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Neighboring tree is a friend and foe

We are both blessed and cursed that the most significant tree to grow along our area of the Allegheny River south of Warren is rooted between the riverside porch of our cabin and the 10-foot slope leading down to the river.

As I have noted before, this linden, or basswood, apparently planted many years ago as a decorative tree, decided that the river environment was much to its liking and proceeded to grow to its present height with a canopy that rises above those of its neighboring, and almost equally massive, red oaks.

But we have paid a significant price for having this intrusive tree, that provides much needed shade for our cabin, rise just outside our riverfront window and sliding glass door.

Twice branches falling from this tree could well have killed me, with one instance being such a narrow escape that I still cannot believe that I survived unscathed. (I have cited these episodes before, but further mention of them seems appropriate in the context of a new problem stemming from this tree.)

Sometime earlier this year, possibly during a winter storm, a large branch from high up on the tree struck our newly installed steel roof, leaving a large puncture hole. We were unaware that this had taken place as the old shingle roof which remained under the steel roof was not seriously damaged and there was no leakage.

But the puncture of the steel roof still posed a serious problem as water from storms could eventually soak the entire section of old roof, allowing water to leak into the cabin below.

Due to the height and slope of the roof, the damage was not visible from the ground, except at some distance. But my son noticed it when he climbed a ladder to block an apparent varmint hole in the cabin’s siding located just below the hole in the roof.

We have been in contact with a roofer to have the damaged steel roof panel replaced, and hopefully the roofer will soon accomplish this. But getting such work done in the Tidioute area has proved not too easy.

We know that our insurance on the cabin will not cover the cost of repairing the roof. “We don’t cover the cost of repairs caused by falling objects,” I was told some time ago by a spokesperson at the Warren office of our insurer. This would seem to include everything from meteorites to (as in our case) tree limbs.

The damage to the steel roof illustrates the danger posed when a tall tree looms above a residence, although tall trees are of course a source of danger in any location.

I well recall that years ago, I and other members of a surveying crew I was with had to wear aluminum hard hats when working in the El Dorado National Forest of California due to the danger posed by falling pine cones.

Of the two instances cited above, by far the most serious occurred one summer afternoon when a limb from the linden tree fell behind me as I was pulling my kayak up from the river.

The limb, about 15 feet long, struck the 14-foot kayak along almost its entire length and missed my head by inches.

If I had paused from my efforts even for a second or two just before the limb fell, I doubt that I would have survived.

The crash of the falling limb was so loud that my neighbor, Ron Morocetti, ran over to see what had happened. He was as amazed as I was that I had survived unscathed.

The incident proved to me that happenstance can be lethal.

In another rare coincidence, I was at the cabin when a large rotten limb off the linden which had posed an obvious safety risk since it loomed above the cabin’s small porch, fell with a loud crash just after I had walked in from the porch.

The limb struck the edge of the cabin’s roof, and spit in two. One portion impaled itself in the ground just off the porch, and the second portion fell along a cement block flight of steps leading down to the river.

A Tidioute tree trimmer was to have removed the limb the following day. When informed that the limb had fallen, he remarked, “Well, you just saved yourself 300 bucks.”

When we first purchased our property on the river, there was a second massive tree on the top of the ridge above the river.

But very early one summer morning a loud cracking noise and a following loud crash awakened me as this huge red oak fell into the river.

Its lower trunk had rotted out, and the weight of its foliage above, which angled out over the river and had been moistened by the morning dew, led to the tree splitting off at its base.

I should have known that the tree was in trouble, as a pileated woodpecker had been making frequent stops at the tree, hammering holes in its lower trunk in search of the grubs that lived there in the rotten wood.

Cleaning up the tree by a crew wielding chainsaws was expensive, and large sections of the trunk had to be left in the river as they were too heavy to be moved.

A neighbor who heated his cabin with wood hauled away several of the logs.

Robert Stanger has lived seasonally for over 40 years along the Allegheny River and has the stories to tell about it.

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