Wonderful Life and Deeds

Hubert Langerock. "The Wonderful Life and Deeds of Paul Bunyon."
Century Magazine May 1923: 23.

Illustrated by Allen Lewis
Illustrated by Allen Lewis

Excerpt from:
The Wonderful Life and Deeds of Paul Bunyon

One evening I was sitting with a crew of lumberjacks about the stove of their camp in western Oregon. It was a huge heater, nearly always kept red-hot, because it had to serve the double purpose of heating the bunk-house and drying the clothes of the crew. It was a voracious affair as well; one of the men kept feeding it great chunks of fir from a near-by pile.

"That stove is nothing at all alongside of the heaters we used to have at Paul Bunyon's," remarked a lumberjack in a casual way. "Those were the boys. They were fed by an endless chain, right from the woods, day and night. Paul's camps sure were never cold."

Although the remark was not directly addressed to me, it was intended that I should hear it. Interested, I listened. Nobody seemed to be relating Paul Bunyon's exploits in narrative form; statements about him were dropped in an offhand way, as if in reference to actual events of common knowledge. Some of the men acted and talked as if they had met one another and worked together in the legendary Bunyon camp. With painstaking accuracy they compared dates and data, establishing the exact time and place. It was "on the Big Onion, the winter of the blue snow," or, "at Shot Gunderson's camp on the Big Tadpole, the year of the sourdough drive." Later I learned that this was the usual method employed to overawe the greenhorn in the bunk-house or the paper-collar "stiffs" and homeguards in the saloons. For many years the lumbermen and loggers have enjoyed elaborating the old themes, and new stories have been born in lying contests in which the pinnacle of extemporaneous invention was often reached.

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