As the weather cools, I start running low on excuses.

A few months back, a palo verde tree dropped dead. It’s still there. I just couldn’t deal with it the day it did a belly flop near the house. It was 115 degrees out. September heralded in highs of 100 degrees. Still too hot for me.

It’s no secret why I never took up roofing as an occupation.

Now the mornings are cooling down. Cooler days will follow.

My excuses are melting away.

The tree in question wasn’t huge. It’s not like some 100-year-old maple tree came crashing down on the house. It was your average scruffy foothills palo verde. Maybe a palo verde root borer got to it. Poor tree.

I can see it from my driveway, lying there — roots and all. I need to give it a decent send-off. I’ll just fire up the old chainsaw. Well, it’s not that old. I bought it a few months ago. Cindy didn’t think it was a good idea. She’s worried something might happen.

Maybe she’s thinking of the time she drove me to urgent care after I sliced my thumb with a box cutter. There’s a lot of blood in a thumb.

Sure, she can make a case. Maybe I’m not the guy to be swinging around a whirring chainsaw. But there’s a big difference here. Cindy was holding the box when my thumb got in the way. She won’t be holding down the palo verde tree, though I haven’t asked her yet.

I’ll have to handle this one myself. It’s still early. I’ll have all fall, winter and early spring to tackle the job. February sounds good.

I have other work to tend to. Work I put off in the heat of the summer. The palo verde tree is near the top of a small wash that runs along the east side of our house. The javelina made themselves comfortable there.

They slept there. They raised families there. And, most notably, they pooped there. And the coyotes supplied them with newspapers stolen off our driveway. I think the spot was more of a time-share. Javelina left the lights on for the coyotes.

I began cleanup in March. By April, the excuses started to pile up. The thermometer was nuzzling 100. Too hot. I’d have to wait until October. That sounded about right. In April, October seemed a world away. But time keeps on ticking. Now the javelina poop calls, as does the scrubby tree the javelina settled under.

In my earlier cleanup, I scooped up poop with a flat shovel. I cut away tree limbs, dead and living. I even gave my then-new chainsaw a spin. I used it for about 10 minutes, then went back to the owner’s manual.

I learned a big lesson. It’s a good idea to read a chainsaw manual beforehand. It’s not the toaster manual. I have a pretty good idea how my new toaster works. Chainsaw? I thought I had that down, too.

But something wasn’t right. So I flipped through a few pages. And there it was: Do not cut with the end of the chainsaw. Otherwise, you’ll need more than a few stitches at urgent care.

Let’s be clear. I’m not advising anyone on how to use a chainsaw. Read the directions. As a matter of fact, I’m beginning to wonder why my toaster burns everything. Maybe I should check the manual.

The chainsaw is battery-operated. The same battery powers a weed whacker and a hedge trimmer. I’ll soon have to put them to work, too. I have a creosote in the backyard that’s out of control.

It’s right next to a patch of grass I planted for the dogs. Benji in particular likes to roll around in it. He lies on his back and scratches it on the Bermuda. He used to do this in the dirt. So the grass was a big improvement.

Whatever water the grass doesn’t use, the creosote gladly soaks up. And now it’s the size of an English garden hedge. It needs trimming. I can do that, as long as I get to it before the beginning of summer. Sometime around Easter.

As it so happens, I already trimmed one side. Now I just have to pick up and dispose of the branches lying in a heap by the grass. I’m waiting for a sign, like a daytime high of 75.

My comfort zone is something of a moving target. Anything above 110? Definitely out. The low 100s? It won’t trigger a heat advisory. But let’s face it, still hot. The 90s? Won’t fry an egg, but it’ll go bad pretty fast. The 80s? The desert sun makes everything seem hotter. And cloudy days are kind of depressing.

The 70s are just right. Maybe too nice to waste on back-breaking labor.

Excuses, excuses.


Reach contributing writer Bill Coates at