Blade

Paul Bunyan's Oxen

W.D. Harrigan. "Paul Bunyan's Oxen."
American Lumberman 13 June 1914: 30.

Artist Unknown

Editor American Lumberman: I notice in the Lumberman that you have been writing up a little description of Paul Bunyon's oxen, and would say that the writer in his early days used to work for Paul Bunyon and for that reason I know more of Paul's methods of doing business than perhaps any other man this side of South Africa. Now we have a yoke oxen that is larger than the one that is mentioned in your issue of April 25 that we use for nothing else than to haul pepper for putting on the Irish potatoes that Big Swede Charley eats. He drives the oxen, Baugh and Brinny.

I will send you a copy of a letter that I wrote last week to Mr. Walter Henderson, of Springfield, Mass., which speaks for itself.

Yours very truly,
Scotch Lumber Company, by W.D. Harrigan.

Paul Bunyan's Oxen.

Mr. Walter Henderson,

Your favor of the 4th received and note that you would like to have me send you the description of Paul Bunyon's oxen that I explained to you when you were at Fulton. Would say that the oxen that I showed you the picture of were raised by Paul Bunyon and were born on the 33d day of February, 1904. The oxen are half brothers. When they were first put to work they were 6 years old, and Paul Bunyon had a sawmill one story high. He logged this mill with these two oxen and hauled the logs from a quarter of a mile to a mile and a half to his sawmill. Each year as the oxen grew older he put an additional story on his mill, and now that the oxen are ten years old he has four stories on his mill, with a band saw running from the top story to the bottom story and a band saw 311 feet long, with a carriage on each floor sawing off lumber from the same saw; and these same two oxen, old Baugh and old Brinny, were logging this 4-story mill up until the 37th day of July, 1913.

At 12 o'clock at night old Baugh broke down the barn and both oxen got loose and went out and drank all the water up in the pond, and as it was a dry season they had to close down the mill for four days until the pond filled up again, and when it was filled up and they were ready to start the mill again they found that Big Swede Charley, who was the only man in the world that could drive the oxen, had been taken sick. As you have heard before, they had to bake pancakes for him on a griddle that was made of pieces of boiler iron 23 feet 6 1/2 inches long and 9 feet 4 inches wide, and had two niggers with hams strapped on their feet skating around the griddle to grease it in order to keep the cakes from sticking to the pan, while three Chinamen on roller skates were carrying the cakes from the griddle to the table, and it took two Dagos on bicycles running around the griddle to put the batter on, while big Oscar the Turk, the greatest wrestler the world has ever known, and who drowned on his way home after throwing everybody in America in catch-as-catch-can, had an automobile hauling flour to bake the cakes; and as Big Charley the Swede has been laid up with the gout from eating so much there was nobody to drive the oxen the rest of the summer so they have been using them up on the Penobscot River in Maine 2 1/2 miles below where the Big Moose crossed on Jerry Dun's little farm of 10,000 acres.

But now that Big Swede Charley has recovered from the gout we have bought the oxen and had the Government send down a couple of warships to bring them to Mobile, and from there we made a road on which they walked up here 5 rods wide and 90 miles north to our mill on the Southern railroad, and we now have them in our woods doing our logging, and it was only this forenoon that I was out there and saw a 60-ton Shay engine stalled on a hill with thirty cars of rift flooring logs, and Big Charley the Swede told them to unhitch the Shay engine so he could put on the oxen, and he then hauled all these cars over the hill with old Baugh and Brinny. I would like to say that old Baugh, better known as Brinny, had his tongue out mighty bad when he reached the top of the hill, as he is a little short-winded from the long rest. I would further like to say to you that we will now be able to furnish you comb grain flooring for your eastern customers, who are so particular in their wants, as we will use the oxen every Sunday to run their tongue over each piece of the flooring to polish it so that there will be no machine made by hand that can possibly compare with the finish that will be put on this flooring that we will ship you-all of it being finished in this manner by old Baugh and the Pink ox.

If you will remember, the three links of chain that I showed you hanging below the picture on our wall where the description of the oxen is given by Paul Bunyon himself, the weight of which you will remember is 40,000 pounds each, wearing a 16-foot ox yoke and pulling on a 1 1/8 chain, which they broke on a straight forward pull. The chain was made from Swedish iron and was tested to 162,000 pounds of strength to the square inch.

I am merely giving you this as an illustration of some of the loads that have been drawn by these unique oxen. When the father of the Pink ox was killed they made the main driving belt for the Great Southern Lumber Company, at Bogaloosa, out of his hide. You have, of course, read about this great mill. This belt was made from this ox, and the Great Southern Lumber Company is now negotiating with us in hopes of buying one or two of these oxen in order that they can kill one of them to make another belt in case their main driving belt breaks, because if this one breaks without these people having some option on these oxen, known as Paul Bunyon's oxen throughout the United States and South Africa, they would not be able to run their sawmill for the reason that they could never get another belt large enough without the Pink ox or old Baugh. If we should decide to sell these oxen we would be glad to let you know in time so that you could withdraw all of your quotations on the beautifully manufactured comb grain flooring that we have been selling you and that you saw while you were at our place and which you claimed was the best manufactured flooring in the world.

With kind personal regards from all the boys in our office, including myself, I remain
Yours very respectfully,
W.D. Harrigan.

P.S.-I suppose some of your trade in the East will be somewhat skeptical as to the history of these oxen, but if they are the first time that I go east I will bring the ten steel rings that were made by our blacksmith, 6 inches in diameter by 1/4 inch, welded together and inspected by a professional blacksmith, and as you remember, I strung them together and made a chain right before your very eyes that would make Harriman lift his hat to me with grace, and if some of the large mills don't curtail their output and stop flooding the market I am going to close down our mill and take those rings and go to the country fairs and string them together and take them apart and pass them around among the audience to show them that they are solid, without any springs whatsoever, and after they see that I have performed this wonderful feat I will have no trouble in selling the wise people the Kickapoo Indian oil or the Indian Sagwau, which will cure neuralgia, gout, earache, toothache, headache, grow hair on the baldest head providing they buy enough, cure consumption in the fourth stage, and give ease to a man with the hookworm. It was only yesterday that a couple of lumbermen from New York were here and I put the rings together for them, and when I left the office last night at 8:45 they were still trying to get them apart, and had I not done this for them they would not have believed the story of Paul Bunyon's oxen. - W.D.H.

Query and Comment to paulb AT paulbunyanfineart.com