In the Wake of a Theo-Cane

“Are you sure I should stand here?” my wife Katie asked me.

I wasn’t sure.

“Sure?” I said as a question.

I fired up the chainsaw. The extendable chainsaw. The tiny, electric chainsaw that wasn’t too scary for me to use. I’m scared of most tools. I’d purchased this chainsaw from Lowe’s the day before because it wasn’t very scary.

“Brrrrrrrrrrummmm!” The tiny, not very scary chainsaw said.

I cut through a limb that was holding a branch off the ground. The branch had already fallen. We were trying to clean up the debris. I didn’t think the branch was very heavy. I’m not a very smart man when it comes to chainsaws and trees, so I asked Katie to hold onto the branch as I worked.

The little chainsaw made its way through the limb. The branch collapsed backwards. Onto my wife. It rolled over her. She fell backwards. It happened in slow motion. I was too stunned to act.

Her ankle was scraped. A little sore. Her arm was bruised. Otherwise, she was fine.

Our relationship? Well, I don’t know.

“I’m sorry!” I said. “I didn’t know that would happen.”

Katie glared at me.

Just another Labor Day weekend for the Tanner family. Cleaning up the debris.


What’s a Theo-Cane?

Well, if you’d read my previous blog, you know that a Theo-Cane is what I told Samson happened in our backyard. Our orange cat is named Theo. And I told Samson that a Theo-Cane is when thousands of Theo’s rain down from the sky and scratch and meow and attack things. Samson wasn’t sure whether he should believe me or not. This, I’ve found, is the best approach to take when dealing with parents or other authority figures.

Anyway, it wasn’t a Theo-Cane that led to the debris in our backyard. It was what was left of Hurricane Ida. Limbs and branches scattered as far as the eye could see.

Thank God my friend Lori showed up. She had an extendable chainsaw. Brought it over last week. Helped me cut down a huge branch that was dangling in one of our enormous trees. And by helped me, I mean she cut the branch down herself. Her chainsaw ran out of batteries before we could finish cleaning up the debris. So I made a trip to Lowe’s, confident that a tiny chainsaw was the sort of tool I could figure out how to use.

For the most part, I was right. We hacked away at limbs. Cleaned up the debris. Stacked sticks and logs in the front yard. Katie and I were regular arborists.

Still, Katie eyed me with contempt the rest of the night. And limped a lot. I felt bad. Real bad.


I’m not the handiest of men. Pruning trees. Fixing doorknobs. Wielding hammers. These are not skills that I have. It runs in the family.

My father was a master salesmen. He could make a five-figure commission in the time it takes to say “long-term care insurance.” But he was lacking in other, more rudimentary skills. Such as pruning trees. Fixing doorknobs. Wielding hammers. Etc.

Look, I’m good at all sorts of things. Schmoozing with people. Being a teacher. Being a scholar. Writing. Improvising. Making art. These things are in my wheelhouse. Trimming the trees with my new chainsaw? We’ll get the job done, but we might lose some limbs in the process.

I think Katie has forgiven me. And, in all honesty, my new extendable chainsaw is kind of fun. I imagine that, when the spirit moves me, I’ll make my way back outside and do a number on the low-hanging limbs out there. My backyard is a forest.

Ultimately, I’ve learned a very important lesson this week. Don’t tell Katie to hold a branch that weighs as much as a mountain when I’m going at it with my chainsaw. It will not end well. For Katie. Or our marriage.

I’m 41. And still learning. Let’s leave it at that.

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