There was an echoing silence as the last note of the engine faded into the dampening surroundings. Stillness in the atmosphere caused a haze of blue smoke, produced by the work just completed, to hang in the air like an unwelcome ghost, and it added to the pungent smells of hot engines, oil, petrol and, strongest of all, tree sap.
John carefully put his precious Husquvarna chainsaw onto the stump of the tree he had just felled, and then stretched tiredly, trying to loosen some of the tightness out of his overworked muscles. With a weary sigh, he lifted the face-plate of his helmet, and looked around him to check on the position of his workmates.
They were still the right distance from him, so he felt able to pause for his lunch break without them feeling the need to tease and taunt him. He didn’t mind the teasing really, but was conscious of an ever-increasing need to get out of the game.
That was the trouble with being the oldest man in the team. It didn’t seem to matter to his fellow workers that he had started this job too many years ago, when horses were still used for tushing-out the felled timber – and that was another thing about spending so long doing the same job. The boys nowadays called tushing, extraction, so even the familiar terms of his job were dying out!
John pulled his ear-protectors out and up, letting them rest on the helmet top, and then he pulled the helmet from his sweat-soaked head, and placed it carefully beside his chainsaw. He took off his gauntlets, tucking them besides the helmet, and then rubbed at his head trying, without much hope, to get some non-existent air to cool him down a little.
That was the problem with working in the forestry in summer – you boiled yourself alive in the thick, padded gear necessary for safety. John always had a sneaking sympathy for lobsters when he donned his safety gear – he felt he knew exactly how they felt when hitting the boiling water!
With another sigh, he walked carefully over to the shaded edge of his clearing, and lifted the flap of his workbag open, to lift out the gallon container of water he’d put in there this morning. With the intense heat the water felt lukewarm and, when he opened the cap and lifted it to his mouth to drink, it had a brackish taste that was distinctly unpleasant.
With a practiced swing, John lifted the heavy container above his head, and then tilted it so that the water poured over his hair and, once thoroughly soaked, he put it down with a huff of effort, recapping it, dripping water as he did.
He knew he needed more water to drink so, with a look to check that his team mates had also stopped for a break, he stepped into the trees that surrounded him, and headed at an angle towards the stream that he knew lay north-east of his position.