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- The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan - 1/6 -

The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan as Told in the Camps of the White Pine Lumbermen for Generations During Which Time the Loggers Have Pioneered the Way Through the North Woods From Maine to California Collected from Various Sources and Embellished for Publication

Text and Illustrations By W. B. Laughead

Published for the Amusement of our Friends by

The Red River Lumber Company Minneapolis, Westwood, Cal., Chicago, Los Angeles - San Francisco

Historical Note

The Red River Lumber Company takes its name from the Red River of the North, down which the Walkers drove their logs to Winnipeg before the railroads had reached their forest holdings in northern Minnesota. Later on they built a sawmill on the Red River at East Grand Forks, which was followed by the mills at Crookston and Akeley, Minnesota. Their last Minnesota log was cut at Akeley in 1915.

Editorial Note

The first edition of Paul Bunyan and His Big Blue Ox appeared in 1922, with ten thousand copies, followed in the same year with a printing of five thousand. Subsequent editions were printed in 1924, 1927 and 1931. Since the first edition, copies have been sent out only on request.

With this printing, January, 1934, the size of the book has been changed and the supplementary text has been revised. The stories are the same as in the preceding editions, and include material used in small booklets issued by The Red River Lumber Company in 1914 and 1916. So far as we know, this was the first appearance of the Paul Bunyan stories in print.

The student of folklore will easily distinguish the material derived from original sources from that written for the purposes of this book. It should be stated that the names of the supporting characters, including the animals, are inventions by the writer of this version. The oral chroniclers did not, in his hearing, which goes back to 1900, call any of the characters by name except Paul Bunyan himself.

Investigators have failed to establish the source or age of the first Paul Bunyan stories. One of our correspondents, a man of advanced years, wrote us in 1922 that he had heard some of the stories when a boy in his grandfather's logging camps in New York, and that they were supposed to be old at that time. A distinct Paul Bunyan legend has grown up in the oil fields, evidently originating with lumberjacks from the northern and eastern white pine camps who came to work with the drillers.

Paul Bunyan

Scholars Say He is the Only American Myth.

Paul Bunyan is the hero of lumbercamp whoppers that have been handed down for generations. These stories, never heard outside the haunts of the lumberjack until recent years, are now being collected by learned educators and literary authorities who declare that Paul Bunyan is "the only American myth."

The best authorities never recounted Paul Bunyan's exploits in narrative form. They made their statements more impressive by dropping them casually, in an off hand way, as if in reference. to actual events of common knowledge. To overawe the greenhorn in the bunkshanty, or the paper-collar stiffs and home guards in the saloons, a group of lumberjacks would remember meeting each other in the camps of Paul Bunyan. With painful accuracy they established the exact time and place, "on the Big Onion the winter of the blue snow" or "at Shot Gunderson's camp on the Tadpole the year of the sourdough drive." They elaborated on the old themes and new stories were born in lying contests where the heights of extemporaneous invention were reached.

In these conversations the lumberjack often took on the mannerisms of the French Canadian. This was apparently done without special intent and no reason for it can be given except for a similarity in the mock seriousness of their statements and the anti-climax of the bulls that were made, with the braggadocio of the habitant. Some investigators trace the origin of Paul Bunyan to Eastern Canada. Who can say?

Paul Bunyan came to Westwood, California, in 1913 at the suggestion of some of the most prominent loggers and lumbermen in the country. When the Red River Lumber Company announced their plans for opening up their forests of Sugar Pine and California White Pine, friendly advisors shook their heads and said,

"Better send for Paul Bunyan."

Apparently here was the job for a Superman, - quality-and-quantity-production on a big scale and great engineering difficulties to be overcome. Why not Paul Bunyan? This is a White Pine job and here in the High Sierras the winter snows lie deep, just like the country where Paul grew up. Here are trees that dwarf the largest "cork pine" of the Lake States and many new stunts were planned for logging, milling and manufacturing a product of supreme quality - just the job for Paul Bunyan.

The Red River people had been cutting White Pine in Minnesota for two generations; the crews that came west with them were old heads and every one knew Paul Bunyan of old. Paul had followed the White Pine from the Atlantic seaboard west to the jumping-off place in Minnesota, why not go the rest of the way?

Paul Bunyan's picture had never been published until he joined Red River and this likeness, first issued in 1914 is now the Red River trademark. It stands for the quality and service you have the right to expect from Paul Bunyan.


When and where did this mythical Hero get his start? Paul Bunyan is known by his mighty works, his antecedents and personal history are lost in doubt. You can prove that Paul logged off North Dakota and grubbed the stumps, not only by the fact that there are no traces of pine forests in that State, but by the testimony of oldtimers who saw it done. On the other hand, Paul's parentage and birth date are unknown. Like Topsy, he jes' growed.

Nobody cared to know his origin until the professors got after him. As long as he stayed around the camps his previous history was treated with the customary consideration and he was asked no questions, but when he broke into college it was all off. Then he had to have ancestors, a birthday and all sorts of vital statistics.

Now Paul is a regular myth and students of folklore make scientific research of "The Paul Bunyan Legend".

His first appearance in print was in the booklets published by The Red River Lumber Company in 1914 and 1916, these stories are reprinted in the present volume, with additions. Paul has followed the wanderings of pioneering workmen and performed new wonders in the oil fields, on big construction jobs and in the wheat fields but the stories in this book deal only with his work in the White Pine camps where he was born and raised. Care has been taken to preserve the atmosphere of the old style camps.

So now we will get on with Paul's doings and in the language of the four-horse skinner, "Let's dangle!"

Babe, the big blue ox constituted Paul Bunyan's assets and liabilities. History disagrees as to when, where and how Paul first acquired this bovine locomotive but his subsequent record is reliably established. Babe could pull anything that had two ends to it.

Babe was seven axehandles wide between the eyes according to some authorities; others equally dependable say forty-two axehandles and a plug of tobacco. Like other historical contradictions this comes from using different standards. Seven of Paul's axehandles were equal to a little more than forty-two of the ordinary kind.

When cost sheets were figured on Babe, Johnny Inkslinger found that upkeep and overhead were expensive but the charges for operation and depreciation were low and the efficiency was very high. How else could Paul have hauled logs to the landing a whole section (640 acres) at a time? He also used Babe to pull the kinks out of the crooked logging roads and it was on a job of this kind that Babe pulled a chain of three-inch links out into a straight bar.

They could never keep Babe more than one night at a camp for he would eat in one day all the feed one crew could tote to camp in a year. For a snack between meals he would eat fifty bales of hay, wire and all and six men with picaroons were kept busy picking the wire out of his teeth. Babe was a great pet and very docile as a general thing but he seemed to have a sense of humor and frequently got into mischief, He would sneak up behind a drive and drink all the water out of the river, leaving the logs high and dry. It was impossible to build an ox-sling big enough to hoist Babe off the ground for shoeing, but after they logged off Dakota there was room for Babe to lie down for this operation.

Once in a while Babe would run away and be gone all day roaming all over the Northwestern country. His tracks were so far apart that it was impossible to follow him and so deep that a man falling into one could only be hauled out with difficulty and a long rope. Once a settler and his wife and baby fell into one of these tracks and the son got out when he was fifty-seven years old and reported the accident. These tracks, today form the thousands of lakes in the "Land of the Sky-Blue Water."

Because he was so much younger than Babe and was brought to camp when a small calf, Benny was always called the Little Blue Ox although he was quite a chunk of an animal. Benny could not, or rather, would not haul as much as Babe nor was he as tractable but be could eat more.

The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan - 1/6

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