Paul Bunyan Comes West

Ida Virginia Turney. Paul Bunyan Comes West.
Eugene, Oregon: University of Oregon Press, 1919.

Paul in California

Paul Bunyan Comes West


The tales of the doings of one master woodsman, Paul Bunyan, were first told by 'lumberjacks' who 'go to the woods' in the long winters, and 'on the drive' when spring unleashes the rivers to carry the logs in foaming jaws to the saw-mill towns in the valleys. They told them wherever of evenings they gathered about the 'deacon seat' in the bunk-shanty, dank with the steam of mackinaws strung to dry above the red-hot stove and reeking with Peerless and Star. And later they passed them on to the 'gangs' that followed the line of the 'clearing' as it veered westward from New England to Alaska-opening mines, piercing mountains with steel rails, taming the cattle of the hills, or flinging bridges over rivers and chasms.

These tales, passed by word of mouth from generation to generation of workers, grew out of the life of the gang: no mere maker of stories can with integrity set them in the stiff mould of written speech. The fragments here strung together in a continuous narrative-a method never used in the oral telling-are western adaptations of this gang-lore, put into the mouth of a survivor of the 'airly' days-one 'Yank,' still living in the valley of the Willamette; but even in this most primitive and pliant of written story forms they suffer.

The collection here offered is by no means complete. It is the result of the collaboration of class studies in folk-lore and the use of linoleum prints in illustration,-a simple problem in correlation. Students who collected the tales are Irene F. Dalzell, Katherine Watson, Marion R. Eby, Allarick Hagglund, and Paul McCullough. They are indebted for material to Mary Roche Miles of Wendling, Oregon, W.L. Bartlett, of Marysvale, Washington, and George J. Sparks, of Bellingham, Washington...The discovery of 'Yank,' undoubtedly the only living witness of the doings of Paul Bunyan, belongs to Mr. W.C. Dalzell, of the School of Law. It is 'Yank' who tells of the making of Spencer's Butte, as it is here faithfully set down, and who vouches for the truth of all of the rest of the tales-and many more.

Paul Bunyan Comes West

Yeh, I knowd Paul Bunyan. My father worked fer him when I was a lettle shaver an' I uster allus tag 'long. Logger? Wal, I sh'd say-cut m' teeth on a peavy an' rolled logs in m' first short pants. Twuz some loggin' them days-trees all 'round here twelve t' fourteen foot thru.

Paul he come to Oregon 'round by Californy, 'count o' a mistake, an' that thar blamed trail is follered consid'able yit. Y'see Paul wuz a busy man an' when he wuz in a special hurry he didn't never stop fer no train; he jist hoofed 'er-in winter he done it on snowshoes. 'Twuz the winter o' the Blue Snow, the same year's the rain come up from China an' tore all the roots o' the alfalfy up an' the' wuz big floods all over the hull kentry, that year Paul he jist finished up his loggin' job in Dakoty and he thot he'd take a look at the West. 'Nother thing with the trees all gone the weather got awlful cold. One mornin' when Paul wuz a-gittin' himself some breakfast he set the coffee pot full o' bilin coffee on the back o' the stove fer a minute an' it froz so fast the durned ice wuz too hot to handle. Wal, that thar settled it fer Paul-the West fer hisn. When he wuz leavin' Minnesoty the' wuz a lot o' snow in the woods yit so he jist stropped on his snowshoes an' struck out straight west. 'Fore long the sun got awlful hot an' the dust riz in clouds but Paul he kept a-goin'. Bym'by it got so durned hot it warped Paul's snowshoes somethin' turrible-the left a lot more'n the right-so's he traveled in a arc an' come out at Frisco-nine hundred miles out'n his way an' he lost a hull day by it.

Paul he wuz a-totin' his big pick an' shovel 'long in case he run right onto pay dirt an' by the afternoon o' the second day they begun to be kind of heavy. Jist then he come to the Colorado River an' he thot he'd wade 'long up stream fer a spell an' cool his feet. He drug the pick 'long behind him to ease his shoulder a spell an' it made quite a scratch in the river bed tho 'twuz runnin' thru solid rock. Fust thing Paul knowd he couldn't hardly see out. That thar scratch is the Colorado Canyon.

