By: Anthony Lowndes
I have always been a hands-on person when it comes to learning new things. When it comes to chainsaws, there is no better way. When I first started with the Conservation Corps in February I was so excited to get moving right away. As most people know that is not exactly how it works with a new job, especially one that involves close proximity to hazardous tools. The first week of training passed and I had yet to hold, let alone see, a chainsaw and I was beginning to feel let down.
On Monday of the following week we met at our shop in Rochester to begin a ten-day, intensive training course at White Water State Park. I was so stoked for this was finally the time we would begin training beyond the essentials, such as team work, ethics and everyone’s favorite, paperwork.
The day started early, arriving at the shop at 6:50 a.m. I followed returning crew members to the shed to begin gathering the materials we would need. At last, behold the chest stocked with saws! Although we only carried it to the truck, the saw in my hand made the week of mundane immediately wash from my mind.
Again I was excited to start right away, but then more PowerPoints, safety and maintenance routines ensued for the next two days.
Wednesday morning came with air temps just above zero in still air but my mind was racing, for the night before we were told this would be the day. Standing next to the truck in the frozen, snow-packed parking lot I braced the saw between my knees, grasped the handle of the flywheel firmly in my right hand and pulled as hard as I could. A dead, clunky turning noise with no sign of life. So I pulled again, again and three more times, still no sign of an engine turning over. To my great relief my hard work had warmed the engine just enough and the seventh time was a success.
During this time I was so zoned in on the task of starting the saw in the frigid temperatures, I did not notice the other fifty odd members of the other crews attempting the same thing. With all the crews from Rochester, Mankato and Iowa all firing up their chainsaws at the same moment, the thrill boiled over and I couldn’t help a giddy laugh. I knew the days on hard wood bench were over and the real work, what I had come up to this crazy cold land to do, was just begging.