CUTTING REMARKS

Bill Torrey was one of the best loggers in Vermont when he walked out of the woods and onto the storytelling stage. He is a master storyteller, having won four NPR Moth StorySlams and performed on the Moth MainStage. Bill’s writing transforms that unique talent into words on the page of his compelling and often bizarre experiences.

He began his logging career as an untested sixteen-year old and evolved into a skillful steward of the woods and waters. In today’s high-tech world there is little appeal for an occupation whose basic proficiencies – some essential to stay alive – are learned by the seat of your pants. A profession where one mistake can land you in the hospital or the morgue.                            

Bill Torrey’s Cutting Remarks- Forty Years in the Forest speaks with ironic wit and heart to the truth of what a life felling timber in the Great North Woods demands and his love of the forest that compelled him to do it. As the narrative progresses, Torrey evolves a sophisticated personal ethos of forest stewardship, management, and the significance of trees in our lives and in our environment. Cutting Remarks transcends its own drama to become a quiet story as much about trees and a way of living with and working among them as about logging, machinery, and danger… and therein lies its contrapuntal beauty. I loved this book.          -Bill Schubart, author of Lila & Theron

From Chapter 6 – We were a couple wagon races up the mountain on some very steep terrain. There was a lot of exposed ledge as we neared the top. Glenn pointed out a monster of a yellow birch up on a wicked steep hillside above where we stood. The crown was near dead and chunks were broken off it. What was left looked more like a dead stub than a solid tree. “Make sure you cut that old birch up there” he said as he pointed out the old monarch.

            “You think it’s any good?” I asked.

            “I’ll bet you it’s solid and just as red as a fox’s tail inside. You cut it and we’ll find out.” He walked down the skid road following Pinto driving out a hitch.

            I climbed up to the birch and eyeballed it. It was a huge tree. Not real tall as it was so high on the mountain its height was stunted by the altitude, but it’s girth was substantial. I’d guess more than four-feet at the stump where I’d be cutting it. There wasn’t much for footing because it was so steep and rocky. I pawed and stomped some foot holds in the little bit of duff and debris around it in the area I needed to stand to work. I cut a felling notch out of the downhill face as that was the only direction this behemoth was going. I knew my chainsaw’s bar might come up short of what I needed in order to cut my hinge-wood to the proper width. But then I thought, “this tree is probably rotten in the middle. The center hinge-wood won’t amount to a fart in a whirl wind. I’ll be lucky if it doesn’t start falling before I’m halfway through the back-cut.”

            And I thought wrong. I was watching my sawdust because it can tell a person if the tree being cut is solid or not. I could see dark red shavings, not mealy dust. Even when I had the saw cutting in the center. Or at least as far into the center as my twenty-inch bar would allow. The tree was solid. When I came around to my side of the back-cut, with my saw buried to the hilt and screaming full throttle, the old birch started to go. I’d cut all I could reach and knew it was time to leave. I turned to scramble sideways along the bank to get away and I paused to look back.                                                                                                                                           I hadn’t cut enough of the hinge-wood! It was holding too much! Any other species of tree would’ve barber-chaired, but not this mountain-tough, stringy old yellow birch. The whole weight of it was hanging on the steep downhill side of the shallow-rooted tree, growing on ledge. The huge 35-foot diameter root ball of the birch came rising up out of the ground, starting on the uphill side, as the whole shooting match started pitching down off the mountain. With me on it!

            The last thing a logger will do is abandon his chainsaw. They cost a considerable amount of money. And regardless of what some might claim, we also become sentimentally attached to them. A smooth running, easy starting, low-maintenance chainsaw becomes a loyal friend. It takes a matter of grave consequences to make a guy cut and run on his saw.

            But I was in trouble. Two handed trouble. I dropped Old Blister and made a leaping dive off the root ball as things became vertical. I wasn’t sure what I was diving for, but I figured anywhere else would be a darn sight better than where I was………..

Bill can be hired for storytelling events that bring these and many other of his adventures to life. He can be reached at 802-434-4293 and by sending him an e-mail through this web-site in the box to the right.