I stayed up way too late last night talking with friends, so my morning has been a prolonged struggle to stay awake. I have made numerous self-promises that if I manage to get my work done, I can have a really special treat: an afternoon nap. As I muddled my way through some entirely uninspired text, the quiet of my mountain home gave way to what at first I assumed to be an airplane cresting the mountain.
I continued my toiled conflict between obligation and fatigue only to realize that the noise did not subside as quickly as it would if a fixed wing aircraft was passing. Also the temper and texture seemed to modulate in unusual patterns. I continued working until the racket took on an odd, almost “lawn equipment” sound, and it sounded like it was on or very near my property.
Curiosity got the better of me, so I ventured downstairs and out on the upper deck to investigate. Once I was outside where the sounds were not muffled by the walls of the house, it was obvious that the source of the disturbance was a rotary-wing aircraft, and one that was very near. I surveyed the sky and the valley floor below wondering if one of my neighbors had been hurt and in need of a medi-vac.
Suddenly the noise crescendoed and a helicopter rose from behind the near ridge across the valley. I began to wonder if it was perhaps another search and rescue operation (we have hikers go missing as a regular part of life in the Smoky Mountains), but as I watched I realized that there was a long tether hanging from below the aircraft. As it rose further, I saw that at the end of the tether was a 10 to 12 foot long, what can only be described as a hedge trimmer.
The helicopter, obviously piloted by a steady hand, was trimming away trees that were encroaching on the power lines that keep us “up landers” connected, warm, and fed. I watched with fascination as this massive clipper swung just feet from live electric wires. I kept thinking that a single gust of wind or an errant yaw of the controls would shear those power lines easier that it was lopping the limbs from the trees and what the potential consequences would be.
The noise has gone now, as the aerial arborist has moved down the other side of the ridge tracing the utility corridor across another valley and rise. I have often pondered the skill and ingenuity required to get lines to some of these home sites. My own electric line is fed from a pole on a grade so steep that it would be nearly impossible to stand there and would require rappelling ropes to get to. Yet someone dug the hole, erected a pole and strung wires on that ridge in a place too far from any road or flat land to enable even the longest truck rig to reach.
The next time the power goes out, I won’t swear quite so loud or long. Those guys have a particularly complex job.