Sunday, February 01, 2009

Paul Bunyan, the "True" Story

I first ran into Paul in 1977 as I was wheeling a truck load of sound equipment into the parking lot of the Bangor Auditorium in Bangor, Maine. I was on the Black Oak Arkansas Tour. You can just see the auditorium in the background. It is actually one of the few venues still standing I visited regularly when I was hauling Rock n Roll bands. Most of them have been replaced. Bands loved going to Bangor. The crowds were always appreciative and never rioted. Just smoked their pot and drank their wine and grooved on whatever music was in front of them.

Imagine my surprise at seeing this thirty foot tall man standing guard with ax in hand. I remember it well. I had been driving all night and the sight of this silly statue made me chuckle through the rest of the morning. I even took the time to take a picture or two. They have been lost as so much of those years back then have been lost, but my memory of that first meeting still makes me smile.

I also remember asking some stage hand who spoke with just a hint of a French accent about who the Hell the statue was supposed to be. He looked at me like I was from another planet. "You don recognize Paul?" And shaking his head he walked away. Hell, I thought Paul was from Michigan or Minnesota. That's what Walt Disney indicated with his one hour animated extravaganza on "The Wide World of Color" when I was younger. I had to imagine the color part though. We were still just a Black & White household. My dad would not build that first color TV for a few more years yet.

Okay. Why the Hell am I posting about Paul Bunyan? Of the many reasons possible, it would seem that the memory of smiling as I drove into the parking lot is enough to get me fired up. What triggered this memory is the Maine Paul just turned 50 years old. So of course, a date this important in local circles has all the tongues wagging from here to "the county". We may not harvest as much wood as we used to, but timber still rules in the lore and history of my state. The guy who designed Paul was interviewed. The controversy over where he was really born was objectively looked at by local reporters and again they proved Minnesota is full of shit with their claim on Paul's heritage. I decided to find out on my own what I could about this American icon to real manhood.

I had no idea the man was a real person. While dozens of communities from Michigan, Minnesota, and even Oregon claim to be the birthplace of Paul Bunyan, the Mayor of Bangor points out, "We are the only town that has his birth certificate on the wall." And In keeping with the myth, the birth certificate is the size of a large 2'x3' poster. Well, that seals the deal for me.

So there you have it you pretenders further West. We have the largest statue, the birth certificate, and I am sure the most honest and forthright caretakers of the legend out there.

Odd how one image or story can hook you up to a memory from the past. And when reliving that memory, it expands like a balloon to encompass a whole slew of other memories. Memories you did not know existed anymore. Paul's 50th birthday begot the memory of driving into Bangor in 1977 with Black Oak Arkansas. Black Oak Arkansas begot .........

..........My one and only visit to Disney World in Florida. I forget where we were. Orlando, Tampa? Anyway, we had a day off between gigs with no pressure to be traveling. The band manager bought tickets for everyone to visit Walt's new playground in central Florida. My only real memories of that day involve sharing some joints with the band and crew on the monorail/cable car(my memory is hazy about what it was, just that we were up and above everything). As we flew over the top of the incomplete Disney World, we looked down on construction going on everywhere. Once we exited the monorail/cable car, our visit to Walt Disney World was cut short when soon after departing the car, we were escorted to the exits by security guys. Apparently smoking pot on the monorail/cable car was frowned upon. We all went and got drunk and sloppy at some cheap honky tonk down the road. What a great day.

See Ya...............

OH YEAH! I just had to add this because well, I am still laughing. Found it while trying to find out if I was still banned from Disney World after 32 years. Apparently they take a dim view on interpretive expressions of Minnie and Mickey. This mother and daughter duo were banned for life for this.



BBC said...

Hum, having born and raised in the west I recall Paul Bunyan from my earliest days.

There was stories and statues all over about him but I don't recall his origins, or if they were even mentioned.

I just assumed that he was a western thing. Well, maybe he did come from the east, but he came over here to cut down the fucking trees because our trees make yours look like wimps. ha ha ha.

BBC said...

Just like Johnny Appleseed came west. :-)

BBC said...

Actually, Paul is just another myth, like much of the bullshit in bibles. Damn, since getting into computers I've done more homework than I ever did in schools.

Paul Bunyan

MRMacrum said...

BBC - No he's not a myth. His birth certificate is hanging on the wall in Bangor, Maine. I guess you don't believe in immaculate conception either. Damn Heathen.

You folks out West need those big trees to compensate for other things you got that are dinky.

Actually, when white man first put a foot on the shore of the New World, the White Pines of New England towered up to 240 feet tall. Southern Maine was covered in them. Not sure if you have heard the term Kings Pine, but it was a designation given to a tree that made the tree official property of the Crown. Generally any Pine wider than four feet at the base and clear of branches to fifty feet was promised to the defense efforts of the British Navy.

New England and Maine especially has been cut over so many times, it is not funny. But hey, our state is proof that trees do come back. They grow like frickin weeds here. One hundred years ago, every bit of the land around me was field. Now a forest of trees, many a hundred feet or more stand there instead.

A Midnight Rider said...

I can't help but to wonder what Joseph though when his wife said "immaculate conception". Then this little blond, blue eyed baby is born.
Try that story now.

El Cerdo Ignatius said...

Funny - I first encountered the Paul Bunyan statue in Bangor back in 1977 as well. We were on a road trip to Vermont.

In 1988 I drove my Chevette from Nova Scotia to California and back again. I still have a photo of myself, leaning on my car, taken in Bangor on Aug. 22, 1988, my last full day on the road before getting home, with Paul Bunyan in the background.

Good times, good times.

BBC said...

So someone got the name of Paul Bunyan? I won't question that, as long as the birth certificate is real, anyone can have one made up.

Bunyan is a real last name, ya gotta have Bunyan's to make more Bunyan's, so I suppose that there have been a lot of Paul Bunyan's come and go.

But I have more important things to think about. You got me to thinking about Armageddon and what might trigger it.

I don't think that most folks are smart enough to understand what would trigger such.

Demeur said...

Back in Paul's day it used to take 1/2 dozen guys a day to chop down a few trees. Now they can cut down an entire hillside in a few hours. They've clear cut so much out here we have landslide problems.

I was on the road back in the 70s as well and I don't remember that much about it either. What's the expression? Been there done that now if I could just remember where and what I did.

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TheOneAndOnlyMrsCraigDColbyJr said...

I was googling something about a Paul Bunyan truck stop my family went to years ago in West Virginia and your site popped up. It's funny because I was googling because I can't sleep lately because I'm homesick and low and behold I see you are from Maine and saw your quote in the top corner of the page. I'm from Maine too and that's just the home I've been longing for. What a conincidence! Well, I wanted you to know that you made me smile!