The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan
This eBook was produced by David Schwan .
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
W. B. Laughead
Published for the Amusement of our Friends by
The Red River Lumber Company
Minneapolis, Westwood, Cal., Chicago, Los Angeles - San Francisco
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Paul got Benny for nothing from a farmer near Bangor, Maine. There was
not enough milk for the little fellow so he had to be weaned when three
days old. The farmer only had forty acres of hay and by the time Benny
was a week old he had to dispose of him for lack of food. The calf was
undernourished and only weighed two tons when Paul got him. Paul drove
from Bangor out to his headquarters camp near Devil's Lake, North Dakota
that night and led Benny behind the sleigh. Western air agreed with the
little calf and every time Paul looked back at him he was two feet
When they arrived at camp Benny was given a good feed of buffalo milk
and flapjacks and put into a barn by himself. Next morning the barn was
gone. Later it was discovered on Benny's back as he scampered over the
clearings. He had outgrown his barn in one night.
Benny was very notional and would never pull a load unless there was
snow on the ground so after the spring thaws they had to white wash the
logging roads to fool him.
Gluttony killed Benny. He had a mania for pancakes and one cook crew of
two hundred men was kept busy making cakes for him. One night he pawed
and bellowed and threshed his tail about till the wind of it blew down
what pine Paul had left standing in Dakota. At breakfast time he broke
loose, tore down the cook shanty and began bolting pancakes. In his
greed he swallowed the red-hot stove. Indigestion set in and nothing
could save him. What disposition was made of his body is a matter of
dispute. One oldtimer claims that the outfit he works for bought a hind
quarter of the carcass in 1857 and made corned beef of it. He thinks
they have several carloads of it, left.
Another authority states that the body of Benny was dragged to a safe
distance from the North Dakota camp and buried. When the earth was
shoveled back it made a mound that formed the Black Hills in South
The custodian and chaperon of Babe, the Big Blue Ox, was Brimstone Bill.
He knew all the tricks of that frisky giant before they happened.
"I know oxen," the old bullwhacker used to say, "I've worked 'em and fed
'em and doctored 'em ever since the ox was invented. And Babe, I know
that pernicious old reptyle same as if I'd abeen through him with a
Bill compiled "The Skinner's Dictionary," a hand book for teamsters, and
most of the terms used in directing draft animals (except mules)
originated with him. His early religious training accounts for the fact
that the technical language of the teamster contains so many names of
places and people spoken of in the Bible.
The buckskin harness used on Babe and Benny when the weather was rainy
was made by Brimstone Bill. When this harness got wet it would stretch
so much that the oxen could travel clear to the landing and the load
would not move from the skidway in the woods. Brimstone would fasten the
harness with an anchor Big Ole made for him and when the sun came out
and the harness shrunk the load would be pulled to the landing while
Bill and the oxen were busy at some other job.
The winter of the Blue Snow, the Pacific Ocean froze over and Bill kept
the oxen busy hauling regular white snow over from China. M. H. Keenan
can testify to the truth of this as he worked for Paul on the Big Onion
that winter. It must have been about this time that Bill made the first
ox yokes out of cranberry wood.
Feeding Paul Bunyan's crews was a complicated job. At no two camps were
conditions the same. The winter he logged off North Dakota he had 300
cooks making pancakes for the Seven Axemen and the little Chore-boy. At
headquarters on the Big Onion he had one cook and 462 cookees feeding a
crew so big that Paul himself never knew within several hundred either
way, how many men he had.
At Big Onion camp there was a lot of mechanical equipment and the
trouble was a man who could handle the machinery cooked just like a
machinist too. One cook got lost between the flour bin and the root
cellar and nearly starved to death before he was found.
Cooks came and went. Some were good and others just able to get by. Paul
never kept a poor one, very long. There was one jigger who seemed to
have learned to do nothing but boil. He made soup out of everything and
did most of his work with a dipper. When the big tote-sled broke through
the ice on Bull Frog Lake with a load of split peas, he served warmed
up, lake water till the crew struck. His idea of a lunch box was a jug
or a rope to freeze soup onto like a candle. Some cooks used too much
grease. It was said of one of these that he had to wear calked shoes to
keep from sliding out of the cook-shanty and rub sand on his hands when
he picked anything up.
There are two kinds of camp cooks, the Baking Powder Bums and the
Sourdough Stiffs. Sourdough Sam belonged to the latter school. He made
everything but coffee out of Sourdough. He had only one arm and one leg,
the other members having been lost when his sourdough barrel blew up.
Sam officiated at Tadpole River headquarters, the winter Shot Gunderson
After all others had failed at Big Onion camp, Paul hired his cousin Big
Joe who came from three weeks below Quebec. This boy sure put a mean
scald on the chuck. He was the only man who could make pancakes fast
enough to feed the crew. He had Big Ole, the blacksmith, make him a
griddle that was so big you couldn't see across it when the steam was
thick. The batter, stirred in drums like concrete mixers was poured on
with cranes and spouts. The griddle was greased by colored boys who
skated over the surface with hams tied to their feet. They had to have
colored boys to stand the heat.
