Press Play to start audio

July 02, 2013


Christine Byl

Dirt Work: An Education

Produced by

Christine Byl spent more than ten years clearing trails and building rock walls as a seasonal worker in Glacier National and Denali National Parks. She talks with Phoebe Judge about her new book, Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods. Here's an excerpt: 

How to fell a tree: first, size it up. Thump the trunk, listen for rot’s dull thud. Scan the upper half for lean, for twin-tops, widow-makers, a strong wind visible in branches. Check your escape routes, safety zones. Then take your saw in both hands. The chain should be sharp, yesterday’s work. Flip choke on for a cold start. Pull cord until engine fires, one (choke off), two, three, times, don’t flood. Feather trigger, throttle to full rev, listen – high wine, low idle. Choose your lay, set your sights. Begin face cut: bottom cut, one-third the tree’s width. Check sights again. Match slant cut to face cut, protect your holding wood. Aim for smooth edges, exact angles.

Take a deep breath. Look up again. Braches feather the sky, clouds, a squirrel high up plans its exit. Any wind?


"Blue Eyes" by Mika

You might also like…

More from Remembering The Mann Gulch Fire of 1949

Daily Story Update

Get daily updates and special announcements about The Story.

Produced by

WUNC North Carolina Public Radio 91.5 logo