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Never Easy…Always Worth It

by Dawna | Published December 24, 2020

The year 2020 was for sure a year of change and growth, and we accepted it as best we could. 

Stepping away from my full-time career of 19 years from massage therapy due to Covid was happening, so I volunteered to work with our TreeHugger crew for the summer. Why Not? I had some previous experience working with Denny 30+ years ago. But, I quickly realized things were much different back then, in many ways. I wasn’t 48, 30 years ago and I wasn’t married to my boss or the mother of my coworker. A new groundsman under the watchful eye and often spicy, spirited, and specific instructions for my safety and theirs, my husband and son trained this middle-aged woman to be a part of the crew. 

I once again learned to run the ropes with big wood and land limbs in tight backyards, and it was exciting, invaluable to our crew, and impressive to our customers. How can a woman handle such heavy wood? Thank you, GRCs!

Over the summer, that crazy cool lowering device and I become great companions and coworkers. With my husband in the bucket truck and our son on the mini skid feeding the chipper, we became a solid three-member crew—a team.

 

 

It wasn’t long before my newfound confidence in doing hard things had me ready to embrace the learning curve of operating the mini skid and feeding the chipper which is so much better than dragging brush, so I learned. I felt empowered and encouraged by these new skills I now had. I also wrestled with my emotions somedays as I watched women in their pretty summer dresses, walking their Labradoodles in the neighborhoods we were working. I did not feel pretty as I was dragging or limbing up brush to run thru the chipper. I was trapped on the struggle bus of my Lil baby identity crisis some days, and I was grateful that my helmet protected my face every day and other days, my identity.  

The perfume of saw gas and bar oil was my new summer scent and it was just part of the job. Denny helped me to embrace it with a hint of spring Lilac fresh from the Lilac bush.

I love it when he brings me flowers.

 We worked thru the Derecho storm together safely, serving many homeowners that were so grateful and championed us when we pulled up on their home to deal with the damage left by the storm. They were impressed that a family could accomplish what we were doing, it was clear that our crew was a family operation. We removed tree after tree from houses for weeks so homeowners could have power restored, tarp the holes in their roof and once again feel safe in their home. We did all the things. We ran the everyday grind of job site operations. We handled the masses of incoming calls, texts, and emails from the likes that no tree service was prepared for. Estimates, maintenance, insurance billing, bookwork, and lived without power for eight days ourselves in August in Iowa, translating to 90+ degrees.

 Every. Damn. Day. 

I was proud to be a part of the crew that helped so many during our Midwest Natural Disaster, Derecho storm.

It was exciting, challenging, frustrating, scary, and ultimately fulfilling in a way I did not expect. My summer with the TreeHugger Crew was worthy of my volunteer time. It was worthy of the tears I cried, and I will unashamedly confess that I threw a few short tantrums and shed a couple of tears. Mostly only on Mondays. 

It was worthy of the moments where we all may have believed that this was just too hard, it was too much to live, work, and do life together all day, every day. Only then to wake up and do it again the next day. 

It was worth watching Sean do things that would riddle most mothers with fear, not sure if I should be terrified for him or appreciate the feeling of pride as you watch your child rise and do hard things.

It was worthy of the lunch we shared every day under the shade of a tree as we talked about more tree things. That was cool. 

It was worthy of the long, hot, Iowa summer days. The sweat, the sunburns and the gigantic spider that crawled up my cheek.

It was worth my time to be on the job where the Thorny Locust trees had the biggest thorns I have ever seen and just happened to be covered in poison ivy as well; I coined that day as “Danger Day.”  Everyone survived..

Our 29-anniversary picture was just another day on the job. The work was hard in many ways but when we work together we are always winning.

It was worthy of all the times I crawled into the chip truck, otherwise known as the “potty truck,” and I was grateful to have that truck on nearly every job with the newly installed curtain just for my benefit.

It was worth my time to be present. To watch my husband and son work together, communicate, solve problems, fix everything, argue and apologize and work thru the hills and valleys of life and business together.

It was worth my time to observe what they face every day, to help me be more tuned into helping them. 

It was worthy of the toll that a job like this can take on marriage and family.

 It is a challenge deserving of an award. I would like my sticker now, thank you.)

And… I would like one for Denny and Sean too.

The fact that they took me, a middle-aged wife and mother with soft hands, literally I was a Massage Therapist and trained me to be a good groundsman. Equipted with the skills and thick skin required for the daily grind of this industry is an accomplishment that speaks to their passion and grit to get the job done. Safely and professionally. 

I still have all my fingers and toes.

Working in the tree industry is not for the weak of heart; partnering with family in business is a whole other beast. I will tell you that it is more satisfying than you can imagine if you can make it work 

 

In return, I found my courage again. And I realized that it may have been waiting for a summer just like this.

As we leaned into each day, we trusted that all the wheels on the bus would go round and round if we were willing to do the work and work as a team. And it did.

We had our most successful year ever, safely, financially and professionally. We grew in many ways.

We hired Brandon, a solid groundsman to replace my position and bought our first TreeMec. 

I am still a woman in Arborculture, and I look forward to my position with soft hands and pretty nails. And I still make them lunch, every day.

Never Easy Is Always Worth It

Dawna