Legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan emerged as a folk hero during the late 1800s. To commemorate his storied exploits, June 28 has been designated National Paul Bunyan Day.
Akeley, Minnesota, which claims to be the birthplace of this mythical fellow, will present its 73rd Annual Paul Bunyan Days June 24-26. Festivities include dancing, a pancake breakfast, cake walk and horseshoe tournament. The centerpiece is a statue of the gentle giant kneeling with a shovel (akeleymn.com)
The legend began in the late 1800s, as French-Canadian lumberjacks told imaginative stories of Paul’s prowess around the evening campfire. Those tall tales traveled south into the forests of Washington, Oregon, and other northern border states.With each retelling, they grew more outlandish.
Some historians believe the legend of Paul Bunyan was based on a real person — a French Canadian logger named Fabian Fournier, who moved to Michigan after the Civil War, attracted by high-paying logging jobs. Fournier was said to stand head and shoulders above the average American male and was brawny.
Those tales credit Paul Bunyan, along with his outsized companion, Babe the Blue Ox, with creating the Grand Canyon by dragging his hefty axe through Arizona for more than 200 miles. It also has been said his footprints filled with rain to create Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. It is even postulated he single-handedly created Mount Hood, Oregon’s tallest peak, by piling rocks to extinguish a campfire.
Several children’s books recount Paul’s exploits including “Paul Bunyan, A Very Tall Tale,” written by Jo Weaver and illustrated by Loretta Krupinski. It is appropriate for kindergarten through second grade students.
Several statues may be the reason Paul Bunyan continues to be popular.
Paul and Babe have stood on the shore of Lake Bemidji, in Minnesota ever since their statues were erected there during Bemidji’s 1937 Winter Carnival. He stands 18 feet tall, wearing a red and blue checked shirt, and blue jeans. Babe is 10-feet tall.
Other places to see statues of Paul and Babe include:
— Brainerd, Minnesota
— Klamath, California along the Pacific Coast Road Trip
— Bangor, Maine (part of the Great Northern route)
Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who also writes stories for children.