Saturday, April 8, 2017

Paul Bunyan, U.P. Lumberjack

Dear George,
Growing up on the Menominee River, we were well aware of the lore of the nineteenth century logging industry in our region.  The best-known legends, of course, were about Paul Bunyan who roamed Northern Michigan and Wisconsin.  Here are some of the Paul Bunyan tales, set to poetry.

The Ballad of Paul Bunyan

The most famous figure in my home town
Was Paul Bunyan, the North’s lumberjack
He dug the Menominee River
He could level ten pines with one whack

Paul Bunyan was born in Menominee County
He weighed over two hundred pounds 
It took eight storks to deliver him
Six wet-nurses made daily rounds

Each time baby Paul rolled over in his sleep
He would flatten an acre of trees
His parents built a raft in the midst of Green Bay
But Oconto would flood when he’d sneeze

As a child Paul Bunyan was not only strong
He was faster than a lightning arc
He could turn off his light and leap into bed
Before his room even got dark

Paul found a blue ox in a snowdrift
Took him home and young Babe grew so fast
A crow took an hour to fly twixt Babe’s horns
When he burped, buildings crumbled from the blast
Babe could pull anything Paul asked of him
For example, their crooked logging road
Babe pulled on that road till it straightened out
And that new road carried ten times the load

Babe was in need of a watering hole
Paul Bunyan dug a hole with his axe
Today it’s the Lake called Superior
Pictured Rocks were formed by Babe’s tracks

Paul and Babe took a hike through Minnesota
Their footprints in the earth were so big
Those depressions became the 10,000 lakes
And Babe drank them up in one swig

A log jam blocked the Menominee River
Paul poked Babe’s derriere with a spear
Babe swished his tail and broke up the jam 
And the river stayed clear for a year

The axe men in Paul’s camp were seven feet tall
And each had the same name of Sven
When Paul called out “Sven” the whole crew came running
Dragging sled-loads of logs from the glen

Sourdough Sam made pancakes at their camp 
His griddle covered thirteen full acres
Twenty-five men with bacon on their feet
Greased that griddle to help out the bakers

Paul Bunyan enjoyed a pipe after dinner
And he blew his smoke far away
It floated westward over the hills
Creating the smog in L.A.  

The winter of ’07 was so brutally cold
The axe men’s words froze in mid-air 
Those words remained frozen until the spring thaw
Then they heard melting chatter everywhere

No one is certain where Paul is today
Some think he is at the North Pole
They say he returns to the U.P. each May
Bringing Babe for a leisurely stroll 

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