17160 Stephen Kalyta: Chainsaw Humility

“To realize pride can get you killed is clearly obvious to the guys with the 110 stitches”

Article by 17160 Stephen Kalyta

Perhaps one of the more stressful CMC experiences beyond recruit camp had to be BOTC, a.k.a. BMOQ. It was also one of the most fulfilling experiences because it tested your ability to think on your feet when faced with unfamiliar challenges. As I reflect back nearly 30 years later on the tasks I was required to complete and my associated state of mind (fear, regret, anxiety and stubborn resolve), it seems BOTC is a landscape from which we continue to extract insights through parallel life experience.

In my case, that parallel life experience is harvesting wood from my 86 acre lot in northern Ontario. If there was ever a more inviting environment that attracts chaos outside of warfare, it would have to be chainsaw operations. I even believe the humility that is derived from thinking you got it all figured out is its own life lesson.

BOTC was like that too, a life lesson of monumental importance because of its inherent lack of predictability. Reality rolls the die across your well-played plans and the chainsaw is now wedged in a tree, its cold as hell, and you are not quite sure how to dislodge it without having the tree come down on you through some quirky gravity-defying twist. Suddenly Professor Gravel’s (Proton) lessons in Physics at CMR concerning 9.8 m/s squared is resoundingly relevant under the bite of the blade. In fact, the CDC reports an average of 36,000 injuries requiring about 110 stitches per patient, annually. Of course, that assumes you survived the tree dropping, to begin with, which claims more lives than folks in Transport on reported accidents per 100,000. Even when I was in the best shape of my life, I could not outrun a falling tree. Now I play chess with the tree instead.

Ultimately BOTC/BMOQ will not make me a better DIY logger. But what it will do is teach you how to remain focused at the task at hand. When frustration seems appropriate in the face of unwinding chaos and serious consequences are as real a constant as gravity, it is with great humility I say, “Maybe the one on the ground already is a safer bet.” To challenge ourselves in an unfamiliar environment and prevail is cathartic. So too is engaging in and successfully closing on a task that is within your perceived span of control. The risk is mitigated by a combination of a sharp mind and complete surrendering of the ego. To realize pride can get you killed is clearly obvious to the guys with the 110 stitches. Sometimes wisdom gained through great scars is neither the easy or right path.