Hello, Green Volunteers!
Welcome to everyone who found this link through Green Volunteers, the group which originally inspired me to go on the adventures featured in my book. I’ve just discovered ‘Sample Sunday’ and have been inspired to share a chapter with you as a result. Someone recently asked me to “share more about the tree-thing.” Well, here it is. Enjoy!
This is a sample from near the beginning of my book, ‘That Bear Ate My Pants!’, which follows my adventures in Ecuador, whilst working as a volunteer in an exotic animal refuge. At this stage the boss of the refuge, Jimmy, is showing me how to make fences that are jaguar-proof…
The Trouble With Trees
My turn at machete work was more to my liking. True, by that point I’d already lost most of the skin on my palms, but I do love sharp things. My first attempt, with a white-knuckled death grip on the handle, resulted in score one for the tree. I deployed all my strength in one brutal swing, only to find that contact with the solid wooden trunk simply redirected most of the force back up my arm. As I staggered back clutching my shoulder the machete didn’t even have the good grace to remain lodged in the tree. It clattered to the ground, a steely ring of defiance from my adversary. “Take that!” The tree said. After a bout of extreme eye-rolling Jimmy demonstrated the proper technique again. With much exaggerated looseness and a precise swing he smoothly embedded the blade three inches deep. It looked effortless, as though he knew which parts of the tree were secretly made of painted foam. To me the problem was insurmountable – the tree was clearly harder than I was. But it was a sitting target! Could I really lose a fight with an inanimate object? Even if it was bigger than me?
I swung loose and was rewarded with a bite. Not quite a Jimmy, but a start – the narrow edge of the blade had chopped clear through the bark and on into virgin wood!
And it took nearly five minutes for me to get it back out.
Score two to the tree.
By the time I chopped down my first tree, Toby and Jimmy had cut enough posts between them for the rest of the enclosure. I consoled myself with the thought that there had to be a knack to it and it had to be learnable. Jimmy might actually have been a machete in a former life, but Toby was a Londoner. He had to have picked up his skills since he got here – I couldn’t see him hacking his way through rush hour on the tube train.
Felling a mighty giant of the forest made me feel a bit guilty. A proud living entity had been callously cut down in it’s prime, hacked to pieces by an arrogant youth with a knife fetish. But it was for the greater good, I told myself. And anyway, it served it right for being so cocky.
I reclaimed the machete and wiped my blood off the handle as the others eyed my handiwork. Jimmy’s critique was a simple, two stage process; first he pointed at the log he had just finished with. It’s end was a neat point, as was the corresponding end still rooted to the ground. Slivers of wood were scattered in a rough circle around the scene. Then he guestured towards the fruits of my labour. My tree had been severed by sheer violence. The length that lay on the ground was badly wounded by cuts ranging up all sides. The rooted portion showed evidence of the same treatment. It looked like Edward Scissorhands had had an epileptic fit in front of it. Everywhere lay chunks, shards, splinters, of wood. I was ankle deep in the stuff. Between the bit that was cut and the bit that was left, there had once existed a clear foot of tree trunk that I had reduced entirely to sawdust.
By the end of the day our new enclosure was finished. We’d hauled logs, raised logs, and jumped around the bases of them like wasted druids. Finally Jimmy had shown us to an area opposite the garage where several huge rolls of wire mesh lay slowly disintegrating. With much cursing in a mixture of languages we’d dragged the mesh over to the new enclosure, unrolled it, and nailed it firmly around the posts. It was, of course, a lot more work than that, but describing it is not even as much fun as doing it was. Suffice to say the cage was built. Apart from the door; that would be tomorrow’s job.
The day had been one hell of a learning curve. In addition to turning half a tree into kindling I’d begun to understand the true meaning of the word ‘manpower’. I’d learnt that Jimmy, though tiny, was clearly made of the same stuff they built the Terminator out of. And that when people back home talked about making something with blood, sweat and tears they really had no idea. None.
I wasn’t going to let it defeat me though. Today had been a triumph! I had taken all the punishment thrown my way and asked for more. I’d dug, chopped and nailed harder than I’d thought possible. Work here was obviously going to be painful, but I could handle that. I was going to prove it. I would become a MAN!
The upwelling of pride carried me all the way back to the volunteer house and lasted right up until I put my hands into a bowl of hot, soapy water.
END (of Chapter 5)
“That Bear Ate My Pants!” is available now from the Amazon Kindle bookstore. It costs just $2.99 (US) or £2.99 (UK), and the beginning of the book can be downloaded as a FREE sample from either of the Amazon sales pages. In case you’d like to check it out (and I’d love you to do that!) here they are:
“That Bear Ate My Pants!” on Amazon.com (for USA and everywhere other than the UK)
“That Bear Ate My Pants!” on Amazon.co.uk (for those of us lucky enough to live in England. :0)
Right, that’s your lot for now! I welcome feedback of any kind in the comments – let rip people! The adventure continues…
ha ha ha, brilliant. Tony, you’re a star. Had me laughing out loud all the way through.
Cheers Heather! It wasn’t nearly as funny at the time – just sore! Hopefully you’ll enjoy the rest if you ever get chance to read it – I should be launching the book on July 1st!
Yikes! I could laugh at you over this but unfortunately, I think I would have the same results as you!
Depends… I had these results largely because I am incredibly bad at using tools. I am not strong. I’m not really clever either. I’m a bit crap really – as can be seen by my actions in the rest of the book, where I manage to get bitten, clawed, shot at, blinded and electrocuted! It was a long 3 months… :0)
I had a similar issue in Ecuador with a machete and tree, the embarressing part mine was just trimming some branches hanging over the walkway, seemed super easy, but I guess you don’t call them hardwoods for nothing. Took me 20min to cut 3 stems about 2inches in diameter (and I might be exaggerating the diameter).
When you say “exotic” animals, surely in ecuador they would be native, unless of course its a refuge with lions and giraffes 😉
Machete-ing takes a lot of getting used to, eh! Eventually I got into the ‘swing’ of things – by about the time I was leaving…
I just call it an ‘Exotic’ animal refuge to get people interested – bit if a cheat, that! Mind you, the centre did have a small population of lions by the end – originally we weren’t allowed to confiscate ’em, coz the law over there only says indigenous Ecuadorian animals can’t be kept as pets, and the lions were African of course (tho probably bred in captivity). Eventually the cops relented and a few lions came to Santa Martha – and stayed there. Can’t really release them into the Amazon…
Hope you enjoyed the excerpt!
Very neat blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Really Great.
Saw this miraculously pop up on my facebook wall through Green Volunteers, oh you famewhore!