Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tree Roper Guest Post

Thanks for giving me some space and voice on the blog! I’ve got some serious and some silly to share, so here goes.

First of all, the fun.
Hi. I’m Declan Parker. Twelve. Tree climber. Aaaand I’ve got one brother. Ethan. He’s younger than me and mostly a dork – but sometimes all right. Oh, and I was born with one eye, but so what?

Anyway, I guess I’m supposed to tell you something that’s not in the book, or whatever.  

Um, let’s see…Oh, I know! Dad says if you only use one arm when you climb trees, then that arm will grow longer than the other. Ha! I don’t believe him, but I think my brother Ethan does. Which is dumb, because Ethan is pretty smart, but mostly on the school side of smart, not on the “real-life” side of smart, if you know what I mean. And, anyway, you kind of need two arms to climb trees. Well, maybe not. But I bet it would be hard for a one-armed dude – or girl (there are some really good tree climbing girls!) – to climb really well. 

And, let me think, what else…oh, yeah! Climbing trees puts hair on your chest. That’s what my dad says. I’m still not sure about that. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. (Hmm, I kind of hope that’s not true, you know for the girl tree-climbers’ sakes, but, yeah, never mind that I said that. That was stupid.)

And…um...this is hard. Uh, I guess if you see my brother and he tells you that I’m afraid of spiders, he’s lying. I’m not afraid of anything. But I don’t like spiders. Which isn’t the same as being afraid of them, just so we’re clear on that.

I guess, finally, just try climbing trees – if you never have before – and have fun! Thanks! (Whew.)
Second of all, the serious.
Tree care is a dangerous occupation, but one my main character, Declan, and his father love. And although OPERATION TREE ROPER wasn’t meant to be solely about tree climbing, as I revised the book, I wanted to accurately convey the dangerous sides of climbing trees within the tree care industry. 

Not only do climbing arborists need to be careful to not injure themselves, they need to take precautions against harming persons in and near their work zone. They must be aware of any property below or nearby.

While I don’t want to delve into citing specific worker injury and death related statistics, I can tell you that while I worked as a full time arborist, I’d read shiver inducing injury and death reports in nearly every monthly professional journal I received.

It’s possible to enjoy time on the job climbing trees, but you’d better be paying attention to some safety guidelines or someone will get hurt – or something will get broken. 

Now, I’m careful, but even a careful climber can make mistakes. I’ve been shocked by secondary contact through tree branches coming into contact with a bare electrical transmission line, had my foot smashed between a swinging limb, and the tree trunk – breaking several bones – and one time, I actually cut my primary climbing line and would have fallen onto my back on a stone patio twenty feet below me if I hadn’t had a secondary tie in. 

In each one of those incidents, I made mistakes – sometimes multiple mistakes. I was lucky. Usually, mistakes in this profession are very unforgiving.

Here’s a few basic rules I tried to follow in order to help guard against accidents on my jobsites.
1.      Never cut when someone is underneath you.
2.      Tie off any branch that has a target underneath – or move the target. (A target is anything of value that could be damaged by falling debris. Birdbaths, tables, walls ,and fences are examples of common targets.)
3.      Check the area below and in the general vicinity of operations before each cut.
4.      When the area below (drop zone) is clear, communicate your intentions to workers below and wait for the all clear signal before proceeding.
5.      Only cut if you have two secure and separate tie–in locations.
6.      Work deliberately. (I did not say slowly. Deliberately and slowly are very different. Sometimes the safest operation is a quick and precise cut and drop.)

A couple other things, I tried to remember to take plenty of rest breaks to replenish my fluids and ward off cramping muscles. And, finally, I always tried to remember that not many people would get to see the views I could enjoy. So, the next time you climb a tree, soak in the view and appreciate your situation.

Be sure to check out Operation Tree Roper: An Eye Above available now!

Twelve-year-old Declan Parker was born with only one eye, but all he seems to have trouble seeing in proper perspective is himself. All he wants is for kids to see him as normal before he starts a new school in the fall. To that end, he sets out to make money helping with his dad’s tree care business.

Unfortunately, when his dad lands in the hospital after a climbing accident, Declan’s surgery hopes are wrecked. His only hope remains in a neighbor girl and her uncle, a wounded army veteran. Can they help him save his dad’s business, or will Declan’s once-courageous drive turn into total despair?

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