If you live in rural America, and part of your land includes forest, you need to have a working chain saw at all times. Even if you do not heat with wood, you could easily end up with a tree down over your driveway and in rural America, finding someone to remove it, is a challenge.
For those of you who have been reading my blog for the past couple of years, you know that my wife and I have been living in the forest on land we have owned for 28 years, since mid-March, to stay as safe as possible from the pandemic. You may have also read my post from just over 2 years ago, Rural Chain Saw Repair, which one of my good friends claims may be the only blog post on chain saw repair, but I have not researched that to see if he is right.
As I have been using my chain saw a lot since the temperatures dropped and we heat with a wood stove, and I thinned my spruce and pine forest to allow the trees to grow better, and to give friends Christmas trees, it was not surprising that my chain saw let me know that it was time for repair, as I could no longer tighten the chain. If you use a chain saw, you know that if you cannot tighten your chain, you cannot use your saw.
Before seeking more expert repair, I took off the cover of my chain saw, to try to figure out why the chain would not tighten. I discovered the problem was a bent screw, which I could not fix myself, so I knew I needed help. Fortunately, I knew the best man for the job.
The last time I had my chain saw repaired, I was never given a name or an address or phone number, just a sign on a state highway to look for. I did not want to drive about 1/2 an hour each way if the chain saw repairman was not there, or did not think he could fix my saw. So, as I thought about how to contact this unnamed repairman, I remembered that in my post from 2 years ago, I had taken this photo.
Unless your eyes are much better than mine, you will not be able to read the phone number on his door. But, technology has its advantages and I blew up the photo so I could read the number and call him. After describing the problem, he said he thought he could fix it, even though he does not generally stock parts for Husqvarna saws. He said that stopping by at 3 PM would work for him. I asked him to remind me if he was on Hwy. 22, and he corrected me. He is on Hwy. 21, west of Coloma.
I was running about a half an hour late and this close to the winter solstice in central Wisconsin, the sun was not far over the horizon, making it so hard for me to see his sign, that I passed it by.
Once I realized I had driven by his place, I called him again, and once again, he did not give me his address. Rather, he told me that he was just past Coloma Farms, which I remembered passing. Driving away from the sun, I easily saw his sign and drove in about 1/4 mile to his shop-just another one of his farm outbuildings. As the sign on his door instructs, I called him only to have him slide open the wooden door to let me in.
His shop has no insulation and it was about 25 degrees outside, but he kept the building warm with a propane heater. It would turn on every few minutes to blast us with warm air.
He was having a busy afternoon, as his cell phone (an old flip phone) kept ringing. As he answered one of those calls, I finally learned that his name is Wally. At first, Wally hoped to straighten my bent screw, but that was unsuccessful. He then tried to find a replacement screw in his fairly impressive collection of screws, but he could not find one that was both the right size and the right thread to fit into the bolt on my saw. More than once, he looked at me and said, “I don’t know….” But I maintained faith that this wizened old man would not give up without a fight.
After more than a half an hour of fruitless effort, he then wondered out loud if he had a spare chain saw that was the same model as mine that he could salvage for parts. If you read my post about my first encounter with Wally, then you will recall that the last time I took my saw to him for repair, he swapped out my cover with the broken bar tightening pin, for the cover on the same model of saw that he had in salvage. The light bulb went on for both of us as we realized that if he had the same old saw, with my saw’s original cover, he could replace the cover once again, with a properly working tightening screw, and just leave the pin from his old saw, which is what sheared off the last time. So that is what he did.
When I called him earlier in the day to see if he could fix my saw, I asked him if I should bring my whole saw, or just my cover with the bent screw. He told me to bring my whole saw and it is a good thing I did. When he put the cover back on my saw, he noticed that the chain had stretched quite a bit with use. I asked him if he had a new one I could buy from him, and he said, “that’s not necessary, I’ll just take out a link.” So, that is what he spent the next 15 minutes doing.
As he finished up putting my shortened chain back on my saw, and demonstrating to me that it was now running smoothly, I asked him how many saws he thinks he has repaired. He said he had no idea, but he told me that he has been repairing chain saws for over 40 years. I did not ask him whether his primary income comes from the small herd of beef cattle he raises, or his chain saw repair, but I suspect both sources of income are important for him to be able to pay his bills.
Once he was done, I asked him how much I owed him. Just like last time, he charged me $20, which was definitely a bargain, as he certainly spent at least an hour fixing my saw. He advised me that the next time my chain stretches, it will be time for a new sprocket on my saw. You can be sure that I will have Wally replace my sprocket when the time comes.
Now that my wife and I have been living in rural Wisconsin for almost a year, during perhaps the most tumultuous year of anyone’s lifetime, between the pandemic, and the Presidential election, it has become very clear to me, that contrary to what urban pundits may have to say about rural America, the simple truth is that if you want to understand rural America, you need to live there. I am quite confident that few, if any, urban politicians have never encountered someone like Wally, but if they want rural votes, they need to understand how rural chain saw repair happens.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive, effective systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.