At this camp the flunkeys wore roller skates and an idea of the size of
the tables is gained from the fact that they distributed the pepper with
Sending out lunch and timing the meals was rendered difficult by the
size of the works which required three crews - one going to work, one on
the job and one coming back. Joe had to start the bull-cook out with the
lunch sled two weeks ahead of dinner time. To call the men who came in
at noon was another problem. Big Ole made a dinner horn so big that no
one could blow it but Big Joe or Paul himself. The first time Joe blew
it be blew down ten acres of pine. The Red River people wouldn't stand
for that so the next time he blew straight up but this caused severe
cyclones and storms at sea so Paul had to junk the horn and ship it East
where later it was made into a tin roof for a big Union Depot.
When Big Joe came to Westwood with Paul, he started something. About
that time you may have read in the papers about a volcanic eruption at
Mt. Lassen, heretofore extinct for many years. That was where Big Joe
dug his bean-hole and when the steam worked out of the bean kettle and
up through the ground, everyone thought the old hill had turned volcano.
Every time Joe drops a biscuit they talk of earthquakes.
It was always thought that the quality of the food at Paul's Camps had a
lot to do with the strength and endurance of the men. No doubt it did,
but they were a husky lot to start with. As the feller said about fish
for a brain food, "It won't do you no good unless there is a germ there
to start with."
There must have been something to the food theory for the chipmunks that
ate the prune pits got so big they killed all the wolves and years later
the settlers shot them for tigers.
A visitor at one of Paul's camps was astonished to see a crew of men
unloading four-horse logging sleds at the cook-shanty. They appeared to
be rolling logs into a trap door from which poured clouds of steam.
"That's a heck of a place to land logs," he remarked.
"Them ain't logs," grinned a bull-cook, "them's sausages for the
At Paul's camp up where the little Gimlet empties into the Big Auger,
newcomers used to kick because they were never served beans. The bosses
and the men could never be interested in beans. E. E. Terrill tells us
Once when the cook quit they had to detail a substitute to the job
temporarily. There was one man who was no good anywhere. He had failed
at every job. Chris Crosshaul, the foreman, acting on the theory that
every man is good somewhere, figured that this guy must be a cook, for
it was the only job he had not tried. So he was put to work and the
first thing he tackled was beans. He filled up a big kettle with beans
and added some water. When the heat took hold the beans swelled up till
they lifted off the roof and bulged out the walls. There was no way to
get into the place to cook anything else, so the whole crew turned in to
eat up the half cooked beans. By keeping at it steady they cleaned them
up in a week and rescued the would-be-cook. After that no one seemed to
care much for beans.
It used to be a big job to haul prune pits and coffee grounds away from
Paul's camps. It required a big crew of men and either Babe or Benny to
do the hauling. Finally Paul decided it was cheaper to build new camps
and move every month.
The winter Paul logged off North Dakota with the Seven Axemen, the
Little Chore Boy and the 300 cooks, he worked the cooks in three shifts
- one for each meal. The Seven Axemen were hearty eaters; a portion of
bacon was one side of a 1600-pound pig. Paul shipped a stern-wheel
steamboat up Red River and they put it in the soup kettle to stir the
Like other artists, cooks are temperamental and some of them are full of
cussedness but the only ones who could sass Paul Bunyan and get away
with it were the stars like Big Joe and Sourdough Sam. The lunch sled, -
most popular institution in the lumber industry! Its arrival at, the
noon rendezvous has been hailed with joy by hungry men on every logging
job since Paul invented it. What if the warm food freezes on your tin
plate, the keen cold air has sharpened your appetite to enjoy it. The
crew that toted lunch for Paul Bunyan had so far to travel and so many
to feed they hauled a complete kitchen on the lunch sled, cooks and all.
When Paul invented logging he had to invent all the tools and figure out
all his own methods. There were no precedents. At the start his outfit
consisted of Babe and his big axe.
No two logging jobs can be handled exactly the same way so Paul adapted
his operations to local conditions. In the mountains he used Babe to
pull the kinks out of the crooked logging roads; on the Big Onion he
began the system of hauling a section of land at a time to the landings
and in North Dakota he used the Seven Axemen.
At that time marking logs was not thought of, Paul had no need for
identification when there were no logs but his own. About the time he
started the Atlantic Ocean drive others had come into the industry and
although their combined cut was insignificant compared to Paul's, there
was danger of confusion, and Paul had most to lose.
At first Paul marked his logs by pinching a piece out of each log. When
his cut grew so large that the marking had to be detailed to the crews,
the "scalp" on each log was put on with an axe, for even in those days
not every man could nip out the chunk with his fingers.
