FLORA VISTA — The trees that once lined the dirt road where the children sat in the shade while waiting for the bus are now stumps.
"All the kids are up in arms, and I'm mad as hell," said Deborah Kinney, who lives on County Road 3390 in Flora Vista. "Where the hell are our kids going to play? There's not a damn tree left on the whole road. These kids might form an army."
Kinney returned home in the snow on Dec. 5 to a work crew from Asplundh Tree Expert Co. felling the trees on the county road. Deadra Hughes, another woman who lives on the road, said Kinney was crying and cursing at the workers.
Farmington Electric Utility System contracts with Asplundh to send crews to trim and, when necessary, cut down trees, weeds and brush threatening power lines, Maintenance Superintendent Ward Allies said.
He said it's essential to maintaining power. Trees cause half of all power outages in San Juan County, the crew's coverage area. Falling trees snap telephone pole cross arms. Branches short-circuit power when they land on the lines.
Squirrels and crows will cut power also to homes, he said, but it is the trees that the crews have control over.
Under all power lines, the utility has right-of-ways and easements, which gives its crews permission to trim and cut. But before cutting, Allies said, the crews try to get permission.
Asplundh General Foreman Will Wood said his company has hundreds of signed consent forms on file. And they call and visit in person before cutting to try to receive permission, he said. But even when they don't get permission, they still have to cut, Allies said.
"You know, people get upset, yelling, saying all kinds of things," Allies said. "You don't want the power down in the middle of the football game, right?"
Almost all property owners, though, are friendly and understand, Wood said.
"They're pretty professional," Flora Vista resident Jimmy Ketron said.
Sometimes, there's confusion as to when the crew's will arrive, he said, but he doesn't mind. He said he understands the importance of their work.
Since Allies became superintendent in January, he has instituted a new cutting policy. Five four-man or six three-man crews who cut year round now flood specific areas, he said, instead of scattering their efforts about the county.
"What we do is cut, clear and move on. Cut, clear and move on. Cut, clear and move on," he said.
Crews also now cut trees shorter, Allies said. When they arrive, they cut low enough so they don't have to return for three to five years, he said. It's expensive to return often to the same site, he said.
And most trees grow at different rates, so crews cut at different heights, he said. A pine grows slowly in the desert, but elms grow more rapidly.
"Not everybody can understand. Not everybody is happy," he said. "If we can trim, we trim. But we may take it down to a stump."
Now, more than a week since Kinney lost her road's trees, she is indifferent.
"There's not much you can do about it," she said.
But there are other trees and other upset people, she said, like her daughter, 14-year-old Justis Hughs.
Hughs has grown up on the dirt road. It's her home, she said.
"It makes me really angry. The fact that they came onto our road and destroyed it like that, because it will take years for them to come back."