Most of us have heard the story of Paul Bunyan and his ox, Blue. Did you know they were created by Canadians sitting around campfires normally in logging areas? The stories cannot be attributed to one source, since the story was handed down over the years and obviously altered by those telling the story. According to legend, the Great Lakes were created by Paul for drinking holes for Babe. That he cleared the land in North and South Dakota so that farmers had fields to plant it. He trained Carpenter Ants to help haul the timber for the logging industry. and that Babe created the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota as it’s footsteps. Now none of it is true, but it’s fun to think of things that way.
How to celebrate – Visit some of the many Paul Bunyan sites in the northern mid-west. Visit the Great Lakes. Start you own legends by sitting around a campfire with your family.
Unless you live in northern United States or southern Canada you may not be aware of today, it’s Great Lakes Awareness Day. It always comes on the first Monday of the first full week of May. In other words, the first of something which happens to be the 7th this month. Got it? Okay, so we can go on.
They are known as the Great Lakes because they are the largest group of freshwater lakes on earth! Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario. They are also known as the inland seas since they act just as though they were oceans with rolling waves, sustained winds, strong currents, great depths and distant horizons.
Lake Superior is the second largest lake in the world. All of the lakes were cut by glaciers long, long ago. Some of the depths get a little scary and numerous ships have been lost, never to be seen again.
The lakes have always served as a great source of trade between Canada and the United States. Huge tankers and liners fill the lakes for both business and tourism. The Americans, Canadians, French and British have fought over the lakes, often having to drag warships from the ocean to the lakes in order to defend, or fight, on the waters.
And sadly, like where most humans get mixed with nature, the lakes are turning into a dumping ground for unwanted articles that no longer serve a purpose. This is what the Awareness Day is all about. Keeping the lakes clean and making people aware of just how important they are.
How to celebrate – Learn more about the Great Lakes. Make the lakes something we can all be proud of. Take a trip on a ship sailing around the lakes.
It got very cold and boring in the north for the brave men, and sometimes women, that worked as lumberjacks. There was little available to entertain these hard working woodsmen. They frequently sat around their campfires making up stories to tell one another. And so, Paul Bunyan was born, perhaps dating back as far as 1837 during the Papineau Rebellion.
Though the legend of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe had been told for years around the logging camps, he appears to be first mentioned to the public in the Duluth News Tribune in 1904. William P. Laughead (1882-1958) is the first recorded author who wrote down these stories as promotional materials for the Red River Lumber Company in 1916.
As a baby, it is said it took 5 storks to carry Paul to his parents (I found no reference to his parents). When he clapped and laughed as a youth he would break windows in neighboring communities. His heritage was French-Canadian American.
As a young man he is said to have gone for a walk with Babe, dragging his huge axe behind him, forming the Grand Canyon. It was also reported that he created the Great Lakes when Babe needed a water bowl.
In 1958, Walt Disney Studios created an animated short musical to celebrate Paul Bunyan. His popularity spread quickly.
To give you some idea how big Paul Bunyan was said to be look at the photo above. Focus in on the adults standing at the end of Paul’s axe and Babe’s front left leg. In the minds of those who created him, sitting around a campfire in the frozen north, he had to have been even bigger, if you consider cutting the Grand Canyon with his axe.
As with so many legends, they are created larger than life because those dreaming them up need heroes bigger than themselves to make the world seem right.
How to celebrate: Watch the Disney video about Paul Bunyan. Try and come up with a few places you think Paul could have created. Make up a legend of your own.