Tree climbers work a high rope act

Published 11:29 pm Monday, October 18, 2004

By By Arthur McLean
You can't be afraid of heights, and like any good relationship, you have to communicate well with your partner.
Those are not words of advice from Dr. Phil, but from Timmy McDaniel and Heath Hood, two of the many tree crews still at work in the Atmore area.
On a recent Thursday, McDaniel spent most of his morning about 30 ft. in the air, working a chainsaw on the high limbs of a pine tree on Main Street.
The situation was what the crew called a hazardous takedown. One pine tree was twisted and pushed partially over by Hurricane Ivan's high winds. The trunk was twisted and bent, but not broken. It's top leaned against another pine.
"The tree's like a rubber band or a slingshot," Hood said. "There's a lot of pressure in the fibers. The variables can't be determined in something like this."
McDaniel firmly planted the spikes on the sides of his boots into the second tree's trunk. A heavy-duty rope tied to keep him upright is the only thing that keeps him from falling to the ground.
The chainsaw roped to his hip starts buzzing as he begin cutting the limbs of the damaged tree, working at the focal point of thousands of pounds of stress and all of Hood's variables.
"Your focus has to be on the job," McDaniel said. "You have to keep yourself above what you're working on."
McDaniel and Hood, along with Benji Harris, Brett King and Williams Rhodes are all from Yazoo, Miss. and they've been working in trees for about 12 years. They all got their start while in high school when a company came to town needing tree climbers. It was good work for them, they said.
The men eventually formed their own companies, Three Guys in a Tree and Southern Storm Recovery.
In addition to their contract work, the men have also helped the Baptist Disaster Recovery teams doing volunteer work around the area. "We know they've done a lot of good work and we wanted to do some things for those who were deserving and needy," Hood said.
There are no real secrets to climbing and working in the tree tops, the men said. "You kind of ease into it. It's a little like driving a car at first," McDaniel said. "You can do this all your life, and you can still learn something new from someone."
The men use a combination of whistles, yells and hand signals to coordinate the activities both in the air and the ground. "It can be rewarding, and we're all outdoor types, we love being outside, so it works really well for us," Hood said.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox