Historical Fiction by Justin Muschong, for Paul Bunyan Day
The following document was found in the archives of the Pickmaster Pines Logging Museum in Hartshorn, Michigan. Scrawled on top of it, in faded ink: “Foreman, Please read this aloud to the men at breakfast tomorrow. E. G. Pickmaster”
April 22, 1867
Yesterday, I paid visit to the camp to observe if all was well. It was the day you men have for resting. Now that is fine. I have no quarrel about that. You men work hard and deserve a day of rest to pay your respects to the Almighty. What I have quarrel with are the wild stories I overheard you men telling one to another. These tales are tall, indeed, so tall I believe them a threat to the well-being of this camp.
I was in the bunkhouse doing my own important work of accounting so that our enterprise may be profitable. No day of rest for me, I tell you. In doing so, I overheard two of you men talking about a camp that possessed a stove of an inconceivable size. This stove was so massive the cook instructed his assistants to strap hams onto their feet so that they might skate about the top of it and thereby turn it into a greased griddle for the cooking of a giant flapjack.
I immediately found obvious discrepancies in this story. Firstly, there is no stove so massive that men might skate about it like a frozen pond. Secondly, even if there were, and it had somehow made the journey to a lumber camp, it would not be hygienic to grease the griddle in the manner described. I remind you men that disease poses a threat to each and every one of us. We must be constantly on guard against it, which means our feet, which are in constant contact with the ground, which is uncleanly, should not come anywhere near the vicinity of the stove except to bear us near to it and away from it.
I inquired the name of this cook who had behaved so nonsensically. I was told he was the cook at the camp of Mr. Paul Bunyonn. Now, I was right and truly mystified for I come from a long line of lumber barons who have owned many camps across this fine state and, owing to that, I have been surrounded by lumber my entire life. And yet, I have never heard of this Mr. Paul Bunyonn.
I sought answers. Who is this Mr. Bunyonn? Where may I find him? I received only more wild tales. Mr. Bunyonn is a lumberjack 7 feet in height. His cook had need to cook such a massive flapjack so that Mr. Bunyonn himself could eat it. Mr. Bunyonn’s entire camp is of a similarly massive size and so is his ox, which is blue in color and with which he cleared a single forty of no less than 100 million feet of pine. And etc.
Well. I should not have to point out to you the absurd nature of these tales. But I shall. I have not yet set eyes upon a man 7 feet in height. Nor is 7 feet of height sufficient size to require eating a flapjack so massive grown men must skate ham across the griddle. A man of any size who ate the entirety of such a flapjack would suffer tremendous digestive pain owing to his gluttony. Moreso he would deserve such pain. Moreso this man is a fool. The size of his camp is simply not feasible from a logistical nor an economic standpoint. The investment of time and money necessary for establishing such a camp would make it very unlikely that Mr. Bunyonn would ever turn a profit even if he did clear 100 million feet of pine to a forty. Which I should not have to say is an absurd figure, as well. And I do not believe I even have to address the blue ox. How did this ox become blue? By lying in blue snow for seven days I was told. From where did this blue snow arrive? And would not the ox have perished from lying in it? Perhaps it was blue because it was frozen dead.
Now, I know you men have had a rather unfortunate winter. I have seen that on my visits to the camp. And I have joined you in mourning poor Jean-Charles, who mistakenly stepped into the path of a falling tree, and poor Martin Jones, who that same tree then rolled over upon, and poor Mr. Andersson of the river crew, who fell off that tree just last week as he was driving it to the sawmills, and etc.
Nonetheless. You cannot allow yourselves to indulge in fantasies that distract from the work at hand. No mythical man with a bizarrely colored beast is going to arrive in camp to perform your labors so that you may be idle. It is only you out here in this forest. You. You and the innumerable trees.
If it is tales you are seeking, I recommend you consult the Good Book, by which I of course mean the Bible. Many a fine tale is contained therein. There are also autobiographies and histories of those who made our great nation. If you are seeking a tall figure, why not George Washington? After all, he is our forebear, having famously chopped down the cherry tree. I ask only that those who can read do so aloud for the benefit of those who cannot.
There. I have made my point. Now, go forth and be productive this day so that you may rest comfortably this night having done your duty until the next day dawns and so on and so on and so on and so on and so on and so on and so on. I shall return directly to the city this morning and hope to hear no more tall tales of this Mr. Paul Bunyonn when I return to camp the Sunday next.
Lastly, complicated issues in the lumber market require me to announce that the daily allotment of land area you must clear has been doubled.
Yours Humbly and Sincerely and Etc.,
E. G. Pickmaster
Originally published on 6/28/15.