Man vs. limb


I’ve learned a lot of things in my life, but something happened this past week that reminded me that – The more learn, the more I realize I don’t know squat. Let me explain.

A couple of weeks ago, Jilda and I took advantage of the cooler weather to go for a brisk morning walk. We decided to take the long walking path. It’s a path that I cut through a swath of our property that runs through trees that are older than me.  The limbs of oak and hickory form an awning of autumn leaves. With peak color, each step was like a Kodak Moment. The dogs were ecstatic. They chased squirrels, chipmunks, and deer. 

A thin layer of wood smoke hung in the air from a neighbor’s fireplace. This is our favorite time of year.

Winding down one side of the hollow near the barn, we came upon a small tree that had blown down a few nights before when a cold front moved through. We tried to find a way around it, but the under bush was thick and tangled with saw briers. Neither of us wanted to walk through vines with thorns as big as tiger’s teeth, so we turned and headed back the way we came.

Last Saturday, I decided to clear the downed tree from our path. Gassing up the chainsaw, I headed down to do the deed. The wind had blown several limbs and other debris in the path which I cleared. 

The top of the tree had gotten tangled in muscadine vines and was suspended about head high. In my head, I calculated the trajectory of the tree once I cut the thick vines holding it up. Apparently, my math was all wrong because when I cut the last vine the top of the tree didn’t fall in the intended direction. In fact, a limb the size of my forearm whipped back toward me at blinding speed. 

I didn’t have time to flinch before the limb whacked me across my nose and eyes. It raked the glasses from my face taking gouges of hide with it. I dropped the chainsaw and hit the ground with an uuummmpppphhhh! 

It took a second for me to get my breath back and then my nose started “bleeding like a stuck hog.” 

Picking up the chainsaw with one hand and holding my nose with the other, I headed home. I had enough foresight to stop at the backyard hosepipe and wash the blood from my hands and nose before walking inside. Jilda still almost had a coronary.

After cleaning the cuts on my nose, we were able to survey the damage. My nose was not broken, and the cuts were not as deep as I feared. With our first aid kit, I was able to fix my face. It did look as though I’d gone ten rounds with Joe Frasier, but I was thankful it wasn’t worse. I’d dodged a bullet – too bad I couldn’t have dodged that limb.


Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Goes On is available on You can contact him via email at