What better way to celebrate than by talking about the story of Paul Bunyan and some of his Tall Tale colleagues.
Paul Bunyan is the giant lumberjack of American Folklore and was a “settler” of the Northern and Western territories. He was accompanied by Babe, the Blue Ox, and performed amazing physical feats including eating 50 pancakes in a minute, logging immense numbers of trees and creating all the lakes in Minnesota. Paul Bunyan has been immortalized in everything from roadside diners, to anthologies, to cartoons- Disney has at least two tellings of the tale. He is credited with creating many geographical features as well as inspiring the invention of the griddle and using mosquitoes and giant ants to finish his work. The stories are unbelievable but that’s the joy, right?
Below, an image of the Paul Bunyan statue at Trees of Mystery in Klamath, California.
Pecos Bill was a character invented by Edward O’Reilly in 1917. The character featured in a number of written stories and eventually comic strips. According to legend as his family migrated he fell out of the family’s wagon and was raised by a pack of coyotes. He had a rattlesnake named Shake that he used as a lasso and whip. He had a horse named Lightening, though his preferred form of transportation was to lasso a tornado. He enjoyed eating dynamite and had a girlfriend who rode a giant catfish. The stories are all just tales. But it’s neat to think about a life lived in such an exciting way. Read more about Pecos Bill and other Texas tall tales here.
Below, an image of the late Patrick Swayze playing Pecos Bill in Disney’s Tall Tale (1995).
Calamity Jane, a real person, also known as Martha Canary was a sharpshooter and frontierswoman. She was born and raised in the Wild West and was rarely seen in a dress. She fought with military detachments across the West as white men settled on First Nation lands; she was the first woman to do so. For a number of years she appeared in Wild Bill Hickock’s Show as a sharpshooter and storyteller. Though she was illiterate, rough around the edges, and considered by some to be of loose morals; she was a survivor in a time and place that men found hard to endure. Kudos Martha! Bellevue University Library has a copy of Buffalo Girls, a fictionalized account of Canary’s life.
Calamity Jane rarely wore dress, opting for buckskin, pictured below.
John Henry, another real person, was a railroad worker during the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. He drove spikes and drilled rock to create tunnels. Around this time a steam powered drill was invented. Henry and his fellow workers were worried the drill would replace them. He challenged the drill operator and won the contest. Unfortunately he worked so hard his body gave out. Learn more about John Henry here.
Roger Aaron Brown plays Henry in Disney’s Tall Tale (1995)