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Many years ago,
Paul Bunyan was born in the northeastern American state of Maine. His
mother and father were shocked when they first saw the boy. Paul was so
large at birth that five large birds had to carry him to his parents.
When the boy was only a few weeks old, he weighed more than forty-five
As a child, Paul was always hungry. His parents needed tens cows to
supply milk for his meals. Before long, he ate fifty eggs and ten
containers of potatoes every day.
Young Paul grew so big that his parents did not know what to do with him.
Once, Paul rolled over so much in his sleep that he caused an earthquake.
This angered people in the town where his parents lived. So, the
government told his mother and father they would have to move him
Paul’s father built a wooden cradle -- a traditional bed for a baby. His
parents put the cradle in waters along the coast of Maine. However,
every time Paul rolled over, huge waves covered all the coastal towns.
So his parents brought their son back on land. They took him into the
woods. This is where he grew up.
As a boy, Paul helped his father cut down trees. Paul had the strength
of many men. He also was extremely fast. He could turn off a light and
then jump into his bed before the room got dark.
Maine is very cold for much of the year. One day, it started to snow.
The snow covered Paul’s home and a nearby forest. However, this snow was
very unusual. It was blue. The blue snow kept falling until the forest
Paul put on his snowshoes and went out to see the unusual sight. As he
walked, Paul discovered an animal stuck in the snow. It was a baby ox.
Paul decided to take the ox home with him. He put the animal near the
fireplace. After the ox got warmer, his hair remained blue.
Paul decided to keep the blue ox and named him Babe. Babe grew very
quickly. One night, Paul left him in a small building with the other
animals. The next morning, the barn was gone and so was Babe. Paul
searched everywhere for the animal. He found Babe calmly eating grass in
a valley, with the barn still on top of his back. Babe followed Paul and
grew larger every day. Every time Paul looked, Babe seemed to grow
In those days, much of North America was filled with thick, green
forests. Paul Bunyan could clear large wooded areas with a single stroke
of his large, sharp axe.
Paul taught Babe to help with his work. Babe was very useful. For
example, Paul had trouble removing trees along a road that was not
straight. He decided to tie one end of the road to what remained of a
tree in the ground. Paul tied the other end to Babe. Babe dug his feet
in the ground and pulled with all his strength until the road became
In time, Paul and Babe the Blue Ox left Maine, and moved west to look
for work in other forests. Along the way, Paul dug out the Great Lakes
to provide drinking water for Babe. They settled in a camp near the
Onion River in the state of Minnesota.
Paul’s camp was the largest in the country. The camp was so large that a
man had to have one week’s supply of food when walking from one side of
the camp to the other.
Paul decided to get other lumberjacks to help with the work. His work
crew became known as the Seven Axemen. Each man was more than two meters
tall and weighed more than one-hundred-sixty kilograms. All of the
Axemen were named Elmer. That way, they all came running whenever Paul
The man who cooked for the group was named Sourdough Sam. He made
everything -- except coffee -- from sourdough, a substance used in
making sourdough bread.
Every Sunday, Paul and his crew ate hot cakes. Each hot cake was so
large that it took five men to eat one. Paul usually had ten or more hot
cakes, depending on how hungry he was. The table where the men ate was
so long that a server usually drove to one end of the table and stayed
the night. The server drove back in the morning, with a fresh load of
Paul needed someone to help with the camp’s finances. He gave the job to
a man named Johnny Inkslinger. Johnny kept records of everything,
including wages and the cost of feeding Babe. He sometimes used nine
containers of writing fluid a day to keep such detailed records.
The camp also was home to Sport, the Reversible Dog. One of the workers
accidentally cut Sport in two. The man hurried to put the dog back
together, but made a mistake. He bent the animal’s back the wrong way.
However, that was not a problem for Sport. He learned to run on his
front legs until he was tired. Then, he turned the other way and ran on
his back legs.
Big mosquitoes were a problem at the camp. The men attacked the insects
with their axes and long sticks. Before long, the men put barriers
around their living space. Then, Paul ordered them to get big bees to
destroy the mosquitoes. But the bees married the mosquitoes, and the
problem got worse. They began to produce young insects. One day, the
insects’ love of sweets caused them to attack a ship that was bringing
sugar to the camp. At last, the mosquitoes and bees were defeated. They
ate so much sugar they could not move.
Paul always gave Babe the Blue Ox a thirty-five kilogram piece of sugar
when he was good. But sometimes Babe liked to play tricks. At night,
Babe would make noises and hit the ground with his feet. The men at the
camp would run out of the buildings where they slept, thinking it was an
When winter came, Babe had trouble finding enough food to eat. Snow
covered everything. Ole the Blacksmith solved the problem. He made huge
green sunglasses for Babe. When Babe wore the sunglasses, he thought the
snow was grass. Before long, Babe was strong and healthy again.
One year, Paul’s camp was especially cold. It was so cold that the men
let their facial hair grow very long. When the men spoke, their words
froze in the air. Everything they said remained frozen all winter long,
and did not melt until spring.
Paul Bunyan and Babe left their mark on many areas. Some people say they
were responsible for creating Puget Sound in the western state of
Washington. Others say Paul Bunyan and Babe cleared the trees from the
states of North Dakota and South Dakota. They prepared this area for
Babe the Blue Ox died in South Dakota. One story says he ate too many
hot cakes. Paul buried his old friend there. Today, the burial place is
known as the Black Hills.
Whatever happened to Paul Bunyan? There are lots of stories. Some people
say he was last seen in Alaska, or even the Arctic Circle. Another
tradition says he still returns to Minnesota every summer. It says Paul
moves in and out of the woods, so few people ever know that he is there.
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