Have Chainsaw, Will Travel

Encouraged by the sunshine and blue skies, I pulled on a jacket and left the house to take an afternoon walk around the yard. Melting patches of ice in the driveway made each step a gamble. Not wanting to fall, I stepped off into the soggy snow covering the grass. Snowbanks pushed into tall mounds by a plow along my drive were surrounded by puddles of water.

            Suspiciously, I scolded Mother Nature, “It looks like spring, but I know better. You can’t fool me. I wasn’t born yesterday. We will still get a lot of cold weather and snow in Wisconsin before winter is over.”

Enjoying the fresh air, I walked from my driveway to the nearby bridge. Although the weather was warm this week, it looked as though we were still a long way from having the river ice break up. Just in the short distance that I could see downstream before the river curved out of sight, were at least a dozen large branches broken off trees along the water. Shaking my head, I wondered if all those branches would cause a log jam in the river during the spring melt.

 An ice storm during the winter had coated every highline wire, twig and branch with heavy sheaths of ice. The weight broke several branches from the pine trees in my yard. Until today I had only seen the damage from the living room windows. Since the afternoon was so pleasant, today I would take a closer look at the carnage.

Several broken branches had landed on top of one another along the tree line. The jumble of large, sturdy logs reminded me of a giant game of pick-up-sticks. I wondered if I could cut them up with my small battery-powered chainsaw. I doubtfully eyed the forked branches that would surely hook onto each other and make them doubly hard to saw. A tug on one of the branches showed that the branches were still frozen to the ground.

While walking back to the house, I thought about hiring someone to take care of the broken branches, and concluding, “Everyone in Central Wisconsin will be looking for skilled tree surgeons this year. Whoever does that kind of work won’t be lacking for jobs!”

My cats Sadie and Jerry greeted me when I stepped back into the house. I picked Jerry up and hugged him while Sadie rubbed back and forth against my legs. I wistfully told the kittens, “Wouldn’t it be nice if someone who burned wood to heat their house just stopped by and offered to clean up the mess for me because they wanted free wood?” Putting Jerry down, I laughed, “The wood wouldn’t be free after putting sweat equity into cutting it up and hauling it home!”

The mental picture of someone stopping by to volunteer their lumberjack services reminded me of “Have Gun, Will Travel”, an old television show from my childhood. A craggy-faced Richard Boone starred as Paladin after the 8th century knights in Charlemagne’s court.

Compared to other western shows during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, “Have Gun, Will Travel” was an outlier. The star wasn’t a rough and tough lawman, rancher, or a man with a chip on his shoulder. Paladin was a well-educated man who graduated from West Point, served as a Union Calvery officer in the Civil War and permanently lived at the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco. He spoke several languages, appreciated fine wines, quoted classic literature and was familiar with case law. When hired to investigate or settle disputes, Paladin exchanged his elegant custom-made suits for all-black Western-style clothing. Despite preferring to settle matters peacefully, that was seldom how his cases panned out. Each episode showed him using his gun to settle matters or his Kung Fu hand-to-hand fighting skills.

I told my daughter Tammie later that night, “Let me know if you ever meet someone with a business card that says, ‘Have Chainsaw, Will Travel’.”

Tammie nodded and replied, “Anyone with a business card like that would probably be named Paul and own a huge chainsaw called Babe the Blue Ox.”


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