I dunno whar Paul fust settled but I reckin purty much all over. Sartin they all claims him. The Blue Snow wuz worser an' deeper in British Columbia an' Washington 'n it'd ben in Dakoty, an' it wuz bluer too, awful blue, jist the color of the deep sea. The women they used a leetle mite o' it in the rinse water fer bluin' an' some o' 'em melted it down fer ink. Paul he had a bar'l o' it. Wal Paul he went 'long up the Snoqualmie Pass that winter an' built a camp at Skomackaway with all the modern fixin's. 'Stead o' the big griddle like he had in the Dakoty camp he set up a steel-topped range seven block long. The' wuz a cook to each block an' twenty boys with slabs o' bacon tied onto their feet to keep it greased. The hot-cake batter wuz mixed up in tanks sixty foot square an' carried to the stove on cranes swung careful so's the boys'd have plenty o' time to git off when the stream started an' never spoil no cakes. Onst or twict in Dakoty-well they wuz kind o' out o' luck. Ever'thing in that camp wuz bran' new, even to the dinner horn. Paul he wuz bound to blow that thar new horn jist fer to try the tone. The boys all warned him not to but he done it any way, an' fust blast down come three hull sections o' timber. He orter knowd better fer he done the same thing in Kansas an' the timber never growd up agin thar.

Paul's son Jean wuz born in this camp on the Skomackaway. When Jean wuz six months old he clumb outn his cradle an' sawd all four posts out from under Paul's bed. Paul he sez right thar, "That boy'll make a logger if he lives an' grows up.' An' he did.

Paul's daughter Teenie wuz born in Dakoty an' come West with him an' her ma. She wuz allus the smartest girl in the hull state. When she wuzn't but seven year old she saved her pa's life-that time Paul wuz a fittin' up o' the circ'lar saw so's she'd saw twenty-seven cord o' firewood in an hour an' got so interested he didn't hear the dinner bell ner nothin' an' wuz covered with sawdust up to his neck when they found him. Teenie allus had the job o' gatherin' the eggs fer the hot cakes. In the mornin' she picked the eggs offn the egg-plants an' in the even' she brot back the shells fer to be filled again. It wuz fifty mile to the meader whar they growd an' Teenie uster roll home on the eggs an so they wuz all beat fer the hot cakes when she got home an' she had a secret process o' gettin' out egg 'thout breakin' the shells. Teenie knowd how to use 'em fer weepons, too, y'bet! The boys nick-named her Ego. Yeh, she brot slips o' them egg-plants West, but no one else ever could grow 'em.

Paul brot his blue Ox, Babe, with him when he come West. He wuz a 'normous critter-forty ax-handles an' a plug o' Star terbacker between the eyes. Paul he allus toted 'round a field glass with him so's he could see what Babe wuz a-doin' with his hind feet. Babe he had a awlful appetite, 'specially fer hot cakes an' he could eat baled hay; but he had to have one er tother an' a lot o' it. An' drink-the's lakes all over the hull state whar Paul dug waterin' holes fer him. When Paul an' Babe got to the bank o' the Skomackaway an' camped the' wuzn't no hot cakes ner baled hay to be got. They thot they could fool Babe with Shredded Wheat Buscuit done up in wire but he knowd right off he wuzn't gittin' nothin'; an' as soon as Paul turned him out to graze he fell to an' et up forty er fifty acres o' good Douglas fir. Purty soon 'long come the Forest Ranger an' ordered Paul fer to tie him up 'fore he roond the lumber business.

Paul he sez: 'I don't aim to make no onnecessary trouble, but I ain't got nothin' to tie him with.'

'Thar's a big ship anchor chain,' sez the ranger, 'That orter do.'

'Guess she'll do,' sez Paul, 'But what'll I tie him to?'

An' the ranger he sez, 'Y' try tyin' him to that thar rock; guess that'll balast him.'

Wal, Paul he wuz some duberous but he wuz willin' to try so he tied Babe to the rock an' went to bed. 'Long toward mornin' he heard a turrible ruckus an' he got up an' found Babe a-pawin' the ground an' snortin' awlful. Paul he tried to quiet him, but no-sir-ee, he'd got a whif o' hot cakes a-cookin' over in Vancouver an' thar wuzn't no holdin' him. He give one beller an' out come the rock an' the hole it left filled up with water an' made Lake Washington. The next day when Paul was a-trackin' him he found a big falls in the Skomackaway River whar Babe had pawed up the bed when he crost it an' named 'em Snoqualmie Falls. On a piece further Babe dropped part o' the dirt he drug 'long an' that's Mount Li. An' the rock he wuz hitched to-when that thar anchor chain busted she flew off an' kept goin' a spell 'fore she settled, an' afterward a feller found it an' named it Mount Rainier. Yeh, Paul he wuz purty well satisfied with what Babe'd turned off in a day; but when he heard that thar beller capsized six steamers offn the coast an' all hands drowned he wuz some distressed. An' after all Babe wuzn't pacified; thar wuzn't but a hundred men in that Vancouver camp an' not 'nough hot cakes to more'n whet up his appetite.

