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It was almost worth losing the pepper tree
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My neighbors have probably been wondering if I was ever going to top Christmas Eve 2010.
That’s when I decided about 2 p.m. to start cutting down a massive walnut tree in my front yard that had seen its better days. Like an idiot, the first major branch I cut fell across my driveway effectively blocking in my Ford Escape. I then spent close to five hours serenading neighbors more in the mood to hear Christmas carols than the buzz of a 13-inch electric chainsaw as I chipped away at the massive branch that would put the base diameter of many trees to shame. It was something that the guy at Bill’s Mower & Saw told me was virtually impossible to do although I’m sure that was his polite way of saying only a crazy fool would attempt to do what I did.
At any rate, my neighbors stopped wondering at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday as an efficient City of Manteca tree crew started working on an unintended tree casualty.
I had arrived home from work at 2 a.m. to find a quarter of my 70-foot plus pepper tree had split and fallen just short of a neighbor’s car parked across the street. So instead of reading before going to bed, I grabbed my pruning loppers and chipped away as much as I could to clear a path so a car could at least get by. While doing so at about 2:45 a.m., a fairly neat dressed man I had never seen before walked by stopping to ask if I needed help. I politely declined and he went on his way. And who said people walking around the streets in Manteca at 2:45 a.m. aren’t friendly.
I got as far as I could before calling the public works after-hours number which is the non-emergency police dispatch number. I apprised the dispatcher of the situation and he assured me he’d pass it on. Thirty minutes later a police officer called just after I drifted off to sleep. I met him out front and he noted city crews would need to come by to remove the tree from the sidewalk as well as the portion of the street it was still blocking.
I expected maybe to get a call back from the city at 8 a.m. or so and went back to bed. At about 4:30 a.m. my wake up music — and that of my neighbors — was provided by an efficient Johnny-on-the-spot public works tree crew. Within an hour they had removed the portion of the tree that had been blocking the sidewalk and street as well as the fairy large pile of branch trimming I had piled on the lawn. It was gone long before most of my neighbors — at least those not awakened by the noise — got up to go to work or kids walked by on their way to school.
When I got up at 8 a.m., I figured I needed to get the rest of the tree down before it did so on its own hitting either a neighbor’s car or the house. I happened to find a flyer from the Bulletin back in January from Chris’ Professional Tree Service. Over the past 23 years I’ve removed by myself 14 trees — roots and all — including three massive cherry trees. When I saw the flyer in the paper I had taken a look at the pepper tree earlier that morning thinking I might want to take it out sometime this year. I mentioned the firm to a neighbor later that day and they said he was quick, professional and reasonable. I saved the flyer while at the same time thinking taking the tree down would be a fun solo summer project.
By 9 a.m. Chris Stanley — who has operated Chris’ Professional Tree Service since 1988 — was there with his crew. Seeing that another quarter of the tree was vibrating ever so slightly, he juggled his work schedule and had his crew start on the tree. He figured seven hours and $700. It was a fair price.
So within the span of 13 hours I went from having what was one of the tallest trees on California Avenue to having no trace evidence that it ever existed.
All in all, an impressive effort by the city to keep streets safe and clear of debris and a flawless delivery of service by Chris’ Professional Tree Care.
I’ll admit part of me misses the opportunity to hack away at the tree as a project. But then again I remember that my dance with two massive root balls of blue spruces I had taken out was the finale that led to two hernia surgeries costing almost $90,000. Spending $700 was a bargain.
But then again it is always nice to know that the city on the things that count day in and day out — just like with everything from garbage collection to water flowing  that we tend to take for granted including keeping streets safe and passable — seems to always deliver.
At the same time there are private endeavors out there that strive to provide services at reasonable rates.
Being reminded of that almost makes it worth losing a tree.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.