The Grindstone was invented by Paul the winter he logged off North
Dakota. Before that Paul's axemen had to sharpen their axes by rolling
rocks down hill and running along side of them. When they got to "Big
Dick," as the lumberjacks called Dakota, hills and rocks were so hard to
find that Paul rigged up the revolving rock.
This was much appreciated by the Seven Axemen as it enabled them to
grind an axe in a week, but the grindstone was not much of a hit with
the Little Chore Boy whose job it was to turn it. The first stone was so
big that working at full speed, every time it turned around once it was
The Little Chore Boy led a strenuous life. He was only a kid and like
all youngsters putting in their first winter in the woods, he was put
over the jumps by the oldtimers. His regular work was heavy enough,
splitting all the wood for the camp, carrying water and packing lunch to
the men, but his hazers sent him on all kinds of wild goose errands to
all parts of the works, looking for a "left-handed peavy" or a "bundle
He had to take a lot of good natured roughneck wit about his size for he
only weighed 800 pounds and a couple of surcingles made a belt for him.
What he lacked in size he made up in grit and the men secretly respected
his gameness. They said he might make a pretty good man if he ever got
any growth, and considered it a necessary education to give him a lot of
Often in the evening, after his day's work and long hours put in turning
the grindstone and keeping up fires in the camp stoves - that required
four cords of wood apiece to kindle a fire, he could be found with one
of Big Ole's small 600-pound anvils in his lap pegging up shoes with
It was a long time before they solved the problem of turning logging
sleds around in the road. When a sled returned from the landing and put
on a load they had to wait until Paul came along to pick up the four
horses and the load and head them the other way. Judson M. Goss says he
worked for Paul the winter he invented the round turn.
All of Paul's inventions were successful except when he decided to run
three ten-hour shifts a day and installed the Aurora Borealis. After a
number of trials the plan was abandoned because the lights were not
"The Seven Axemen of the Red River" they were called because they had a
camp on Red River with the three-hundred cooks and the Little Chore Boy.
The whole State was cut over from the one camp and the husky seven
chopped from dark to dark and walked to and from work.
Their axes were so big it took a week to grind one of them. Each man had
three axes and two helpers to carry the spare axes to the river when
they got red hot from chopping. Even in those days they had to watch out
for forest fires. The axes were hung on long rope handles. Each axeman
would march through the timber whirling his axe around him till the hum
of it sounded like one of Paul's for-and-aft mosquitoes, and at every
step a quarter-section of timber was cut.
The height, weight and chest measurement of the Seven Axemen are not
known. Authorities differ. History agrees that they kept a cord of
four-foot wood on the table for toothpicks. After supper they would sit
on the deacon seat in the bunk shanty and sing "Shanty Boy" and "Bung
Yer Eye" till the folks in the settlements down on the Atlantic would
think another nor'wester was blowing up.
Some say the Seven Axemen were Bay Chaleur men; others declare they were
all cousins and came from down Machias way. Where they came from or
where they went to blow their stake after leaving Paul's camp no one
knows but they are remembered as husky lads and good fellows around
After the Seven Axemen had gone down the tote road, never to return,
Paul Bunyan was at a loss to find a method of cutting down trees that
would give him anything like the output he had been getting. Many trials
and experiments followed and then Paul invented the two-man Saw.
The first saw was made from a strip trimmed off in making Big Joe's
dinner horn and was long enough to reach across a quarter section, for
Paul could never think in smaller units. This saw worked all right in a
level country, in spite of the fact that all the trees fell back on the
saw, but in rough country only the trees on the hill tops were cut.
Trees in the valleys were cut off in the tops and in the pot holes the
saw passed over the trees altogether.
It took a good man to pull this saw in heavy timber when Paul was
working on the other end. Paul used to say to his fellow sawyer, "I
don't care if you ride the saw, but please don't drag your feet." A
couple of cousins of Big Ole's were given the job and did so well that
ever afterward in the Lake States the saw crews have generally been
It was after this that Paul had Big Ole make the "Down-Cutter." This was
a rig like a mowing machine. They drove around eight townships and cut a
swath 500 feet wide.
Paul Bunyan's Trained Ants are proving so successful that they may
replace donkeys and tractors on the rugged slopes of the Sierras.
Inspired by his success with Bees and Mosquitoes, Paul has developed a
breed of Ants that stand six feet tall and weigh 200 pounds.
To overcome their habit of hibernating all Winter, Paul supplied the
Ants with Mackinaws made with three pairs of sleeves or legs. They eat
nothing but Copenhagen Snuff. The Ants (or Uncles as they prefer to be
called) can run to the Westwood shops with a damaged locomotive quicker
than the Wrecking Crew can come out. They do not patronize bootleggers
or require time off to fix their automobiles.
Lucy, Paul Bunyan's cow was not, so far as we can learn, related to
either Babe or Benny. Statements that she was in any way their mother
are without basis in fact. The two oxen had been in Paul's possession
for a long time before Lucy arrived on the scene.
