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