Adapted from the Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan

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Paul Bunyan is a larger-than-life folk hero and the subject of many tall tales. He was known for his skills as a lumberjack, as well as for Babe, his blue ox. Read about Babe in the excerpt from The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan. Adapted from The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan by W.B. Laughead 1 Babe was seven axehandles wide between the eyes according to some authorities; others equally dependable say forty-two axehandles. This contradiction comes from using different forms of measurement. Seven of Paul’s axehandles were equal to a little more than forty-two of the ordinary kind. 2 When it came to the cost of keeping Babe, it was clear that his upkeep was expensive but his efficiency was very high. Without Babe, how could Paul have hauled logs to the landing a whole section (640 acres) at a time? He also used Babe to pull the kinks out of the crooked logging roads. It was on a job of this kind that Babe pulled apart a chain with three-inch links and made it into a straight bar. ™ © Advanced Assessment Systems/LinkIt! Duplication is restricted to licensees only. 3 They could never keep Babe more than one night at a camp, for in one day he would eat all the food the crew could tote to the camp in a year. For a snack between meals he would eat fifty bales of hay, wire and all, and six men were kept busy picking the wire out of his teeth. Babe was a great pet and very docile as a general thing but he seemed to have a sense of humor and frequently got into mischief. He would sneak up behind a log drive and drink all the water out of the river, leaving the logs high and dry. It was impossible to build an ox-sling big enough to lift Babe off the ground for shoeing, but after they cut down the trees in North Dakota there was room for Babe to lie down for this operation. 4 Once in a while Babe would run away and be gone all day roaming all over the Northwestern country. His tracks were so far apart that it was impossible to follow him, and so deep that a man falling into one could only be hauled out with difficulty and a long rope. Once a settler and his wife and baby fell into one of these tracks and the son got out when he was fifty-seven years old and reported the accident. Babe’s tracks today form the thousands of lakes in the “Land of the Sky-Blue Water.” 5 Because he was so much younger than Babe and was brought to camp when a small calf, Benny was always called the Little Blue Ox although he was quite a chunk of an animal. Benny could not, or rather would not, haul as much as Babe, but he could eat more. 6 Paul got Benny for free from a farmer near Bangor, Maine. The farm had only forty acres of hay, and by the time Benny was a week old, the farmer had to dispose of him for lack of food. The calf was undernourished and only weighed two tons when Paul got him. Paul drove from Bangor out to his headquarters camp near Devil’s Lake, North Dakota, that night and led Benny behind the sleigh. Western air agreed with the little calf and every time Paul looked back at him he had grown two feet taller. 7 When they arrived at camp, Benny was given a good feed of buffalo milk and flapjacks and put into a barn by himself. Next morning the barn was gone. Later it was discovered on Benny’s back as he scampered over the clearings. He had outgrown his barn in one night. ™ © Advanced Assessment Systems/LinkIt! Duplication is restricted to licensees only. 8 Benny would never pull a load unless there was snow on the ground, so after the spring thaws they had to whitewash the logging roads to fool him. 9 Gluttony killed Benny. He had a mania for pancakes and a crew of two hundred men was kept busy making cakes for him, and even then there were never enough. One night he pawed and bellowed and threshed his tail about till the wind of it blew down what pine Paul had left standing in North Dakota. At breakfast time he broke loose, tore down the cook shanty and began eating pancakes. In his greed, he swallowed the red-hot stove. Indigestion set in and nothing could save him. What happened to him after that is a matter of dispute. One authority states that the body of Benny was dragged to a safe distance from the North Dakota camp and buried. When the earth was shoveled back it made a mound that formed the Black Hills in South Dakota. ™ © Advanced Assessment Systems/LinkIt! Duplication is restricted to licensees only.

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