I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it. When one thinks of a tree service, we visualize a motorized cherry picker, a crew with protective helmets and radio communication between the elevated worker and ground crew.
Tarzan doesn't fit this genre. I had only heard stories, but the legend does exist. My husband recently hired Tarzan for some preseason tree work. As I approached the driveway, I see a crazy man suspended high in a tree with harnesses.
He’s wearing an American flag bandana and banana-colored sunglasses. A cigarette teeters from his mouth while a Husqvarna chainsaw dangles on a rope. I took it all in, the attached harnesses, bounded ropes and reinforcements, all done to ensure his safety. I felt like I was gawking at a circus performer.
He stretches and leans, holding the chainsaw with one hand. His female crew works together down below, maneuvering the ropes like a pulley. With each cut limb, they gently lower the wooden mass to the ground. Tarzan is quick to point out what hasn't been done properly, often using colorful vocabulary. The lesson is immediately taken, but with sarcasm, rolled eyes and few vocal exchanges.
I slowly approach the back patio, mouth open and eyes wide. Three hardworking women are picking up large limbs and dragging them towards the rear field. In between limb removal, they start chainsaws with one pull and cut with confidence and familiarity. Tarzan sees my disbelief.
“Hey there! Bet you've never seen a squirrel this big! Huh?”
He had me there. I can’t remember the last time I’d seen a grown man, grinning from ear to ear, suspended high in a tree with a running chainsaw and lit cigarette.
I was glued with intrigue and disbelief. The more I watched, the more questions I had. He climbed down, took off his harness, lit another cigarette and extended his hand.
We exchanged introductions. I wanted to ask his real name, but felt it would be a breach of etiquette by doing so. I quickly realized that’s how he works. He prefers his trademarked reputation.
I’d heard many stories of this man from Windsor Locks that climbs trees, often providing entertainment to observers not privy to his work ethic. I began following him around like a lost dog, trying to figure out what makes him tick, his story. Fortunately he didn’t mind my presence, often pausing to scream politically incorrect instructions to his crew.
“What’s up with the women?” I asked. I’d never seen a female crew in such a labor-intensive capacity.
“Easy! They work hard, on time and [aren’t] hung-over from the night before!”
Something tells me he's had issues with male crewmembers in the past.
Tarzan has been climbing trees for 30 years. He’s broken 105 bones, works year-round and loves what he does. He’s not intimidated by snow or cold weather. During and after the recent and unexpected storm in late October, he worked seven days a week, dawn to dusk. He personally had 12 days of no power or hot water and while his entire crew came down with pneumonia. He kept working. More than 140 voicemails went unanswered.
“I always have work. Everywhere I go, someone has a job for me.” He paused, looked away and laughed. “Even at the courthouse, the cops that pull me over! They tell me, ‘Tarzan, I got a job for you!’ It’s the best job in the world. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
His sincerity and enthusiasm is believable and unquestioned.
On the side of the house, we have a large Magnolia tree and Japanese maple. The storm severely crippled them both. I dragged him over and sympathetically showed him the damage.
“You got a pole saw?” he asked.
Although we have a number of yard toys, a pole saw has yet to join the group.
“No problem, I got one at home,” he said.
Tarzan and “his girl” jumped on the back of his Suzuki motorcycle and sped down the driveway. Within minutes, he returned, his female passenger holding a long pole saw. It was an unconventional retrieval method, but a successful solution.
He climbed the magnolia while calming my nerves and explaining each trim.
“Don’t worry. She’ll come back healthier than before. She’ll bloom for you. It’s nature’s way, so don’t fight it, work with it.”
He harnesses up again to climb yet another tree. I watched him scale a tall, mature birch. He continued to smoke, shake his hips and sing Tommy Tutone and David Bowie songs. Within four hours, Tarzan had successfully trimmed five trees.
I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t see it.
He’s honest with his answers, speaks his mind and is definitely comfortable in his own skin. He’s crass with his approach, yet charming with his delivery. Leave your normal assumptions of hired contractors and customer relations at the door (or in a tree). Tarzan is a trip and a huge treat.