Paul Bunyan and John Henry

Week 14: American Folklore - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images


Paul Bunyan On The Map

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 700 words.

Paul Bunyan also had adventures abroad, as America became increasing involved politically and economically in European affairs: '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." And of course he managed to get back to America even faster than the telegraph message he sent from France as he was leaving...

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 thirty-six sections.

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 don't know.

Yours respectively, P. Bunyan.

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 he 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."


Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • how did Paul Bunyan end up creating townships with exactly 37 cleared sections and no more?
  • how did Paul Bunyan get back from Europe to America?
  • what did Paul Bunyan notice when he skied across the Rocky Mountains?

Source: 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 By W. B. Laughead. Published for the Amusement of our Friends by The Red River Lumber Company Minneapolis, Westwood, Cal., Chicago, Los Angeles - San Francisco. 1922. Weblink.


Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM