Paul was a legendary lumberjack of early American logging days. In the North Woods men still embellish the stories about this boss logger, a fabulous giant who invented the lumber industry, dug Puget Sound, and built Niagara Falls so he could have a shower bath. One account says that Bunyan was born near the headwaters of the St. Lawrence River. Some say his parents were French-Canadians. Others say they were Scandinavians. When he was 2 weeks old he caught a full-grown grizzly with his bare hands. He fell into a river one day and caught 17 beaver in his beard, which he had from birth. At 3 months he had outgrown his parents' cabin and, because of damage he was doing to fences and barns as he played among the neighboring farms, said good-by to his parents and betook himself to a cave in the hills. There, as he grew up, he invented hunting and fishing.
All of the credit for this Tall Tale about Paul Bunyan belongs to:
The Yearbook of Agriculture
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
U.S. Government Printing Office
In the Winter of the Blue Snow, Paul found Babe, the Blue Ox, an animal that grew so big in his care that the distance between his eyes was measured by 17 ax handles, 3 cans of tomatoes, and a plug of chewing tobacco laid end to end. Among the many who have set down the lumberjack's mighty tales of Paul and Babe are James Stevens, R. D. Handy, and Glen Rounds. So big was Paul Bunyan's logging camp and so hearty his men that batter for their flapjacks was mixed in cement mixers and the griddles were greased by men who skated on them with slabs of bacon tied to their feet. Paul made Pike's Peak by piling rocks around a pike pole. He sharpened his ax on boulders rolling down mountainsides. He moved his camp 3,000 miles in a day by hitching Babe to it. When he was deepening the Mississippi, he built the Rocky Mountains with the dirt he threw to one side. In a few hours he logged off the Upside Down Mountain and, in a terrific fight with Hels Helsen, his foreman, so changed it that it became the Black Hills of South Dakota. He and his men and Babe cleared off whole townships between sunup and sunset. He cut down miles of trees to make a desert. He used young pine trees for toothpicks. He logged off the Dakotas with an an axhead tied to a rope. He made a good start toward logging off Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
The only one to get the better of Paul Bunyan, according to another legend, was an Indian chief. Grant Utley, of Cass Lake, a Minnesota community that is a rival of nearby Bemidji, whose civic-minded citizens have erected an heroic monument to Paul Bunyan, tells about Nanabushu, whom he calls "an even greater figure in the history of the Upper Midwest."
"It was Nanabushu," Mr. Utley writes, "who met Paul Bunyan about 9 miles east of Cass Lake, and gave him the first licking that he ever had, and sent him back where he belonged. For 40 days and 40 nights these two giants battled, but at last Paul, battered and bleeding, retired and left Nanabushu to rule over the million and a half acres, which later was to be called the Chippewa National Forest. Over this village hovers the spirit of Nanabushu, who long ago realized that if you take care of the forest, the forest will take care of you."
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