then he sawed all the way through the trunk. When the cut portion of the trunk fell, it was held in midair by the rope. He released the log from the rope, positioned it across the cherry picker, and lowered it to the pile of logs at the base of the tree.
Then he used the grabber to clear away all of the logs and put them in the back of the truck.
When there was only about 10 feet of the massive trunk left, Dana cut around it about halfway up, then used the grabber to move the top portion into the truck. Then he cut around the last piece of the tree.
And that was the end of our tree.
. . . except for the stump which will be ground up using a different machine.
Tomorrow, a replacement tree is scheduled to arrive, along with a second sugar maple to be planted just to the west of it, and so we’ll return to A Tree Grows in Brookline.