Which fork leads to a grisly end?

Most of us have come to a key fork in the road at some time during our lives, some more than others.

I have come to such a fork, whether to choose one path or another, nearly 700,000 times.

I am a permanently forked man, handed the option of choosing one of two vastly different paths every working day.

How different would my life be now had I merely made one different decision?

So many nights have been spent tossing and turning, eyes wide open, wondering this thing.

I daresay most rational thinkers feel exactly the same way.

I was reminded of this last week when I was in the Ida Valley, normally an area of supreme beauty, isolation and quiet.

Well, perhaps quiet is slight hyperbole, given that at night, beneath the majestic southern skies, there is an ominous rustling of hedgehogs, possums, bunnies, rats as big as cats, ferrets and, once, a turkey.

Or by day, there are barking dogs, the yawling moo of a distant cow, and the insane cawing of magpies.


What a worthless and dangerous bird the magpie is, in spring especially.

Protecting their young?


They just want to attack humans.

The magpie always goes for the head, and once there, the eye is like the last oyster on the plate.

Why did Denis Glover immortalise this awful bird, no more useful to life and the food chain than the loathesome wasp?

Glover would have done far more good to both himself and the nation by writing a poem called I Will Never Write About Magpies As Long As I Live Because They Are Crap Birds.

So there I was in the comparative quiet of the Ida Valley, large Mexican sun hat and dark glasses hopefully inuring me from magpie attack, when the air was split in two by the sound of a chainsaw.

A chainsaw that sounded like 10 chainsaws.

At war with each other.

Some fellow with a truck was yorking down trees for firewood.

I discovered chainsaws at a fairly early age.

There was something inexplicably magnificent about an electric chainsaw; it was not just the brilliantly vivid orange colour or the mysterious romantic names they went under, Ryobi, Husqvarna, it was more the crushing finality of their work.

No chainsawed tree can ever be made better, no arborist is that good. It is something about blades whirring at high speed.

The most horrific film I have ever seen came during woodwork classes at primary school, Mr Thomas, an industrial documentary made before reality television or Photoshop, hence surely real, where, in emphasising the importance of safety, a man without a safety guard had his finger sliced right off by a whirring blade, blood squirting everywhere, finger rolling across the table.

We were boys, we were as tough as tungsten, but some of us screamed.

And some of us have never forgotten that image.

But the sawing movie we all know is, of course, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Was this scary because it was shot in black and white, almost believably real, using hand-held cameras, as if an actual event had been stumbled upon while walking in the woods?

No it wasn't.

Was it because the chainsaw murderers were short on teeth and had clearly failed all their school exams, therefore eminently capable of sadism and life-ending sawing?


It was because they used chainsaws.

I intended asking Santa for an electric chainsaw one Christmas as I sat on his knee at Pixietown (now in Toitu) at the DIC store (now the Art Gallery) but I backed down at the last minute and asked for a chocolate fish.

That was a fork in the road and I played it safe, as I have played most forks in the road ever since. What sort of a man would I have grown into had I owned an electric chainsaw at the age of 7?

There is an answer to that, but by hokey, I am not bringing it to the table.

Let us leave chainsaws to the firewoodless farmhands of the Maniototo.

 Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.

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