The Tall Paul Tales

What is it that draws millions to the legends of Paul Bunyan… some say it is the constellation of characters Paul assembled–people like Sourdough Sam; Cream Puff Fatty, and the other cooks; Johnny Inkslinger, the brilliant poet, accountant and all round deep thinker; Babe of course, with his gargantuan feats of strength; Paul’s foreman, the Swede Hel Helson; Brimstone Bill; Big Ole; Chris Crosshaul; and Sport, the reversible dog.

For some it is the amazing yet often disputed facts that we admire most about Paul and Babe, facts as…

  • Paul Bunyan was 63 ax handles tall.
  • Paul Bunyan had a frying pan that covered an area of one acre, which was used to make pancakes. The cooks greased the pan by ice skating across the griddle with sides of bacon strapped to their skates.
  • Babe was 42 ax handles wide from the tip of one horn to the tip of the other horn.
  • It took a crow a day to fly from one Babe’s horn tips to the other.
  • Babe could eat 30 bales of hay, wires and all, in a day.
  • Paul Bunyan and Babe created the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota. Their footsteps created impressions in the land that filled with rainwater, forming lakes throughout the state. Want more proof– just check out the shape of Lake Bemidji (shaped like the top of Paul’s boot) and Lake Irving (shaped like the heel).
  • Paul Bunyan once trained giant 2,000 pound ants. Each ant could each do the work of 50 men.

But most often it is the timeless stories we love most about our legendary folk hero…

Bemidji’s Stories of Paul

Old-time Bemidji loggers passed down their favorite Paul and Babe stories over the years, and here are how some of those stories go…
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It caused quite the excitement in the Bemidji woods that day when five giant storks, working in relays, delivered Paul to his parents. And what a baby Paul was! It took a whole herd of cows to keep his milk bottle filled, and he could eat forty bowls of porridge prepared every 2 hours from the (who makes porridge) kitchens to keep his stomach from rumbling and knocking the house down.
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Paul grew so fast that one week after being born, he had to wear his father’s clothes. A lumber wagon, drawn by a team of horses from Buena Vista’s Logging Village, was Paul’s baby carriage. By the time Paul was one year old, his clothing was so large, Bemidji Woolen Mills, makers of the now famous lumberjack’s plaid, had to use wagon wheels for buttons.

Only the great outdoors was big enough to accommodate Paul, and it was natural that he should become not only Bemidji’s, but the world’s greatest lumberjack.

How Paul Met Babe…

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Catch one of the old-time loggers at Bemidji Brewing company and you may hear a few stories about the old days with the giant lumberjack and when the geese flew backward — no, not from too much beer but when it was so cold it was named the year of the ‘Blue Snow.’

It was that same year when Paul found a baby ox frozen blue from the snow. After Paul took him home and warmed him, his color stayed blue and Paul named him Babe. Like Paul, Babe grew fast and soon was seven ax handles and a plug of tobacco wide between the eyes. Babe had many jobs around the logging camp, such as hauling the huge camp tank wagon used to pave the winter logging roads with ice. It was when the wagon sprang a leak one day that Lake Itasca was formed, and the overflow trickled all the way down to New Orleans, known today as the Mississippi River.

See the Disney video on How Paul Met Babe

Coldest Winter We Remember…

Stop at the Tourist Information Center and you may learn about the ‘Year of Two Winters.’ The snow was so deep that year Paul had to dig down to find the trees – that’s how the Lost 40 was overlooked – leaving a change in landscape still there today. And it was so cold at the logging camp on Lake Bemidji that year, words froze in mid-air. When the words thawed out in the spring, there was a huge roar of conversation heard 600 miles away in Chicago. That was the year, too, the fish were so cold they grew fur, like a bobcat, over their fins. And ever since, loggers say ice fish on Lake Bemidji and you just might catch a fish with a fur (and we don’t mean a catfish!).

The Legend Lives On…

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Paul and Babe were a good team, no feat of strength or courage was beyond them. Paul could cut down acres of timber single-handedly in just a few minutes by tying his huge ax to the end of a long rope and swinging it in circles. Babe could haul the logs away as fast as Paul could cut them.

While Paul and Babe wandered the forests from coast to coast, each year they return home to Bemidji to fish and play in the hundreds of lakes. For those who miss his annual visit, just snap a picture with the huge statue of Paul and Babe marking his birthplace on the shore of Bemidji.