Paul Bunyan put down roots in Cali, too

Where do you think Paul Bunyan is from?

I grew up in Minnesota, and I thought Paul was a member of my tribe. There’s a statue of him in Bemidji, only 60 miles north of where I learned the legends of the state in grade school.

But a drive through California will quickly dissuade you from believing Paul Bunyan belongs only to Minnesota.

Wait, who’s Paul Bunyan again?

If you’re not sure, you didn’t grow up near a forest harvested by loggers.

Paul Bunyan is a legendary lumberjack who eats miles-high piles of flapjacks and hangs with his trusty friend, Babe the Big Blue Ox. He wears suspenders over his red plaid shirt and carries an ax over his shoulder. He’s jolly about hard work, as any good Minnesotan ought to be.

But California has hardwood forests populated with hard-working loggers, too, and Californians also lays claim to the legend of Paul Bunyan.

Paul Bunyan Three Rivers

The sign below Paul says: Carved 1941-42 Single log, 2,000-year-old giant sequoia, 40 tons heavy before carved, 16’6″ high – 9’wide, Carroll Barnes, Sculptor

A statue of Paul carrying Babe, appropriately carved in wood, stands near the entrance to Sequoia National Park in Three Rivers, California. It’s no wonder Paul has forearms as thick as tree trunks if he’s logging giant sequoia.

Paul Bunyan Fort Bragg

This notation appears on a beach sign in Fort Bragg.

Paul Bunyan is celebrated annually in Fort Bragg, California, where the forest meets the Pacific Ocean. Hundreds of thousands of trees once covered the coast there.

paul-bunyan-salt-and-pepper.jpgAnd he and Babe are memorialized in wooden beams, wire and cement stucco in Klamath, California, near the Oregon border. Here Paul weighs 30,000 pounds and he’s 49-feet-2-inches tall; that’s some chest hair, huh? I chose a discreet angle on Babe, who is portrayed with all a bull’s parts intact. If you’d prefer your Bunyan & Babe in a more manageable size, you can buy salt and peppers shakers at the gift shop for only $12.95. Ain’t that cuter than a puppy licking a baby?

A little research reveals Paul was born in Maine, where I can only assume the forests are as evident as they are in northern Minnesota and the Pacific Northwest (he was such a big baby, it took five storks to deliver him).

So I guess he was only visiting when he was in Minnesota.


2 responses to “Paul Bunyan put down roots in Cali, too

  1. Actually, much of the Paul Bunyan legend in Northern California has its roots in Minnesota. Around 1900 the Red River Lumber Company out of Minnesota set up a massive lumber mill in Westwood, CA, a little town in the hills just over 20 miles west of Susanville. The story is that a PR man for Red River Lumber knew about the Paul Bunyan stories from the Northeast and Minnesota and used them to build a new story about logging the virgin forests of the northern Sierra Nevada mountains. These stories were key to recruiting loggers to move from Minnesota to what was essentially still a wilderness in northern California at the time.

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