Babe wuz allus playful. He liked to kick up mud-pies gen'ally an' sometimes he mussed up the landscape some. An' then Paul wouldn't 'low him no hot cakes fer a spell. One time Babe wuz a-feeling' awlful gay-he'd et fifteen hot cakes cooked over the hull stove, an' all the baled shredded wheat in camp, then tackled the fodder outn two silos belongin' to a neighbor o' Paul's-so he scampered off to make mud-pies. He come to a big mud puddle an' begun to dig a outlet to the sea. He kicked all the dirt into a pan he'd drug 'long. 'Bout that time Paul missed him an' started after him. Babe seen him comin' an' he jist dropped the pan an' legged it fer home. Wal, he never got a chanst to go back fer no pan an' bym-by it all wooded over an' made a island-folks call it Vancouver.

Paul's gang cleared a lot o' dirt out o' Gray's Harbor with a Bagley scrapper seventy-three feet wide; but he never not to say worked till he got into the Company. He'd heard about Dan Puget an' Old Man Elliott an' Dad Hood an' they'd heard consid'able 'bout him an' the Blue Ox. An' one day a gang o' Dan's men wuz out a-scoutin' 'round in Washington an' they come to Rock Crick an' couldn't git crost it 'cause it wuz swelled with the snow that'd melted an' roarin' 'long terrific. So they sent down to Skomackaway fer help to build a bridge. Paul he come up an' looker 'er over. 'Give me a day an' a half,' he sez, 'An I'll have a bridge fer you.' Wal they fixed to camp thar fer a month or so. Next day Paul he went on up the crick a ways to whar the' wuz a nice straight red cedar seven foot thru fer seventy foot 'bove ground an' right crost the stream wuz a sharp pinted rock. Paul he jist felled that thar tree onto the rock an' she split open clean 's cheese an' made a bridge fourteen feet wide; an' the hull gang got crost thout losin' a day.

Dan Puget 'd took a contract from the gov'ment to make a sound. Hood an' Elliott wuz sub-contractors. Elliott took his forty badgers an' his mud-throwin' catapult an' dug Elliott's Bay an' piled the dirt up in hills fer the folks in Seattle to live on. Some say's how Dad Hood dug the Hood Canal, but taint so. They wuz great men but they wuz't Paul, not by a dum sight, an' they wuz a-gittin' worried some 'bout that contract. Wal one day Paul come 'long lookin' fer a job an' they hired him.

The cooks in the Company's camp jist throwd the egg shells an' coffee grounds right outside the cook shanty an' they like to buried it. They tried puttin' it on stilts but it took two steam shovels workin' full time to keep a path dug thru. So Dan he thot he'd put Paul to work on that thar job an' see what he wuz worth. Paul knowd all 'bout gittin' rid o' waste fer he'd tussled with the sawdust back in Dakoty. (Course he never had trouble with egg shells 'count o' Teenie.) Wal, he cleaned 'er up in less'n three days an' rigged up a shoot fer to carry off the waste like he done in both his own camps. Dan he cal'lated he'd like to have Paul in the outfit an' he ast him what he thot 'bout the government contract.
'Wy that's easy 'nough,' Paul sez. 'The's glaciers up to Alaska that kin dig sounds er anything.'
So Paul he goes to Alaska an' hitches Babe onto a good sharp glacier an' brings 'er down. An' when he got all sot at the head o' the place the Gov'ment 'd picked out fer the sound to be, an' hollered, 'Giddap, Babe!' 'long come the schoolma'am-Ol' Billy Hood's darter carryin' a pink umbrella. Babe he couldn't bear pink nohow an' he jist nacherly lit out. Paul he dug his heels into the ground, but Babe drug him right 'long-That thar's the Hood Canal-Ol' Dad might o' trimmed 'er up some. When Babe ca'med down they all pitched in an' finished up the job in plenty o' time to suit the Gov'ment. They didn't bother to cut down no trees, they jist hitched Babe onto a quarter section to a time an' yanked 'er out. That taste o' timber Babe got in Snoqualmie wuz a good thing fer Dan; saved him hirin' a lot o' men to trim trees fer Babe et off all the limbs an' roots as he went 'long.

