Coming to Grumpy's house on Halloween? Photo: Judy Bender

I can understand why some folks own chainsaws. They are crazy, violent agents of Satan bent on causing pain and destruction. (You know who I'm talking about.) But chainsaws scare the pickles out of the Grump. Perhaps that's because it's the only garden tool that can instantly remove an extremity when you're not even trying.

Yet, if you have a yard and garden, there will be times when a chainsaw seems to be the only viable solution to a problem. Grumpy and his adoring wife, Judy, recently rented a chainsaw to remove some gigantic, loathsome privet trees from her sister's yard. Privet deserves any death it gets. I just hoped it's demise wouldn't include mine.

We walked into our local equipment rental place to pick up our weapon of mass destruction. The guy behind the counter pulled off the plastic protective sheath from the blade. Surprise! The chainsaw had no teeth. I'm not entirely certain, but had we arrived at the job with a toothless chainsaw, I think I would have died there waiting for the blade to gum its way through the trunks.

So after installing a new set of flesh-ripping teeth on this demon, the guy gave us the mandatory 15-second primer on how to operate it. "This here's the throttle, this here's the choke, here's where you pour in the gas and oil, and this is the number for the county coroner." Check.

He also showed me the chainsaw's kick-back protector, a device that if the snarling blade kicked back towards me after hitting a knot, would protect my head after cutting off Judy's. Safety first.

So we headed on down to her sister's place in quest for the hated privets. Despite my terror in using it, I am happy to report that the saw made quick work of them and we both retained our arms and legs. That said, the experience left Grumpy with some important instructions to pass on to readers in case you want to remove a despised tree without involving the paramedics.

First, always wear eye protection, such as plastic goggles, because that blade will hurl out slivers of wood in all directions. It's very hard to know where to cut after you've been blinded.

Second, wear earplugs too. You won't believe how loud a chainsaw is when you're holding one that's working. It's like wearing a metal trash can over your head and having people pound it with hammers on every side. Guns N' Roses could be playing right behind you and you'd never notice. Except for maybe the weed smoke.

Third, if the engine is cold, you'll need to pull out the choke before yanking on the cord in order to crank the machine. If you're lucky, the saw will start on your first try. Unfortunately, no one in recorded history has ever been this lucky. Entire generations of families have passed away at the cord, each one suffering heart failure after pulling for weeks or months. My advice -- if the chainsaw doesn't start within 10 pulls, push in the choke, put down the saw, and walk away for five minutes so that medics can insert an IV and otherwise attend to you. Then try it all again, provided you've left a will with your attorney and put your affairs in order.

Finally, I don't care if your electric knife is on the fritz and the Thanksgiving turkey weighs 60 pounds, do not let cousin Earl carve the bird with a chainsaw! Nothing good will come of it.