Monday, December 7, 2009


Although we're enjoying living in our new house, we still own the old one, and it's not easy keeping track of – or paying for – two places.

So last Saturday morning when I received a call from one of our former neighbors, telling me the wind had blown down a tree that landed in our yard, I immediately felt a sense of panic.

"Did it hit the roof?" I asked.

"I don't think so," she said.

That answer didn't calm my fears. I immediately headed over there.

I don't know why, but I thought I'd find just a big branch lying on the ground. Instead, what I found was a huge tree with a trunk about the diameter of a trash-can lid, lying across the entire yard and extending pretty far into my neighbor's yard.

And beneath the massive trunk and broken branches lay the twisted remains of what once was my fairly new chain-link fence…and my fairly old aluminum umbrella-type clothesline.

I stood there with my hands on my hips and stared at the giant redwood covering my yard. My first thought was that if we still lived there and the dogs had been out in the yard playing as usual, they would have been turned into furry pancakes. And if I had been out in the yard playing ball with them, I'd have ended up with my nose stuck in the dirt.

My second thought was how on earth I was going to get rid of the tree. Spending a lot of money for a professional to cut it up and haul it away was out of the question – that is, unless the guy didn't mind being paid in pennies from my piggy bank.

I had visions of myself with an old-fashioned saw (my body parts have specifically requested that I stay away from power tools), spending the next three or four years just trying to saw through the massive trunk.

I wasn't certain if my homeowner's insurance covered flattened fences, but just in case, I grabbed my camera and started snapping photos. I remembered someone once telling me (the last time a tree fell on our place), "Be sure to take a photo of the base of the tree to show that it's broken off and not cut smoothly, so they won't think you cut it down yourself."

That made sense. I mean, if I were, for some unknown reason, to cut down a tree in my yard, odds are it would land on someone or something not even remotely close to where I'd intended it to fall.

A few minutes later, the neighbor whose yard was underneath the top part of my tree, pulled into his driveway.

"Jeez," he said, when he got out of his truck, "When Al (another neighbor) called to tell me a big branch had fallen in my yard, I didn't realize there was still a whole tree attached to it!"

"I guess I should feel lucky," I said, sighing. "A couple feet more to the left and my roof would have had a new skylight."

As we stood talking, a guy with a chainsaw suddenly appeared, like a superhero from out of the blue. I half expected to see his cape flapping in the wind.

Within seconds, he was slicing through the tree as easily as if it were made of butter. Then another guy in a truck pulled up and said he could use the wood. He jumped out of the truck and started flinging tree chunks into the back of it.

In less than a half-hour, there was nothing left in my yard but a pile of sawdust and a fence that looked as if elephants had been playing leapfrog over it and missed.

That Monday, I called my insurance company and asked if my policy covered fence mutilation.

"Yes," the woman said. "How many linear feet of fence were destroyed?"

"I don't know," I said, "I didn't measure it."

"How long was the tree?" she asked.

"I don't know. I didn't measure it."

"How big around was the diameter?"

"I don't know. I didn't measure it. But I took pictures!"

"That's OK," she said.

I was pretty sure an adjustor would be sent over to verify the tree incident, but no one came.

So I called a fence company for an estimate for repairs. An installer arrived and measured everything. The damages came to $750.

Once I pay the deductible, I figure I'll probably end up with only about $25 to spend for repairs.

I wonder how much chicken wire I can buy for that amount.