Paul wuz a good sport an' the' aint never ben 'nother hunter like him. He left big bones a-layin' 'round all over the hull kentry. Uster 'av a dog named Elmer 'fore he come West-part hound an' part injun dog, he wuz the biggest dog in the hull state-an' when he died Paul he never got 'nother to suit him.

Back in Michigan Paul and Elmer got the Big Buck. 'Twas down 'round Detroit Paul fust see him an' he trailed him up north an' would 'a got him then only he stopped to fish a kid out o' one o' the Buck's tracks that'd filled up with water an' the Buck got the start o' him. The Buck swum Lake Michigan an' Paul after him in a scow hitched to Elmer's tail, an' he downed him in the su-burbs o' Chicago. He sold the carcass to Mr. Armour an' set him up in the meat business-Paul he never got but a thousand dollars outn it.

One day Paul wuz a-strollin' 'long thru the woods in Washington and he met the Timber Wolf an' the cuss pitched onto him. Paul he didn't have his gun 'long, fer the railroad spikes he allus used to load it wuz scarce an' Jim Hill needed all the' wuz made up; so he jist rammed a club down the Wolf's throat an' grabbed him by the two ears an' tied 'em in a bow knot. Then he let out a good yell an' the Wolf died of fright.

An' when he come to Oregon fust he took right to mountain climbin'. Uster pack a bed-tick chucked full o' railroad spikes up to the top o' Mount Hood every morning' 'fore breakfast.

Paul he'd heard 'bout cow-punchin' an' he cal'lated mabby he'd go into the cattle business; so he took a walk over t' Wyoming. He didn't have money 'nough to buy a decent-sized herd so he begun a-catchin' wild cattle. 'Fore he got thru he turned wild an' made a killin' er two-leastways they tell he done it-an' a posse got after him. They chased him into a canyon an' cornered him. That day they captured the Big Elk and 'twuz 'bout all they could do to manage him. Paul he bet 'em he could ride that thar Elk an' they let him try it jist fer fun 'fore they strung him up. That wuz the last they ever see o' Paul. He sent 'em a letter from Argentiny tankin' 'em fer the lift. An' when Paul come to Oregon he broke the Elk an' hitched him up with Babe an' used 'em makin' roads.

Course y' know how Spencer's Butte come to be over thar? I wuz right thar when 'twuz made. Paul he had a job o' makin' a road to a new lumber camp an' Dad he driv the Elk an' Babe. Wal, 'bout the time he wuz a-gettin' that road 'bout done, we wuz a-comin' 'long with a big load o' dirt and stone an' the right wheel struck a big rock an' broke clean off. I never stopped till I'd slid plum into the Willamette River an' struck m' head on a sharp rock-look't this 'ere scar. An' Paul jist let that load lay-that thar's Spencer's Butte.

Big Swede Ole come West with Paul but Paul he didn't need him special. Y' see Ole's reg'lar job was to shoe Babe, an' he wuz the only man that ever done it single-handed. Ever time he done 't they had to open a Minnesoty iron mine. Onst Ole carried a couple o' them shoes a mile an' sunk knee-deep in solid rock every step. Wal, loggin' wuz differunt in the West an' Babe didn't need shoin'; so Big Swede Ole took some o' the odd jobs Paul wouldn't bother 'bout. The last one wuz buildin' a tunnel west o' Eugene. He got a strong slip scraper an' a eighty-pound railroad iron an' rigged up a shovel-didn't loosen up the ground er use no teams er trucks, jist cut her out by hand. Ole boarded at Camp 6 an' had a cook special. Fer breakfast he et five dozen eggs a kittle o' potatoes, an' mush made outn a hull sack o' meal.

Levi Lugg wuz Paul's handy man when he logged up the McKenzie an' he never laid down on no job fer him. He usta carry in the fire wood on the calks o' his boots an' he could swing Paul's double-bladed ax most as good as Paul could-but not quite. That thar ax had a wove grass handle and Paul he jist swung it 'round in a circle an' cut all the trees within reach to wunst.

