Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Only in Minnesota: Babe the Blue Ox tops the news following a severe storm August 4, 2016

NOT EVEN THE STRENGTH of an ox could match the power of Mother Nature during severe thunderstorms that rolled through the Brainerd Lakes area of Central Minnesota Thursday morning.

At Paul Bunyan Land along State Highway 18 east of Brainerd, strong winds toppled a 6,000-pound iconic Babe the Blue Ox statue. The 18-foot tall by 24-foot wide ox is “a little dinged up, but in true Paul Bunyan fashion, back up on his feet in no time,” according to an entry on the attraction’s Facebook page.

See for yourself:

Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Photo by Adam Rademacher & courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Photo by Adam Rademacher & courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Reeds Backhoe Service worked to upright Babe. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Reeds Backhoe Service worked to upright Babe. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Babe suffered a few dings, including to his flank. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Babe suffered a few injuries, including to his rear flank. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Babe's horn was also damaged. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunayn Land.

Babe’s horn was also damaged. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunayn Land.

Babe, back on his feet. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

Babe, back on his feet. Photo by Adam Rademacher and courtesy of Paul Bunyan Land.

If you’re from Minnesota or you’ve ever vacationed in the Brainerd Lakes area, you understand the importance of Babe the Blue Ox. He, along with his owner, lumberjack Paul Bunyan, are the stuff of Northwoods legend. Since the early 1950s, statues of the pair welcomed visitors to the Paul Bunyan Amusement Center near Baxter. Parents slipped their children’s names to the ticket taker and soon Paul was personally greeting Johnny or Jane from Wherever. Such is the stuff of summer childhood memories in Minnesota.

In 2003, the long-time tourist attraction closed and Paul and Babe moved to their new home next to This Old Farm Pioneer Village east of Brainerd. This morning, Babe proved his resiliency in adversity. Paul Bunyan Land opened at 10 a.m. Thursday, right on schedule.

BONUS STORY & IMAGE:

Paul Bunyan book cover

 

Several months ago I purchased Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, a slim book (more like a pamphlet) at a used book sale in Faribault. Published by Bang Printing of Brainerd, likely in the 1960s, this book was written by Daphne Hogstrom and illustrated by Art Seiden. I acquired it for the art more than the story. I value such period graphics, especially this publication about a Minnesota legend.

According to the author, Babe the Blue Ox is as wide as the Mississippi River, stands 11 pine trees tall, does the work of 60 men and can pull rivers.

Legend goes and this writer writes, that Paul pulled Babe from a snowdrift in the year of the blue snow, thus the hue of this much beloved ox.

FYI: Click here to view the full gallery of storm damage images. All photos are courtesy of the Rademacher family and available for the public to use, according to the Paul Bunyan Land FB page. Note that Thursday’s storm caused severe damage throughout the Brainerd Lakes area with trees and power lines down. Damage reports are still coming in. This storm, and specifically the toppling of Babe the Blue Ox, is leading Minnesota news stories today.

© Story copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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22 Responses to “Only in Minnesota: Babe the Blue Ox tops the news following a severe storm”

  1. Valerie Says:

    Audrey:
    That is the same storm I mentioned in my response to your comment about the cabin up north. It’s the one we “slept through” on the porch.

  2. OH, no! Poor Babe! Great story!

  3. Bernadette Thomasy Says:

    Audrey, So glad to hear that Babe the Blue Ox is upright again. Your post brought back some childhood memories of our family visiting these attractions – the closest we got to a Disneyland or Disney World experience.

    • Your comparison seems valid. I can’t recall when I visited Paul Bunyan Amusement Center. But I did once, I believe when I was in my late teens. Due to growing up on a dairy farm, I vacationed only twice, once as a four-year-old in Duluth and then as a pre-teen in the Black Hills. Mom and Dad took other trips with the younger kids. But I had to stay home with my older brother and take care of the farm. Sigh.

  4. I have never heard of this place but I remember the story quite fondly from my elementary school days.

  5. Glad to see Babe is back on his feet – love the story of Paul Bunyan and Babe 🙂 I spent Summers growing up in the Brainerd area and still have family there. Happy Day – Enjoy!

    • Lucky you to have spent your growing up summers in the Brainerd area. What fun memories you must have.

    • My last Summer up there was in 2004 as a newly married and in September we found out my husband was being transferred out west with his company. I have to tell you about the man I married – we went to the same preschool, him and my brother worked together in high school, his parents built a house on the corn field I played in as a kid, and his parents Summer in what was a campground in the Brainerd area that my family spent many summers at until they closed it as a campground. I found out all of these things after dating him for a few months and our paths never crossed again once we moved out of preschool until we went on a blind date. Such a cool story!

  6. horseklw@aol.com Says:

    Would you please consider alerting your readers to our country social at the historic Valley Grove site in Nerstrand, Sept. 18, 2016? The details are in the press release attached here.

    Thank you.

    Karin

    • Karin, would you email (audrey at mnprairieroots.com) me nearer the date? Say about 10 days out from the event. I’ve attended and blogged about your country social in the past. But it’s been awhile. Unfortunately I won’t be available on that date to attend.

  7. Sue Ready Says:

    I really enjoyed this post as I too have read article in Star Tribune. I sent your posting to several up north friends. I also enjoyed link to Andrew’s photos. We certainly have had some turbulent weather in the north country. The drone of chainsaws has become commonplace. .

  8. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, not the OX!!! xx


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