Out on a limb

Published 10:31 pm Friday, December 28, 2018

By Ruffin Alphin

It was a simple request. My wife asked me to cut off the end of a large limb on our backyard pecan tree to reduce the amount of shade over our vegetable garden. Tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers want light from our galactic star in order to flourish. No problem.

Extending the aluminum ladder up enough to reach the limb, I cautiously ascended, carrying my already started chainsaw. We had purchased it recently for situations like this. I know what some of you are anticipating: “This poor dumb preacher will not have enough sense to cut off the correct side of the limb.” I find that insulting. I grew up on a farm. For heaven’s sake, I know how to trim a tree.

Email newsletter signup

And yet, I did not foresee how heavy the severed end would be nor subsequently how much the remaining limb would rise. Without warning, the top of my ladder now rested on nothing, which is a problem if you are standing on it fifteen feet up clutching a still running chainsaw. Instinctively I seized the limb with my free hand and gathering up all my collective wisdom of fifty years I made a quick decision—I yelled “Help, help … anybody!” At that point I let go the chainsaw.

Hanging from a limb involuntarily is a humbling experience, particularly if you are a grown man and have been for some time. All the decisions that bring about such a predicament are not ones generally admired. But when you are in the middle of it, preserving your dignity is not an immediate goal.

Providentially, my neighbor two houses down was in his yard working at the time and, hearing my cry, he came running. Extending the ladder hurriedly, he raised it up beside me on the limb. I got on it, caught my breath, thanked God and descended.

Of course my neighbor wanted to know how I managed to get myself in such a pickle.

We talked for some time as I offered an explanation.

“Not sure what I would have done if you had not been out in your yard,” I gushed gratefully.

“Glad I could be of help. However, I recommend you keep your day job.”

For years after that, at parties and community gatherings, we would laugh as Jim explained how he saved my life one Saturday afternoon. Not my pride, my life.


Ruffin Alphin is the pastor at Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at ruffrocket@wrpca.org.