Taking down an 84 foot piece of history that stood hollow for 30 years
It stood for lord knows how long, watching over a neighborhood, generations of kids walked past daily to school, hundreds of cars passed daily on s. Main street. As a young arborist I had condemned it due to advanced decay over 30 years ago however the current owner at that time chose to do nothing despite the completely hollow trunk and the view of daylight through the base.
My concerns were that it was 84 ft high, surrounded by high voltage lines, pedestrians, main street traffic and several homes. 30 plus years had passed since my assessment and I watched it every morning and every evening, it withstood the August 5 2000 storm that even though the wind only blew for 15 minutes ravaged janesville and left many in the city without power for days on end without waver or giving up 1 limb to that storm.When the phone rang in early may this year never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed it would be in regards to " the general".
The middle aged man (several years my junior) on the other end had retired recently from the California highway patrol (chips) and relocated to the beautiful 3 story historic home overlooking the rock river, he impressed me as a competent man, a man that as an officer if he showed up and if you needed his help everything would be ok. I shared my concerns and the limited history I knew of the general, the history discovered later would entertain the entire crew but we'll get to that. I knew landing this job was imperative in that any of the lesser experienced companies I compete with would have been several days tackling this project and would have looked like heroes , the exposure would be priceless.
The day finally came, it was a hot day nearly unbearable, the microwave like heat that penetrates all clothing and burns to the bone. Alliant Energy was already onsite upon our arrival to remove 1 wire servicing 3 homes, my friend fish ( the Alliant tech ) asked as always " 3 hrs" and chuckled, he has over the years been a bit surprised by the team's efficiency.
With the wire down the trucks all found their required positions, the 60 ft bucket truck looked less than required against this behemoth but with a young exceptionally talented man afraid of nothing in operating it and a crane operator who never says uncle the process began .
The first several picks where all of 30 feet and appeared to grow fast as they approached the ground the team on the ground was prepared to disassemble it rapidly and safely and by the time it had disappeared into the chipper and into the back of the truck another one would follow.
Within 2 hours the majority of it was on the ground all that was left was the hollow trunk to cut down, As the skilled ground men begin to cut it down he was convinced he had hit something iron however upon further inspection nothing had grown into the hollow trunk when the log was lifted and lowered to the ground it became clear that it was nothing short of a miracle that it had stood all those years without failing.
Upon stump removal it became apparent that concrete or cavity work had been done to This tree the amazing thing was it was the work of a man that my father had been employed By some 60 plus years ago, His name was Charles Bennett and he at the time was the leading tree care company in the city. he would often perform what was known as cavity work and add concrete in an attempt to strengthen and allow trees to callous over to seal up their wounds.(since writing this it has been brought to my attention by a very knowledgeable lady and more importantly friend that I shared a career with that I should mention that filling trees with concrete is akin to blood letting and is not encouraged, thank you d.n.r forestry legend Marianne buenzow )Sadly Mr. Bennett's work does not treat stumper teeth well when you hit it at 3600 rpm. it was at that point we started to excavate the interior of the stump in an attempt to avoid any more damaging obstacles.
Upon this excavation we found many things more concrete, more steel rod, Coke bottles, Sun drop, 7 up, beer bottles all glass all 1950 or earlier and even A Winnie the pooh ball that had been tossed in many years ago it lodged against one side of the tree and at that point the interior of the tree proceeded to grow around and hold the ball prisoner in the great hollow vault. Shortly after that was one metal roller skate that fully encapsulated a child shoe probably a size 4, i wondered about a little boy or little girl whose roller skate got thrown into there rendering the pair useless ?
You see the interesting thing is that Mr. Bennett had retired sometime in the early 1960s so the concrete work was probably done in the fifties if not the late forties. Sealing this time capsule for another 70 or so years, prior to my father leaving mr. Bennett as an employee mr. Bennett assured my father his company would never get off the ground and if it did it would never last ,I guess 63 years is and okay run..
I will try to post pictures of some of the items as they become available until then if you're coming down South' main going East just beyond Racine street if you see a 15 by 15 patch of soil near a drive think of the general that once stood head and shoulders above everything in that neighborhood for all those years. Our America!!!!