Paul he didn't hav no book larnin'; so when he wanted anything to the store he jist drawd a pitcher o' 't an' gen'ly he got what he sent fer. But one time he didn't. Levi wuz a-goin' to town an' Paul thot it'd be a good chanst to send fer a grindstone; so he drawd a circle on a paper an' give it to Levi to give to the store keeper. Next day when Levi got back an' ondone his pack he didn't have no grindstone-had a cheese 'stead o' it. 'Wal!,' sez Paul, 'If I didn't fergit to put the hole in the durned thing!' An' right thar Paul he sez, 'I'm a-goin' t' have me a unerversity'-an' he did.

The biggest loggin' job Paul done in Oregon wuz the winter o' the Blue Snow. He had a camp on the Columbia River same's on the Skomackaway an' kept his eye on both o' 'em. Paul he had some hard luck in the Oregon camp. They driv the logs plum' over the Columbia River Falls an' then they see they'd got the wrong logs an' they had to turn 'round and drive 'em all back.

Paul tried his hand at ever'thing goin'-built a big sky-scrapin' hotel wunst down here on the Big Trail. That thar wuz a hotel-spread over ten er more acres an' he had the last seven stories put on hinges so's they could be swung back fer to let the moon go by. The dinin' room wuz seven hundred feet long an' all the waiters an' bell-hops wore roller-skates.

An' Paul tried ranchin', tho loggin' wuz more in his line. I guess ever'body's heard 'bout the hard luck he had in Kansas. Some crook sold him a farm an' the soil wuz so rich nobody'd ever dared to plant anythin' on't. Paul went out to look it over an' on the way he dropped a kernel o' corn an' by the time he'd went a few steps that thar corn wuz knee high. He run to the house to git Swede Charlie to watch it grow an' by the time they got back, 'twuz higher'n their heads. Paul he figgered to cut off the top and stop it growing' so he sent Charlie up, but he couldn't git to the top; and when he tried to slide down he couldn't neither, fer it grow'd faster'n he could slide, an' he liked to starved till Paul loaded up his shot-gun with doughnuts and shot 'em up to him. Then 'long comes a Gov'ment Inspector and sez: 'Paul y' got to git that thar cornstalk cut down: it's drainin' the Mississippi river dry an' interferin' with navigation.' Fin'ly Paul he sent fer a couple of rails 'bout a mile long an' knotted 'em together 'round the stalk by runnin' Babe 'round it an' the faster it growd the more it cut itself. Jist then 'long come a cyclone an' finished it.

Y' ever see that cleared spot 'bout a hundred acres up the McKenzie? Wal that thar wuz Paul's ranch. He cal'lated to raise wheat on't. Wal he built a tight four-board fence 'round it an' sowd it to wheat. It jist got started an' a big hail storm come on an' beat it into the ground. So Paul he planted it over an' soon 's it got 'bout ripe 'long come a herd o' elk an' jumped the fence an' milled 'round an' threshed it all out. Wal sir, both them seedin's 'd took an' the grain wuz so heavy it run clean over the second board o' the fence.

Paul had the worst luck when he went into the hog business in Eastern Oregon. An' it wuzn't his fault neither. His ranch wuz clear back in the mountains an' the' wuzn't no road cut. He jist got a nice start an' somethin' begun to take the hogs-fifteen to twenty a night an' fin'ly the corn begun to go too. Paul he see some big bear tracks an' he follered 'em thirty mile to Box Canyon to a cave. An' there he found the hogs all fattened and' killed, and the corn all stored in ricks. Wal, the buildin' o' the road to haul the meat out after it wuz cured took all the profit-an' then some.

'Bout this time Babe come to an ontimely end. Paul an' the family wuz spendin' the week-end in the camp on the Skomackaway an' Babe wuz 'long. He got hungry fer hot cakes an' they didn't give him none, an' he kicked an' pawed the ground an' shook his tail so furious that the wind it made blowd over the cook shanty. Then he made straight fer it an' et up all the cakes an' got so greedy he jist natcherly swallered the stove an' he died o' 'cut indigestion. They butchered him right there an' salvaged the stove an' shipped the meat away in sixty refrigerator cars; an' people 've complained o' tough steak ever since.

Yeh, I heard 'bout Paul bein' in Panama an' some say he run the spruce division. I dunno; but he didn't take Babe ner the Elk, I know that fer a fact. I told y' what become o' Babe an they got the Elk's jaw in the Condon Museum.

An' now I'm done. Them wuz great ol' days-Guess I'll go on up the McKenzie an' git m'self a job a-cookin'.

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