Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Where is Paul Bunyan when you need him? January 9, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Paul Bunyan chainsaw art in Hackensack, MN. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo September 2017)

WHEN WINTER WALLOPS MINNESOTA, Minnesotans get resourceful. Or at least that proved true for Randy on Saturday morning when he suited up in his Dickies coveralls and assorted winter gear to remove snow from the end of the sidewalk.

Before he exited the house, I advised him to pace himself given his age and the knowledge that the snow deposited by the city plow would be heavy. We had no idea.

Legendary Paul Bunyan is seen often in central and northern Minnesota, here on an ice machine outside Thurlow Hardware and Rental in Pequot Lakes. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2018)

I watched from the window while Randy tossed scoopfuls of rock hard snow onto ever-growing mounds banking the sidewalk. He seemed to be following my take-it-easy advice by occasionally pausing to rest. But then he stopped, headed up the street toward the driveway, then the garage. I figured he was coming inside to warm up.

Not so. Rather he walked out of the garage with an ax. Yes, the tool used to fell trees, split wood or in the recreational competition of ax throwing.

It didn’t take long to see what Randy had in mind. Soon he was swinging the ax into the snow wall lodged at sidewalk’s end. The moisture-heavy snow bladed there by the city plow froze overnight, making it impossible to shovel without first splitting the solid chunks. Unbelievable.

Randy worked tirelessly swinging the ax blade into the rock pack. Swing. Swing. Swing. Then he set the ax aside, grabbed the scoop shovel and flung the snow rocks aside. He repeated the process until the sidewalk end was cleared.

A Paul Bunyan liquor bottle photographed in 2018 at Sarah’s Uniques & Jim Mantiques in St. Charles. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo August 2018)

In all the decades of removing snow, and I’ve done plenty of snow-clearing, too (including sidewalk and driveway ends), we’ve never resorted to using an ax. But Paul Bunyan would have been proud of Randy’s resourcefulness. To survive in Minnesota, you sometimes need to think like a legendary lumberjack.

© Copyright 2023 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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21 Responses to “Where is Paul Bunyan when you need him?”

  1. beth Says:

    randy has now created his own legend! amazing

  2. If it snows like this again, Randy will have to hitch the Babe, the Blue Ox to a snow plow. 😉

  3. I told Chris about Randy’s snow removal method and he simply said “I am so grateful we don’t have to deal with that.” Spring is one day closer today. Take heart!

  4. Oh, Audrey… how awful! Stay warm, Sweet Lady. ❤ ❤ ❤

    • Thanks, Penny. I feel for Randy. Although I do some snow removal, I have yet to wield an ax or climb a ladder to shovel snow from the roof. Randy shoveled snow from a section of our house roof yesterday. Next up, the garage.

  5. Resourcefulness and the true adage of work smarter not harder, especially with rock hard snow. I felt for him reading this – poor guy – but determined to get er done! Be Safe, Stay Warm, Take Care 🙂

  6. Bernadette Arlene Thomasy Says:

    Fun post, Audrey. Made me chuckle. Hope Randy got an extra treat for his hard work. Paul Bunyan’s got to eat to stay strong.

  7. Valerie Says:

    A great story! It will be repeated over the years I’m sure! 😉

  8. Rose Says:

    Good old Minnesotan ingenuity, we always use the best tool to get the job done.😊But it would be nice to have Paul Bunyan and Babe to do the big jobs.

  9. Susan Ready Says:

    What a fun posting that showed how hardy Minnesotans can be using ingenuity and resourcefulness as winter survival skills.


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