Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Paul & Babe, more than a Minnesota legend October 26, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I purchased this vintage 1960s mini book, published by BANG Printing of Brainerd, at a used book sale.

 

IN MINNESOTA, PERHAPS no other legend perpetuates as much as that of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.

 

Photographed outside a hardware store in Pequot Lakes.

 

The larger-than-life pair fits the image we present of hardiness and strength, of surviving, and thriving, in a cold and snowy land. Paul cleared woods in one swell swoop of his axe. Babe imprinted our soil with depressions soon filled with water in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

 

“The Paul Bunyan Family” with Babe the Blue Ox suggested as a Halloween costume on a recent edition of Twin Cities Live.

 

Dressed in our buffalo plaid flannel shirts—and I’m wearing one right now while typing this post—we embrace our identity as practical people. We don our flannels and our snow boots, fish on frozen lakes, shovel snow and long for summer, although we’re not going to tell you that.

 

Many northern Minnesota businesses tap into the Paul Bunyan legend as indicated in this sign photographed in Pine River.

 

We are of stolid, hardworking immigrant stock—of farmers who broke virgin sod, of lumberjacks who felled trees, of families who fled refugee camps and war torn countries, of men and women and children who decided Minnesota offered a place to fulfill our dreams.

 

Legendary Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidj. Minnesota Prairie Roots edited file photo.

 

We showcase Paul and Babe as legendary celebrities not because we’re trying to boast—we are mostly a modest bunch—but because we realize the value of these two. The pair reflects us, markets Minnesota, promotes tourism, boosts local economies, especially in the Brainerd Lakes area and to the north in Bemidji. Both communities feature oversized statues of Paul and Babe.

 

Paul Bunyan and Babe stand next to the iconic Brainerd water tower in this sculpture on a downtown Brainerd street corner.

 

Throughout the Minnesota northwoods and lakes region, the lumberjack and the ox show up in roadside attractions, in business and state trail names, in art and more. They symbolize the Minnesota spirit of strength and of creativity. We are a place of artists and wordsmiths, of hardworking men and women unafraid of getting our hands dirty, of determined entrepreneurs, of business leaders, of educators, of young people forging their paths into the woods of life…

We are individuals crafting our lives in a land that has, for generations, valued the legend of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox as part of our Minnesota story.

 

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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18 Responses to “Paul & Babe, more than a Minnesota legend”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Love Paul and Babe. I think the spirit that you describe can describe many midwestern states as well with the values that you hold dear. What a wonderful country we live in where there are plenty of people willing to work and share their craft and trade with others. And yay for red flannel shirts. 🙂

  2. Grew up in the MN Northwoods and still enjoy the story of Paul Bunyan and Babe 🙂 I have retained my MN work ethic too. Thanks so much for sharing – Happy Day – Enjoy!

  3. Valerie Says:

    I’m happy to be called a Minnesotan (with roots in Norway. 😉

  4. Don Says:

    Well Audrey we’ve had snow for a couple of weeks now so I am over the 1st snow fall dread, now if the new people that are here from the Lower 48 would figure out how to properly drive in snow I would be much happier and safer. On the bright side we are all another day closer to summer!

    Flannel shirts, Paul Bunyan and Babe are the perfect epitome of Minnesota, carry on the traditions for me!

  5. Susan Ready Says:

    Your well crafted lines below capture the Minnesota spirit and strength of the people and worth repeating.

    They symbolize the Minnesota spirit of strength and of creativity. We are a place of artists and wordsmiths, of hardworking men and women unafraid of getting our hands dirty, of determined entrepreneurs, of business leaders, of educators, of young people forging their paths into the woods of life…

    We are individuals crafting our lives in a land that has, for generations, valued the legend of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox as part of our Minnesota story.

  6. Jackie Says:

    When the kids were little we often visited the Paul and Babe near Brainerd. It was the talking Paul….the kids were always baffled that Paul knew their names when they walked through the gates. Good memories!

  7. –I’ve seen Paul several times and I’m never sick of him!!))) xx

  8. I remember reading a book about Paul and Babe as a child. Interesting story!


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