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Possumhaw: Three guys and a chainsaw


Shannon Bardwell



Shirley, my walking partner, and I sat on the back steps watching Sam, Charles and Ralph cut down 30-foot cedar trees close to the house. These fellows are your quintessential DIY (do it yourself) guys. They showed up with chainsaws, ladders, pole saws, iron wedges, ropes, ratchet ties, a couple of pickup trucks and a tractor. 


The first tree fell with perfect precision. I hollered from the porch, "Y'all ought to consider renting yourselves out. You could call yourselves three guys and a chainsaw." 


Cutting trees is dangerous work. I knew I was in trouble when Sam asked if he could teach me to use a chainsaw. "I'm much better at bringing ham sandwiches and Gatorade," I said. 


All three tree cutters prepared for safety by choosing a cool day, morning hours, and had fluids and snacks on hand.  


Though this Mississippi summer has been a cool one, we still have August to go. We've known at least three people that have suffered some degree of heat exhaustion bordering on heatstroke. A quick check on the Internet provided the following information. 


Heat exhaustion can be caused by either water depletion or salt depletion. The symptoms are similar and include: fainting, fatigue, headache, pale skin, profuse sweating; rapid heartbeat, even nausea, vomiting, dizziness and loss of consciousness.  


When the temperature ranges above 90 degrees and the humidity is above 60 percent, the body's natural ability to cool itself by sweating is hindered significantly. If working in full sunshine the heat index can be even higher.  


Heatstroke is a medical emergency. Heatstroke occurs when the body's core temperature reaches 105 degrees. At that point the central nervous system is affected and the body ceases to sweat despite the heat. The skin is red, hot and dry. There may be behavioral changes, confusion, even seizures. 


If heat exhaustion occurs, measures should be taken to lower the body's temperature. If heatstroke is suspected, 911 should be called. In the meantime, cool the person down by removing unnecessary clothing and fanning air. Apply wet towels or even use water from a garden hose. If ice packs are available, pack the person's armpits, groin, neck and back. 


Before we were aware of the symptoms of heat illnesses Sam came in at 9 a.m. one day from cutting tree limbs. He was exhausted, red-faced and feeling ill. Though he was working in shade, it was hot and the air was still. He showered but could not get cool. He lay down and slept for two hours.  


Another friend made it back to her porch before "falling asleep." Her husband found her and hosed her down with a garden hose. She recovered quickly and asked, "Are you taking me to the hospital?" 


"Not looking like that I'm not." 


They were joking because, although weak, she recovered quickly; her husband knew just what to do.  


The three guys and a chainsaw prepared well. They drank fluids, snacked, took breaks and successfully completed their mission well before noon. 



Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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