The winds that came through Houston on the night Ike came ashore on the Galveston beaches were faster than I have ever driven a car. Hmmm.. okay, well I am ashamed. Once I did drive home from college and watched the needle of the Pontiac I was driving inch to and past the 100 mph mark. Sitting here looking at the aftermath of Ike, I marvel why someone in their right mind would voluntarily hurdle through space at that speed. This past week nature provided the stark reality of what100 mph really is.
That ole Ike, so wide he covered a third of the gulf, roared across the city into the early morning and brought a surge of water that once it seaped back out the next day, would flush the ground and water and bayous of Houston. The hurricane winds, that normally would have lost a lot of their power once inland, stayed strong and dangerous right through the heart of Houston, marking territory as it blew through northern suburbs. Ike blew the roofs off of buildings, topped out pines, and uprooted trees that started as seedlings before I was born, all in a swath that covered our big, wide city. And when Ike’s northern winds barreled through and around cars and threaded his way through the houses on our street, he felled a big, leafy oak. The wind tore it right out of the clay and it toppled, its 60 foot tree tips gracefully broaching the house behind, the bulk of the tree body balanced on the power lines that powered our house. In the moment it fell, the weight cracked and swayed the two telephone polls to the east, the strength of their creosoted zylem and phloem compromised and they leaned, frozen like dominoes poised in mid-fall.
Over the next few days I watched as guys in white hard hats zipped up in white, big trucks, and as they furiously noted on clipboards, jumped equally rapidly back into their trucks, heads shaking in obvious recognition of how big a job this repair would be. It was clear; ridding the line of the tree was going to be difficult. The day came when the crew showed up, a group of twenty, robed in long sleeves, few whites and more orange hard hated with belts that dangled ropes and small saws. They seemed to take a lot of time, talking on phones and laying out cones, the white hats more frantic, the orange ones bored and relaxed, laying on lawns and lunching early. And then the moment came.
The back yard was filled with sounds of Spanish words barked loud enough to be heard and for sure not misunderstood, as the morning long strategy was implemented. I took a seat, sheltered by an overhanging roof and watched amazed. Light ropes, weighted just right on their thrown ends, rocketed repeatedly to the top branches of standing trees that stood a good thirty feet from the felled oak. Over and over the lines sailed upwards, like gravity didn’t matter, and then gracefully looped over a branch, only to be snatched back until finally three were in place. Soon two men were hoisting themselves up, harnessed around the bulk of their bodies, using the heavier rope that had replaced the thin, lithe weighted one, inching up their respective tree. The smallest man, farthest from me, reached his destination first, swinging his legs and arching his body to land on the thinnest top branch of the felled tree that would hold him. He called for a chain saw and with it in one hand he began tackling the oak, sawing it off in pieces as he balanced and navigated the tree top. A rain of sawdust marked how fast his small saw cut through the branches. By this time the man nearest me was within a hand’s length from the top of a giant pine tree. A bit heavier than the first man, I had watched as he strained with the weight of pulling his body through the height of the tree, resting at times and flexing his back; I was close enough to see him close his eyes and marshal the physical capability and the mental fortitude. I watched in amazement when he reached the top and began working like the ground underneath him wasn’t fifty feet away and I wondered at his part in the plan. He trimmed and cut away branches that seemed irrelevant and once he got them, he positioned the thickest rope they had around the broadest trunk of that tree way up there. One end of it was tied double to the fallen oak and like some crazy, flimy erector set, the other end was up and over that tall pine, trailed down and manned by four of the heaviest men on the crew. It dawned on me then, the elegance of their idea; they had made a rope crane. Within minutes not only one, but two rope cranes extended to the old fallen oak and with it’s tree top trimmed, an assault began on the trunk. Most of the men watched, as each chunk of widest oak came away from the uprooted bottom, the lone man manning the saw more careful and watchful with each cut he made. As he worked, the bulk of the tree trunk slid slowly down the power lines and in one moment, slid off them entirely, thudding quietly to the ground, guided by the men on each end of their rope crane.
I must admit, I hadn’t thought about the strain that the men might have felt, they seemed so competent, but it was obvious as the tenseness in their shoulders and voices eased and the barked orders that now sifted through the twenty men were softened by smiles and the certain glow of respect that they for each other. They had done a good job. They had each done their job and all was safe.
Neighbors had gathered and watched in spectator positions, few as good as mine and we did what all neighbors do when it was over, we gathered to talk about what we had just witnessed. The old man down the street, his face kind and gentle, a hard working man who drives a big truck for a living, hadn’t said much. When most of the others had trailed off or left and he and I stood alone, he looked at me and his eyes reflected knowledge that doesn’t come from schooling so much as it does in living. “Those guys sure knew what they were doing, didn’t they? You have to understand a lot about how things work, about tying knots and making angles and such.”
The crew of twenty had gathered all their ropes and their cones and the white hats had come back and checked this tree of their list and were dictating to the men from the trees about the next job they would tackle. I went back to my chair under the porch and I thought about being grateful. I said a prayer for where that crew would go next. And in the way that God has of teaching me, I thanked God that the world is made of a people who are willing to do their best for someone else.
Quote of the day:
“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” William Foster
Bible verse of the Day
But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.
1 Thessalonians 4:9 KJV