No reliable data can be found as to the pedigree of this remarkable
dairy animal. There are no official records of her butterfat fat
production nor is it known where or how Paul got her.
Paul always said that Lucy was part Jersey and part wolf. Maybe so. Her
actions and methods of living seemed to justify the allegation of wolf
ancestry, for she had an insatiable appetite and a roving disposition.
Lucy ate everything in sight and could never be fed at the same camp
with Babe or Benny. In fact, they quit trying to feed her at all but let
her forage her own living. The Winter of the Deep Snow, when even the
tallest White Pines were buried, Brimstone Bill outfitted Lucy with a
set of Babe's old snowshoes and a pair of green goggles and turned her
out to graze on the snowdrifts. At first she had some trouble with the
new foot gear but once she learned to run them and shift gears without
wrecking herself, she answered the call of the limitless snow fields and
ran away all over North America until Paul decorated her with a bell
borrowed from a buried church.
In spite of short rations she gave enough milk to keep six men busy
skimming the cream. If she bad been kept in a barn and fed regularly she
might have made a milking record. When she fed on the evergreen trees
and her milk got so strong of White Pine and Balsam that the men used it
for cough medicine and liniment, they quit serving the milk on the table
and made butter out of it. By using this butter, to grease the logging
roads when the snow and ice thawed off, Paul was able to run big logging
sleds all summer.
The family life of Paul Bunyan, from all accounts, has been very happy.
A charming glimpse of Mrs. Bunyan is given by Mr. E. S. Shepard of
Rhinelander, Wis., who tells of working in Paul's camp on Round River in
'62, the Winter of the Black Snow. Paul put him wheeling prune pits away
from the cook camp. After he had worked at this job for three months
Paul had him haul them back again as Mrs. Bunyan, who was cooking at the
camp, wanted to use them to make the hot fires necessary to cook her
famous soft nosed pancakes.
Mrs. Bunyan, at this time used to call the men to dinner by blowing into
a woodpecker hole in an old hollow stub that stood near the door. In
this stub there was a nest of owls that had one short wing and flew in
circles. When Mr. Shepard made a sketch of Paul, Mrs. Bunyan, with
wifely solicitude for his appearance, parted Paul's hair with a handaxe
and combed it with an old cross-cut saw.
From other sources we have fragmentary glimpses of Jean, Paul's youngest
son. When Jean was three weeks old he jumped from his cradle one night
and seizing an axe, chopped the four posts out from under his father's
bed. The incident greatly tickled Paul, who used to brag about it to any
one who would listen to him. "The boy is going to be a great logger some
day," he would declare with fatherly pride.
The last we heard of Jean he was working for a lumber outfit in the
South, lifting logging trains past one another on a single track
What is camp without a dog? Paul Bunyan loved dogs as well as the next
man but never would have one around that could not earn its keep. Paul's
dogs had to work, hunt or catch rats. It took a good dog to kill the
rats and mice in Paul's camp for the rodents picked up scraps of the
buffalo milk pancakes and grew to be as big as two year old bears.
Elmer, the moose terrier, practiced up on the rats when he was a small
pup and was soon able to catch a moose on the run and finish it with one
shake. Elmer loafed around the cook camp and if the meat supply happened
to run low the cook would put the dog out the door and say, "Bring in a
moose." Elmer would run into the timber, catch a moose and bring it in
and repeat the performance until, after a few minutes work, the cook
figured he had enough for a mess and would call the dog in.
Sport, the reversible dog was really the best hunter. He was part wolf
and part elephant hound and was raised on bear milk. One night when
Sport was quite young, he was playing around in the horse barn and Paul,
mistaking him for a mouse, threw a band axe at him. The axe cut the dog
in two but Paul, instantly realizing what had happened, quickly stuck
the two halves together, gave the pup first aid and bandaged him up.
With careful nursing the dog soon recovered and then it was seen that
Paul in his haste had twisted the two halves so that the hind legs
pointed straight up. This proved to be an advantage for the dog learned
to run on one pair of legs for a while and then flop over without loss
of speed and run on the other pair. Because of this he never tired and
anything he started after got caught. Sport never got his full growth.
While still a pup he broke through four feet of ice on Lake Superior and
As a hunter, Paul would make old Nimrod himself look like a city dude
lost from his guide. He was also a good fisherman. Old-timers tell of
seeing Paul as a small boy, fishing off the Atlantic Coast. He would
sail out early in the morning in his three-mast schooner and wade back
before breakfast with his boat full of fish on his shoulder.
About this time he got his shot gun that required four dishpans full of
powder and a keg of spikes to load each barrel. With this gun he could
shoot geese so high in the air they would spoil before reaching the
Tracking was Paul's favorite sport and no trail was too old or too dim
for him to follow. He once came across the skeleton of a moose that had
died of old age and, just for curiosity, picked up the tracks of the
animal and spent the whole afternoon following its trail back to the
place where it was born.
