The Axemen Come and Make Bids

I’ve been getting estimates for leveling some trees on our forested property to let in more light and reduce the weeks of labor involved in raking or blowing leaves about, which goes on from September to February. The tree guys are to a man keen, highly intelligent men who are doing hard physical labor and enjoy it. They run their own businesses and make good livings. They are clear-eyed, optimistic entrepreneurs with firm, dry handshakes, and their estimates reflect a well-considered range of how well they are doing just now. The high bid from a chap with a full schedule is $850, two others are around $500 plus another $150 for stump removal from a young fellow who invested in machinery for this nine years ago and has never regretted it (I find his bid very tempting). I am waiting for the last bid from “a country guy,” as the guy who recommended him says, who seems to have reliability problems. But he says, “I’ll be the cheapest.” That means he needs the money more. One of the bidders seemed to feel it necessary to explain he does this business because he likes it. His grandfather urged him when he was 18 to invest the $500 he gave him for high school graduation in Wal-Mart stock. He retired once from the timber-felling business when he had eleven employees, but came back “because I was bored.” He looks like he is 35 but said he is 48 and is married to a doctor. They lives in a wealthier neighborhood than we do, yet seemed have some need to justify the shame of working with his hands to a poet and her husband, a piffling former journalist who yet wrote what Publishers Weekly called a Best Book of 2014.…

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