On the road: work in Denver

Staff Writer
East Peoria Times-Courier
Rich and Josh have helped Bruce Schoenbein on his job at Nelson Tree Service in Colorado. Schoenbein will continue the job until next year.

Being bored and having nothing to do here in Denver has not been much of an option. I keep busy here working usually three of my weekdays for Rich and Josh Nelson, father and son, at Nelson Tree Service where we trim and remove trees mainly in Highlands Ranch and Littleton, Colo.

On my days off I head over to the parks downtown and meet up with the homeless people trying to establish relationships with them and to see how I can help to alleviate their loneliness and their physical needs a bit. Or, you can find me at Fireside Books/Coffee writing my weekly column, posting to my blog and Facebook. Hiking also gobbles up a lot of my time.

The three of us at Nelson Tree Service work great as a team. In the morning Rich and I drive the mile or so over to Josh’s home in Englewood, Colo., which he shares with his wife Emily and their 8-week-old daughter, Sierra. Then we head over to the work yard in Sheridan, Colo., and fire up the old Isuzu chip truck complete with a Mobark chipper attached.

Then it’s onto the first job of the day which can be anything from several tree removals to trims to tearing out invading vines.

On the way to the jobs while riding in the large truck cab one of us picks a very controversial theological subject and we argue the merits until we arrive at the appointed job site. I usually play the heretic as I love playing devil’s advocate, and, so I have to get the argument started with Rich and Josh usually taking the orthodox Southern Baptist or Independent Baptist line and away we go!

We pick topics like old earth v. young earth, or is the rapture actually taught in scripture, or baptism — does it save you or is it symbolic only. Is there a hell? Great issues like that.

It’s a lot of fun to say the least. We even carry the argument over into the job if it doesn’t disrupt our work.

I have known Josh since he was 11 or 12 and have worked with him on and off at Nelson Tree Service since he was 16 or so. Now he is my boss at work and my pastor at church. We have a great relationship both at work and at church.

Since 2002, during my down time as an insurance claims adjuster when I was traveling across the country working disaster operations for State Farm, Pilot Catastrophe Services and other clients, I would work for Rich helping on the ground while he climbed trees in order to trim them or remove them. So, I have worked for Rich for 12 years now. He is perhaps the best boss I have ever worked for. He is also one of the best certified arborists in the state.

In February of next year he will sell his company to a larger tree service and go on staff with them. So, this is the last year I will be able to work for Rich and Josh. And, I will miss our time as comrades and pals working together.

All three of us have scores of stories of strange customers, close calls, numerous injuries, rag tag employees who claimed to be experienced climbers and groundsmen only to reveal the fact they lied to get the job. But Rich, being the most patient boss I have ever worked for usually gives them second chances to straighten up.

The tree service industry much like the construction industry seems to suffer from having a large number of workers who have drug, alcohol and other addictions and rarely show up on time.

Some of the guys include Jim who claimed to work in an exclusive small niche in the criminal industry: robbing bank robbers of their stolen money. He didn’t last long to say the least.

Then there was Jack who claimed to be an experienced climber; but, it was obvious on his first day he had exaggerated his credentials. Jack hired me once to help him on a private project of his own: clear cutting/logging a 3 acre parcel high up in the mountains near St. Mary’s Glacier west of Denver.

He went to a local implement dealer and asked if he could test out a brand new Mobark chipper weighing 8,000 pounds.

You could chip an entire tree in this chipper. They told him he could use it for a day or two. Instead of keeping it for a couple of days he just kept it period. I helped him clear 3 acres on four weekends. Then he disappeared just when it was time to pay me.

Calling him did no good. Went to his apartment. He never opened the door. Bye bye money. I never saw a cent for all that work. I personally dragged hundreds of pine trees down a ditch and onto a gravel road to be chipped. I have never worked that hard in my life!

I worked side by side with many different guys with as many different personalities, some good, some not so good. But, they were all interesting.

There were years when we had three crews out working all day every week until winter. Now, we are one crew, just Rich, Josh and me.

And, it is so great to be working hard outside in the warm bright Colorado sunshine talking about Christ and everything that comes with serving him and looking ahead to the age to come when all of creation will be restored and all things made right. It doesn’t get any better than that!

— Submitted by Bruce Schoenbein