Bob--But I was especially moved by your description of the close association of your fellow workers to the trees, their in depth knowledge and identification skills. I've never had a good understanding of how rank and file tree workers relate to trees. My association has been largely through arborists such as Will Blozan and Bart Bouricius, who are also citizen scientists. ...That doesn't give us a window into the larger world of tree work. So, it is comforting to me to hear that many ordinary, rough-hewn tree workers can develop deeper connections to trees than as just challenges to take down.
In the decade since I consciously fell in love with trees, first when I met Peter and began really seeing them, then through his association with the Georgia Arborist Association, and then via TCI (running events at various tree climbing competitions, etc.), I have met hundreds of tree workers. Granted, my view is probably biased, because the professional events I meet them at draw those with passion or at least high interest. But I still think I can corroborate your feeling that rank-and-file tree workers develop deeper connections to trees.
Some of the most passionate and deeply connected people to trees started as tree workers and became or are becoming giants in diverse fields. Of course we can start with Will and Bart. Then there's my husband, Peter, who went on to popularize tree climbing as a recreational activity and founded TCI. Then there's Tim Kovar, arguably the best instructor of recreational tree climbing (including for scientific research) in the world, who worked Peter's tree service for two years before Peter dared tell him about recreational climbing for fear of losing him (which did happen, in fact, shortly thereafter). Some of the folks you met at the 2013 Rendezvous, who are now teaching, measuring, writing -- began as tree workers.
I believe that most tree workers develop a deep connection to trees. They have to, or risk losing their humanity in the process of cutting living things. I also think that for most, their religion has taught them that all forms of life are sacred; and their work in trees brings that belief forward in a conscious way.
Just my two cents.