The shaggy dog that spent most of his time pretending to sleep in front
of Johnny Inkslinger's counter in the camp office was Fido, the watch
dog. Fido was the bug-bear (not bearer, just bear) of the greenhorns.
They were told that Paul starved Fido all winter and then, just before
payday, fed him all the swampers, barn boys, and student bullcooks. The
very marrow was frozen in their heads at the thought of being turned
into dog food. Their fears were groundless for Paul would never let a
dog go hungry or mistreat a human being. Fido was fed all the watch
peddlers, tailors' agents, and camp inspectors and thus served a very
It is no picnic to tackle the wilderness and turn the very forest itself
into a commercial commodity delivered at the market. A logger needs
plenty of brains and back bone.
Paul Bunyan had his setbacks the same as every logger only his were
worse. Being a pioneer he had to invent all his stuff as he went along.
Many a time his plans were upset by the mistakes of some swivel-headed
strawboss or incompetent foreman. The winter of the blue snow, Shot
Gunderson had charge in the Big Tadpole River country. He landed all of
his logs in a lake and in the spring when ready to drive he boomed the
logs three times around the lake before be discovered there was no
outlet to it. High hills surrounded the lake and the drivable stream was
ten miles away. Apparently the logs were a total loss.
Then Paul came on the job himself and got busy. Calling in Sourdough
Sam, the cook who made everything but coffee out of sourdough, he
ordered him to mix enough sourdough to fill the big watertank. Hitching
Babe to the tank he hauled it over and dumped it into the lake. When it
"riz," as Sam said, a mighty lava-like stream poured forth and carried
the logs over the hills to the river. There is a landlocked lake in
Northern Minnesota that is called "Sourdough Lake" to this day.
Chris Crosshaul was a careless cuss. He took a big drive down the
Mississippi for Paul and when the logs were delivered in the New Orleans
boom it was found that he had driven the wrong logs. The owners looked
at the barkmarks and refused to accept them. It was up to Paul to drive
them back upstream.
No one but Paul Bunyan would ever tackle a job like that. To drive logs
upstream is impossible, but if you think a little thing like an
impossibility could stop him, you don't know Paul Bunyan. He simply fed
Babe a good big salt ration and drove him to the upper Mississippi to
drink. Babe drank the river dry and sucked all the water upstream. The
logs came up river faster than they went down.
Big Ole was the Blacksmith at Paul's headquarters camp on the Big Onion.
Ole had a cranky disposition but he was a skilled workman. No job in
iron or steel was too big or too difficult for him. One of the cooks
used to make doughnuts and have Ole punch the holes. He made the griddle
on which Big Joe cast his pancakes and the dinner horn that blew down
ten acres of pine. Ole was the only man who could shoe Babe or Benny.
Every time he made a set of shoes for Babe they had to open up another
Minnesota iron mine. Ole once carried a pair of these shoes a mile and
sunk knee deep into solid rock at every step. Babe cast a shoe while
making a hard pull one day, and it was hurled for a mile and tore down
forty acres of pine and injured eight Swedes that were swamping out
skidways. Ole was also a mechanic and built the Downcutter, a rig like a
mowing machine that cut down a swath of trees 500 feet wide.
In the early days, whenever Paul Bunyan was broke between logging
seasons, he traveled around like other lumberjacks doing any kind of
pioneering work he could find. He showed up in Washington about the time
The Puget Construction Co. was building Puget Sound and Billy Puget was
making records moving dirt with droves of dirt throwing badgers. Paul
and Billy got into an argument over who had shoveled the most. Paul got
mad and said he'd show Billy Puget and started to throw the dirt back
again. Before Billy stopped him he had piled up the San Juan Islands.
When a man gets the reputation in the woods of being a "good man" it
refers only to physical prowess. Frequently he is challenged to fight by
"good men" from other communities.
There was Pete Mufraw. "You know Joe Mufraw?" "Oui, two Joe Mufraw, one
named Pete." That's the fellow. After Pete had licked everybody between
Quebec and Bay Chaleur he started to look for Paul Bunyan. He bragged
all over the country that he had worn out six pair of shoe-pacs looking
for Paul. Finally he met up with him.
Paul was plowing with two yoke of steers and Pete Mufraw stopped at the
brush-fence to watch the plow cut its way right through rocks and
stumps. When they reached the end of the furrow Paul picked up the plow
and the oxen with one arm and turned them around. Pete took one look and
then wandered off down the trail muttering, "Hox an' hall! She's lift
hox an' hall."
Paul Bunyan started traveling before the steam cars were invented. He
developed his own means of transportation and the railroads have never
been able to catch up. Time is so valuable to Paul he has no time to
fool around at sixty miles an hour.
