Bent

The aches and pains about which I complained recently only grew worse this past week of work. That’s partly because Iʼm so old, I suppose, but also because of a glitch in the system that only grew worse as time went on.

The glitch first occurred two weeks ago Thursday, my first few attempts to set traps on my own, just a brief week into the process (and literally a week after I first got guided through the procedure in the field, my introduction to the actual job). My partner had headed home (she lives in the area of our work, at a hotel, for the four ten-hour working days and then returns to her own abode and her husband for the long weekends), and I decided to fill out my full day by attempting to place traps in two open (untrapped) squares in the area we had worked that week.

I hopped in my GOV and headed south. I had a bad time locating any ash trees where our maps indicated formerly trapped ashes were (this problem is relatively common: my partner usually considers whether the county or the local farmers have taken down the stuff in the ditches since last year, although I donʼt always see any signs of such activity). I passed by a farm where a lovely ornamental ash stood in their yard (we are permitted to ask about trapping trees in peopleʼs yards but generally go for ashes along the roadside/right-of-way) and found a scrubby little tree atop a ditch on the fenceline (and I hoped in my inexperience this small thing might actually be an ash and not a walnut nor a boxelder nor a hackberry nor an elm* nor a…). I parked, put on the GOVʼs flashers, and got out and around to the back end of the Trailbalzer to assemble the trap (that last step being a series of tasks at which I am genuinely becoming proficient, although I still hesitated and worked to get everything just right that day). Then I pulled out my pole and carted both the assembled trap and the pole up the ditchside to the lonely little tree atop the rise on the Iowa prairie.

Thatʼs when the huge wind blasted me and tried to tear the trap from my hands. Still I persisted, slipped the trap over the hook atop the pole, and attempted to extend the pole upward at the tree with the windblown trap flying sideways. Three times the trap blew away off the hook and I had to fetch it, the last being the critical incident. In the big wind, the pole, fully extended, flexed and arced like a bow as I struggled to raise it and the trap aloft. On this third failure, the pole actually bent in the gale (of probably only 25 mph, sadly). I realized the small arc had become permanent when I tried to slide the various elements back within each other to collapse the pole and replace it in the GOV. The collapsing process had become a struggle as I had to force the now slightly bent pole pieces into each other.

And thatʼs how I had to work for the next week and the next (this past week) — pulling and twisting mightily just to extend each of the aluminum tubes and pushing with full strength to force them back within each other once a trap had been placed. The same extreme exertion extending the pole and returning it to its collapsed condition for every trap we placed (and I am not even whining about the issues that arise getting a trap up into a tree and successfully hooked over a branch, particularly challenging with messy, excessively branching ash trees**). And we have been trapping about twenty-five trees each day.

So my pathetic muscles and my ancient joints grew more and more sore with each exhausting day. Also my aspirin and ibuprofen intake increased (failingly) in direct proportion to the excruciating pains.

Worse, whenever I had to fully extend the pole (and with the trees that my partner remembered trapping previously, thatʼs about one in five over the past few weeks) not only was that a demanding chore in itself, but if the wind was blowing briskly or hard, the pole bent more, so the effort of collapsing and extending grew worse daily. Until yesterday when it grew impossible. After a particularly high branch (the lowest we could even reach with the pole on that particular tree), I couldnʼt push back or pull out the top extension more than about eighteen inches at all after about 10:00 AM. I took to removing the hook on the end just to get the pole to fit in her GOV for the trip to the next site.

Fortunately, after a whining phone call to my boss, we arranged for me to pick up a different pole from our supervisory tree tech out of the Quad Cities. Now I (along with both my aching, painful [possibly “tennis”] elbows — and wrists and knuckles and…) am looking forward to doing some less difficult trapping next week.

* …And we have actually had local residents point out to us that we have placed an emerald ash borer trap in a walnut and an elm (and weʼre pretty sure that more than thrice the previously trapped “ash” identified by its colored spot on our maps was probably a walnut).

** One sign for me that we have truly found an ash is to observe that there is far too much “junk” growing helter-skelter among the possible branches to make  hanging the trap at all easy. Walnuts are much “cleaner” trees.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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