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What do hernias, fear of electrocution & gardening have in common?
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Pain is relative.

And in my case it is a kissing cousin.

I was reminded of that again on Wednesday.

I had removed a 300-pound plus root ball of a gigantic crab apple tree over the weekend. On Wednesday I was digging up another tree to move it to different location and replace it with one of three flowering plum trees I bought at Silverado Nursery in Ripon.

I know. It’s January. Most people don’t work in their yards. But I can’t wait until spring for the normal start of the grow and kill season so named because in many parts of Manteca including you grow a smorgasbord for gophers and moles. And then, if you are successful, you get to kill the gophers and moles in order to prevent your yard from looking like Swiss cheese.

I decided to dig the hole deeper when I came across a big leftover root from the crab apple. There is no way I was going to leave that in place nor was I going to dig a 10-foot by 10-foot hole like I did to get rid of the root ball. So I decided to use an ax in a rather right confined space. I knew I would pay a price for it later.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. I had been extremely careful taking out the root ball because I wasn’t sure where the sewer or water lines were or the electrical line that ran to the garage.

I was down about four feet when I finally was able to get the root to start moving. I took the ax and cut off some smaller roots on one side and it was still wouldn’t come up. What I did next was shear stupidity. Every swing of the ax I take, I clear away dirt as much as I can from a root. This time I figured I’d just swing it down real quick and be done with it.

I almost finished myself off in the process. The second the ax made contact with the ground I heard an unfamiliar sound and saw two segments of electrical wire come flying up through the dirt. My heart stopped.

Fortunately it was just from the quick realization I did a bonehead move and not from being shocked. The loosely buried electrical line was to an old shed I had torn down after moving in. The electrician who replaced my service last year was pretty sure that the line was no longer live after he got through. I got confirmation Wednesday.

Gardening for me - as any of my neighbors past and present can tell you - is a full-contact sport.

When I took out two blue spruce evergreens to make room for 36 rose bushes at my previous house, I had two big root balls that had been cut away from the roots to get out of fairly big holes I had dug.  Two different yard service guys said they’d roll them out and dispose of them for $100. Each time, they failed to show up. One told me after thinking about it that it was too much work.

So I went ahead and removed them by myself. I saved $100 but it ended up costing my insurance company and me $85,000 over the course of the next 14 months for two separate hernia operations.

I’ve had other injuries from gardening that most people wouldn’t consider normal.

None were as expensive as the hernias and none was quite as scary as Wednesday.

This column is the opinion of managing 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.