In the early days he rode on the back of Babe, the Big Blue Ox. This had
its difficulties because he had to use a telescope to keep Babe's hind
legs in view and the hooves of the ox created such havoc that after the
settlements came into different parts of the country there were heavy
damage claims to settle every trip.
Snowshoes were useful in winter but one trip on the webs cured Paul of
depending upon them for transcontinental bikes. He started from
Minnesota for Westwood one Spring morning. There was still snow in the
woods so Paul wore his snowshoes. He soon ran out of the snow belt but
kept right on without reducing speed. Crossing the desert the heat
became oppressive, his mackinaws grew heavy and the snowshoes dragged
his feet but it was too late to turn back.
When he arrived in California he discovered that the sun and hot sand
had warped one of his shoes and pulled one foot out of line at every
step, so instead of traveling on a bee line and hitting Westwood
exactly, he came out at San Francisco. This made it necessary for him to
travel an extra three hundred miles north. It was late that night when
he pulled into Westwood and he had used up a whole day coming from
Paul's fast foot work made him a "good man on the round stuff" and in
spite of his weight he had no trouble running around on the floating
logs, even the small ones. It was said that Paul could spin a log till
the bark came off and then run ashore on the bubbles. He once threw a
peavy handle into the Mississippi at St. Louis and standing on it, poled
up to Brainerd, Minnesota. Paul was a "white water bucko" and rode water
so rough it would tear an ordinary man in two to drink out of the river.
Johnny Inkslinger was Paul's headquarters clerk. He invented bookkeeping
about the time Paul invented logging. He was something of a genius and
perfected his own office appliances to increase efficiency. His fountain
pen was made by running a hose from a barrel of ink and with it he could
"daub out a walk" quicker than the recipient of the pay-off could tie
the knot in his tussick rope.
One winter Johnny left off crossing the "t's" and dotting the "i's" and
saved nine barrels of ink. The lumberjacks accused him of using a split
pencil to charge up the tobacco and socks they bought at the wanagan but
this was just bunkshanty talk (is this the origin of the classic term
"the bunk"?) for Johnny never cheated anyone.
Have you ever encountered the Mosquito of the North Country? You thought
they were pretty well developed animals with keen appetites, didn't you?
Then you can appreciate what Paul Bunyan was up against when he was
surrounded by the vast swarms of the giant ancestors of the present race
of mosquitoes, getting their first taste of human victims. The present
mosquito is but a degenerate remnant of the species. Now they rarely
weigh more than a pound or measure more than fourteen or fifteen inches
from tip to tip.
Paul had to keep his men and oxen in the camps with doors and windows
barred. Men armed with pikepoles and axes fought off the insects that
tore the shakes off the roof in their efforts to gain entrance. The big
buck mosquitoes fought among themselves and trampled down the weaker
members of the swarm and to this alone Paul Bunyan and his crew owe
Paul determined to conquer the mosquitoes before another season arrived.
He thought of the big Bumble Bees back home and sent for several yoke of
them. These, he hoped would destroy the mosquitoes. Sourdough Sam
brought out two pair of bees, overland on foot. There was no other way
to travel for the flight of the beasts could not be controlled. Their
wings were strapped with surcingles, they checked their stingers with
Sam and walking shoes were provided for them. Sam brought them through
without losing a bee.
The cure was worse than the original trouble. The Mosquitoes and the
Bees made a hit with each other. They soon intermarried and their
off-spring, as often happens, were worse than their parents. They had
stingers fore-and-aft and could get you coming or going.
Their bee blood caused their downfall in the long run. Their craving for
sweets could only be satisfied by sugar and molasses in large
quantities, for what is a flower to an insect with a ten-gallon stomach?
One day the whole tribe flew across Lake Superior to attack a fleet of
ships bringing sugar to Paul's camps. They destroyed the ships but ate
so much sugar they could not fly and all were drowned.
One pair of the original bees were kept at headquarters camp and
provided honey for the pancakes for many years.
If Paul Bunyan did not invent Geography be created a lot of it. The
Great Lakes were first constructed to provide a water hole for Babe the
Big Blue Ox. Just what year his work was done is not known but they were
in use prior to the Year of the Two Winters.
The Winter Paul Bunyan logged off North Dakota he hauled water for his
ice roads from the Great Lakes. One day when Brimstone Bill had Babe
hitched to one of the old water tanks and was making his early morning
trip, the tank sprung a leak when they were half way across Minnesota.
Bill saved himself from drowning by climbing Babe's tail but all efforts
to patch up the tank were in vain so the old tank was abandoned and
replaced by one of the new ones. This was the beginning of the
Mississippi River and the truth of this is established by the fact that
the old Mississippi is still flowing.
The cooks in Paul's camps used a lot of water and to make things handy,
they used to dig wells near the cook shanty. At headquarters on the Big
Auger, on top of the hill near the mouth of the Little Gimlet, Paul dug
a well so deep that it took all day for the bucket to fall to the water,
and a week to haul it up. They had to run so many buckets that the well
was forty feet in diameter. It was shored up with tamarac poles and when
the camp was abandoned Paul pulled up this cribbing. Travelers who have
visited the spot say that the sand has blown away until 178 feet of the
well is sticking up into the air, forming a striking landmark.
The Winter of the Deep Snow everything was buried. Paul had to dig down
to find the tops of the tallest White Pines. He had the snow dug away
around them and lowered his sawyers down to the base of the trees. When
the tree was cut off he hauled it to the surface with a long parbuckle
chain to which Babe, mounted on snowshoes, was hitched. It was
impossible to get enough stove pipe to reach to the top of the snow, so
Paul had Big Ole make stovepipe by boring out logs with a long six-inch
The year of the Two Winters they had winter all summer and then in the
fall it turned colder. One day Big Joe set the boiling coffeepot on the
stove and it froze so quick that the ice was hot. That was right after
Paul had built the Great Lakes and that winter they froze clear to the
bottom. They never would have thawed out if Paul had not chopped out the
ice and hauled it out on shore for the sun to melt. He finally got all
the ice thawed but he had to put in all new fish.
The next spring was the year the rain came up from China. It rained so
hard and so long that the grass was all washed out by the roots and Paul
had a great time feeding his cattle. Babe had to learn to eat pancakes
like Benny. That was the time Paul used the straw hats for an emergency
When Paul's drive came down, folks in the settlements were astonished to
see all the river-pigs wearing huge straw bats. The reason for this was
soon apparent. When the fodder ran out every man was politely requested
to toss his hat into the ring. Hundreds of straw hats were used to make
a lunch for Babe.
When Paul Bunyan took up efficiency engineering he went at the the job
with all his customary thoroughness. He did not fool around clocking the
crew with a stop watch, counting motions and deducting the ones used for
borrowing chews, going for drinks, dodging the boss and preparing for
quitting time. He decided to cut out labor altogether.
"What's the use," said Paul, "of all this sawing, swamping, skidding,
decking, grading and icing roads, loading, hauling and landing? The
object of the game is to get the trees to the landing, ain't it? Well,
why not do it and get it off your mind?"
So he hitched Babe to a section of land and snaked in the whole 640
acres at one drag. At the landing the trees were cut off just like
shearing a sheep and the denuded section hauled back to its original
place. This simplified matters and made the work a lot easier. Six trips
a day, six days a week just cleaned up a township for section 37 was
never hauled back to the woods on Saturday night but was left on the
landing to wash away in the early spring when the drive went out,
Documentary evidence of the truth of this is offered by the United
States government surveys. Look at any map that shows the land
subdivisions and you will never find a township with more than
The foregoing statement, previously published, has caused some
controversy. Mr. T. S. Sowell of Miami, Florida wrote to us citing the
townships in his State that have sections numbered 37 to 40. He said
that the government survey had been complicated by the old Spanish land
grants. We put the matter up to Paul Bunyan and from his camp near
Westwood came this reply:
Red River Advertising Department.
Dear Sir: Yes sir, I remember those sections and a lot of bother they
made me too. One winter when I was starting the White Pine business and
snaking sections down to the Atlantic Ocean, a man from Florida came
along and ordered a bunch of sections delivered down to his place. He
wanted to see if he could grow the same kind of White Pine down there. I
yarded out a nice bunch of sections and next summer when my drive was in
and I wasn't busy I took a crew of Canada Boys and Mainites and poled
them down the coast. When I come to collect they said this man was gone
looking for a Fountain of Youth or some fool thing.
I don't know what luck he had with his White Pine ranch. I never seen
them again. I had a lot of other things to tend to and clean forgot it
till you sent me Mr. Sowell's letter. Maybe that man was a Spaniard I
From 1917 to 1920 Paul Bunyan was busy toting the supplies and building
camps for a bunch of husky young fellow-Americans who bad a contract on
the other side of the Atlantic, showing a certain prominent European
(who is now logging in Holland) how they log in the United States.
After his service overseas with the A. E. F., Paul couldn't get back to
the States quick enough. Airplanes were too slow so Paul embarked in his
Bark Canoe, the one he used on the Big Onion the year he drove logs
upstream. When be threw the old paddle into high he sure rambled and the
sea was covered with dead fish that broke their backs trying to watch
him coming and going.
As he shoved off from France, Paul sent a wireless to New York but
passed the Statue of Liberty three lengths ahead of the message. From
New York to Westwood he traveled on skis. When the home folks asked him
if the Allegheney Mountains and the Rockies had bothered him, Paul
replied, "I didn't notice any mountains but the trail was a little bumpy
in a couple of spots."
