fakelore (2)

Paul Bunyan awakes from a strange dream.

In it, he is lost in the woods, in a company truck and it won’t start so he steps out and when he looks back, the treeroots have all but eaten the vehicle.

And all he can think in his dream is “not again”.

He turns back and there – a man is growing out of a stump, his lower body one with the trunk and great roots that clawed about the forest floor.

And from atop his head there sprout 2 horns, like the horns of an ox.

42 axe handles and a pinch of chewing tobacco! – this he mutters sleepily, recalling the measure between the horns of Babe the mighty Blue Ox – or the other one he knew by heart:  A day and a half flight for an eagle, from the tip of one horn to the other!   (Paul Bunyan, the Great Orator, saw no cause to be inconvenienced by the occasional exaggeration).  Now those were days of catchy slogans!

…and immediately Paul winces as he recalls the brand meeting with merchandising later that day.  He much prefers his own slogans to the free verse coming out of the PR department these days.  He groans and tries to recite the speech they’d prepared for him.  Bab Babbitson (VP Relations) had been coaching him on it – a Board presentation on Thursday, and he still didn’t have it memorized.  How did it go again?

Here is the land of opportunity. It is a sun-kissed land. Flowers bloom on the hills. The sun shines every day.

The fruit grows thick on the trees and a man can pick his breakfast off the trees every morning.  People will want to buy farms here some day.

Let’s organize a company and sell shares.

… something like that.  Back in his dream, the stump-man was not unusual.  It’s the woods that scare him, in that dream, they suffocate and close about him, and then he becomes the stump-man!  And those horns feel ridiculous, and is that bluejay on the one, ou bien, p’tit pic-bois?  Tu me régardes, moi?  In his dream this makes him inexplicably happy.  But this is all fading now as his brain gropes through the muddled space between sleep and industry.

Paul rolls over, tries to sink back into the dream, but it is no use.  It’s all gone now.

(This vision – him, Paul Bunyan, the Mighty Leader of Men, reduced to a stump – this vision will later spring crystal clear right it the middle of Thursday’s Board presentation and freeze him mid-verse, but he doesn’t know this now…)

No, the dream is gone.  All he remembers is the strange feeling of looking up at the trees.  They used to be smaller, at least that’s what he thought he remembered.  He works through the speech again.

Here is the land of opportunity. It is a sun-kissed land. Flowers bloom on the hills. The sun shines every day.

Yes, this is a land of opportunity.  People will come here from all over some day.  To buy farms, lots, climate and oil wells.

Let’s organize a company and sell shares.

Crows are cawing on the lawn, and Paul Bunyan figures the wind must have blown the garbage pails over again.  He’ll have to deal with that, too.  Damn.

*       *       *

This is the second of a series of blogs designed around cryptic re-invention of Paul Bunyan, or Bonyenne… inspired by a purchase from a used bookstore in Bellingham, WA, some 20 years ago now.  Paul Bunyan, by James Stevens, with Woodcuts by Allen Lewis.  Penned in 1925, this compilation of short stories – or rather, tall tales I should say – stands for me as a splendid work of contemporary parody, only it was written 87 years ago!  Prescient parody, I suppose.

The “free verse” poetry above is directly from the book… a chapter wherein Bab Babbitson (“who had heretofore been looked upon as a useless fussbudget around the camp…”) joins his fellow loggers in near mutiny by disobeying Camp Rule #31,721 – which prohibits the writing of poetry, as clearly Paul “opposed the teaching and practice of art among his loggers”.  Paul is absent from camp, and his crew of burly loggers fall prey to an enchanted forest.  The foreman can do nothing to stop them from “running nakedly about, hopping, skipping, and posing.”  They perch themselves in trees and invent poetry… until Great Paul returns and brings them to their senses!

Genius, methinks.  Anyways, here’s the first part.


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