Hey, What About Your Legs?

Hey, What About Your Legs

“Take care of your legs… you only have two of them!”

I often see people running their chainsaws… whether in their yard, removing a downed tree or in the bush cutting some firewood. And, I am often surprised to see how little safety is gear used, sometimes not even a pair of safety glasses.

Let’s go back to about 1972, or so. I was just 10 years old then and my Grampa had me using the old McCullough chainsaw, the one where you had to keep the bar lubed by pushing in the manual oiler. Seems like a century ago. Looking back now, I realize that there was a certain element missing from my early chainsaw days – safety. I don’t ever recall even wearing safety glasses, never mind a helmet and face shield, ear protection, gloves, boots or… leg protection.

I guess it was a different time back then. If something needed to be cut, you grabbed the “power saw” and cut it. We used to fell big-ass cedar trees, cut them up and then take them to the sawmill where the sawyer would cut some beautiful lumber for us, most of which was used in the upstairs bedrooms of the summer camp. I can still smell it, when in mind, I walk up those stairs. Me, along with my life-long, ultra-rugged pals, Ross and Tommy, when we were just 11 – 12 years old, used to work for “Grampa” for one dollar per hour, but we also managed to get lunch thrown in (we were shrewd negotiators.) A couple of hotdogs with Black Strap Molasses on the side was our noon meal.

Okay, I guess I’m bullshitting you on the Black Strap. My Grampa would often talk about back in the “old days” when he used to go out and work in the bush for one dollar a DAY, never mind one dollar per hour. For lunch, he would tell us, he and his crew would get one plate of beans and some Black Strap. For years, Ross, Tommy and I never knew what the hell Black Strap was until about ten years ago I saw a can of the goddam stuff at the Superstore in Thunder Bay.

A revelation…

I just had to call Ross and Tommy right away. “You will NOT believe what I saw at the grocery store today!” And, then of course, we just had to talk about the “old days” but only this time, it was us telling the stories.

Okay, back to the chainsaw part of this story. There is some obvious safety gear that people use while operating a saw, including eye protection (probably the most commonly used), ear protection, gloves and maybe a face shield, for some. But, what about your legs? I rarely see anyone using leg protection. Leg injuries are more common that you might think. If you happen to “screw up” like I did about ten years ago, while not wearing leg protection, you’ll either be very lucky or very sorry. And, very cut up, which goes along with the “very sorry” part. Me? I was lucky… very lucky.

I was back in the bush, cutting a trail into a new treestand that I had set up and yep, I was a little careless to say the least. I let the saw just touch my left thigh, ever so slightly. Here’s the “very lucky” part… the saw cut through my jeans, cut through my Long Johns, but did not touch my skin. I was quite a ways from home too, so had I given myself a good one, I would have been in big trouble. I could have bled out right then and there. I realized all this as soon as I checked to see if I had actually shit my pants or not. So… did I, you wonder? That’s none of your goddam business!

The very next day, I went into the Stihl Chainsaw dealer in Thunder Bay and bought a pair of “safety pants” as I was calling them. The guy at the store informed me of the correct name, “Protective Chaps.” Call them what you want, but for Christ sake, make sure you wear them, even for a quick job. If you are wearing a pair of chaps and you “screw up” there is a very good chance you’ll walk away, uninjured. There is no guarantee however, but in most cases, the material in the chaps will jam up the chain and stop it immediately and with any luck, it will not have penetrated the inside of the chaps, which I call the “meat side.”

Now that we’re back on the topic of guys cutting their legs with a chainsaw, my buddy Tommy, when he was about 13 or 14, cut his leg with the “old McCullough” while he and I were cutting some firewood for my uncle. My mom administered the first aid, which was simply some iodine and a big-ass bandage. Why did Tommy not need more treatment than that? Well, for one, he was lucky. It was a minor cut. And, two, because he’s rugged!

For about $100 – $125 you could save your legs from a wicked injury and believe me, it happens fast. Don’t be an arrogant asshole like I was and have yourself convinced that you are “very careful” and you’ve been “running a chainsaw since I was a kid.”

Well, I’ve been running a chainsaw since I was 10 years old. And, when I was 43, I nearly cut my goddam leg off.

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