In the forests of the Red River Lumber Company Paul Bunyan can cut his
lumber for many future years in the region where Nature found conditions
exactly suited to the growth of pine of the finest texture and largest
Early in the closing decade of the nineteenth century the Red River
people took a long look into the future. Foreseeing the exhaustion of
their Minnesota white pine, which came a quarter of a century later,
they set out to find the pine that would take its place. Their search
covered several years and reached all the important stands in the
western States. This was well in advance of the westward movement of the
industry and Red River had the pioneer's opportunity for choice and
Sugar Pine, "cork pine's big brother," is botanically and physically
true white pine, with all the family virtues. It is the largest of all
California Pine is the trade name for pinus ponderosa or western yellow
pine from certain regions where conditions of growth have so modified
the nature of the wood that it is more like white pine than it is like
its botanical brothers that grow elsewhere. Some say this change is due
to volcanic soil. Whatever the cause, California Pine from Red River's
forest is exceptionally light, brightly colored, soft and even textured
and second only to Sugar Pine in size.
Red River "Paul Bunyan's" California Pine and Sugar Pine meet the strict
requirements of trades that have made white pine their standard. Where
freedom from distortion is essential, as for example piano actions,
organ pipes, foundry patterns and the best sash and doors, Red River
pines are used. They finish economically with paints, stains and enamels
and are highly valued as cores for fine hardwood veneers. They work
easily, smoothly and cleanly with edged tools and do not nail-split.
The durability of these California pines is shown by their sound
condition in California buildings that have stood for generations, many
of them in regions where climatic conditions are more conducive to decay
than in the middle western and eastern states.
Paul Bunyan tackled a real problem when he came to Westwood. The site of
the mill and town was unbroken forest in 1913, sixty mountainous miles
from the nearest railroad. Trails were graded into passable roads and
materials and machinery were freighted in. When the railroad arrived in
1914 the first mill was in operation and the town well under
construction. Town and plant had been detailed on the drafting boards in
Minneapolis. Sanitary sewers, water system, electric lights and
telephones were extended as the forest was cleared and Westwood, with a
population of 5,000, enjoys all the facilities of a modern American
The electrically operated sawmill has an annual capacity of 250 million
board feet. Dry kilns, one of the largest plywood factories in the
country, sash and door factory and re-manufacturing departments round
out production of a complete line of lumber products.
Red River operates its own logging railroad, 20 miles of which are
electrified, hydro-electric plants and the foundry and machine shops,
where many units of the logging and plant machinery are designed and
Back in the early days, when his camps were so far from any where that
the wolves following the tote-teams got lost in the woods, Paul Bunyan
made no attempt to keep in touch with the trade. What's the use when
every letter that comes in is about things that happened the year
Since he came to Westwood Paul has renewed old friendships, formed new
ones and kept close contact with the world. Everyone expects great
things of Paul Bunyan and with the Red River outfit back of him he has
the chance of his life to make good. Continuous production keeps a full
assortment of stock on hand. Customers in all parts of America find
Westwood a dependable source of supply.
Here is an instance. This old friend of Paul's a prominent furniture
manufacturer in the Lake States, was disappointed because an item he
wanted for immediate shipment was not in stock in the grade and
thickness required. He wrote the letter shown below and was given an
explanation of the facts in the case in the accompanying reply.
Paul Bunyan Makes Plywood
Paul Bunyan says that making plywood reminds him of the way Mrs. Bunyan
made pies during the hard times of pioneer days. She would take
pancakes, spread molasses between and sew around the edges with yarn.
Plywood panels differ from other wall coverings in that the natural
texture of the wood is not altered. While the lathe-cut sheets are thin,
they are solid wood with the cell structure just the same as it grew in
the tree. In making plywood the inside sheets are placed crossgrained
with the face sheets. These sheets are then united with a glue bond that
is stronger than the wood itself. This cross-grained construction
prevents splitting and produces a panel much stronger than solid wood of
the same thickness.
Paul Bunyan's California Pines give Red River plywood's a distinctive
character. They carry the qualities that have given "old-fashioned white
pine" its long-established preference by craftsmen and builders. The
soft, even texture takes up paints, stains and enamels economically and
gives a fine finish, unmarred by checking and "grainraising" when
Red River construction embodies special features in the process of
re-drying and in cutting for straight grain. The latest
and best developments in the manufacture of glues and in their
scientific application are utilized. Painstaking workmanship and careful
inspection and grading make Red River plywood's outstanding in quality.
Plywood panels have revolutionized the use of wood in building and in
industry. From the growing list of industrial uses we might note the
following as typical: trunks, concrete forms, furniture backs, drawer
bottoms and cores for fine hardwood veneers; cabinets, car bodies,
boxes, table and counter tops, door panels, signs, toys and ship
Builders use plywood panels for interior walls and ceilings and for
insulation, sub-floors, sheathing, shelving, cupboards and built-in
units. The richness of wood-paneled rooms can now be enjoyed at a cost
that compares favorably with other wall coverings. The paneled interiors
do not go out of style or require redecoration. They are not damaged by
water or shock and ordinary breakage. They do not crack or peel.
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