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PAUL BUNYAN AND THE BLUE SNOW

People disagree about a lot of things concerning Paul Bunyan. Some say he came from Minnesota or Wisconsin, and others say it was Maine, or Oregon, or Prince Edward Island. But no matter where he was born, everyone agrees he had a heart as big as all those places put together. And most people agree that the winter of the blue snow changed everything.

When Paul was still young but bigger than the biggest fir tree, he lived in a cave. Back then, the weather was worth talking about. Nobody knows what caused the winter of the blue snow, but everyone knows it hasn't happened again. Some people say it was so cold that winter that the Great Lakes froze solid from the bottom up and the snow turned blue from the reflection from the lakes. But other people say Paul Bunyan's blue ox, Babe, made those Great Lakes, and Babe and Paul weren't together yet when the blue snow began to fall.Back on that first day when blue snow began to fall, Paul was inside his warm, cozy cave, and he didn't even notice it at first. He was reading his history books. He used a trimmed pine tree for a pencil and the cave floor as his slate - he was that big, you see.

By the time the blue snow came, they say, Paul was feeling restless, wanting to do something more. Trouble was, he had this idea that some Great Work awaited him, but he didn't know exactly what that was.

That first night of the blue snow, Paul rolled himself into his blankets. The next day, when the world was covered with a blanket of blue, Paul woke at dawn and threw an armful of trees on the fire. When he glanced outside and saw those huge blue drifts piled up in front of his cave, he smiled. The blue snow was really beautiful.

Paul kicked through the drifts looking for the moose meat that his dog, Niagara, brought him every morning. Nothing was there. Paul worried that Niagara might be lost in this blue blizzard, so he decided to look for him.

Paul didn't know then that the moose herds had begun to flee north as soon as the blue snow started, and the bears had trotted after them. Niagara had chased after all these fleeing creatures.

At nightfall Niagara had reached the polar icefields, but even his powerful eyes couldn't pierce the darkness there. Seems that Niagara ran into the North Pole at such amazing speed that his body went whirling into the air, and when he crashed, he fell through 90 feet of ice. Paul never saw him again, though others claimed to have.

But that morning Paul Bunyan knew nothing of all these disasters. The sun broke through the white sky, and the air crackled with cold. Paul strapped on his snowshoes and went out to search for Niagara. Dressed in his wine-red hunting cap that covered his bushy black hair, he put on his orange and yellow-checked mackinaw shirt and his yellow muffler. Oh, he was a beautiful picture on this glorious morning beneath the brilliant sunlight, stepping through the bright blue snow in the great pine forest, taller than all the tallest trees.

For seven days Paul searched for Niagara. He saw neither his faithful dog nor any moose herds. When he finally returned to his cave, he felt weary and sad. He missed Niagara. He fell into a light sleep, but a moment later came a crashing roar, like the sound of a thousand falling timbers. Then it was quiet.

Paul rose and looked outside. Beneath the moonlight he saw an enormous wave of white water rolling over the blue beach. The wave came near to the cave, then stopped and rolled backward. Paul pulled on his boots and strode out to the bay.

The thick ice had broken under the force of that heaving wave. And now Paul saw two ears bobbing above the flow. They were shaped like moose ears but as big as Paul's fingers - gigantic, that is. Paul waded into the icy water and reached for those ears, grabbed them and lifted. Out came the huge body of a newborn ox calf, one so big that even Paul had to use both arms to carry him.

This calf was bright blue, shivering from head to toe. Paul stomped back to his cave and spread his blankets before the fire. He lay the calf upon the blanket. "Ah, Babe," he said, for that seemed just the name for the huge and handsome creature.

Paul nursed poor Babe all through that night. In the morning the calf opened his mouth and licked Paul Bunyan's neck. Paul couldn't stop laughing, for that lick tickled so. He had never known what ticklish was, and in fact, Paul Bunyan hadn't ever laughed before. Well, that just sealed the bond between Paul Bunyan and the blue ox he called Babe.

Now Paul needed milk for the calf, but none of the animals he knew could supply enough for such a huge creature. He strode right to the mountaintops to look for Babe's mother. And up there he saw one of the peaks was broken off. He knew then that this was the place where Babe had stumbled and fallen into the bay, causing that terrible crash and wave.

Paul followed the tracks down the side of the mountain, but they grew faint. Paul realized that Babe's parents had been frightened away by the blue snow. Like the other creatures, they had stampeded far away.

So Paul gathered moose moss for a soup. Back at the cave, while Babe slept, he boiled up a nice moose moss soup. When Babe woke up, he drank down 20 gallons in one gulp. Then Babe looked at Paul Bunyan and swished his tail to show how much pleasure this affection and food gave him.

Paul Bunyan laughed again. He thanked the blue snow for giving him such a fine creature. Just then Paul felt a force from the rear. He was knocked flat by the playful calf, right on the ground. He hit so hard the cave walls shook and stones fell.

"You're a strong one, aren't you?" he said to Babe. He stood and admired the calf, who now sat calmly before the fire. "If I am to keep you, we will have to do extraordinary things together," he said.

Weeks passed, and the moose moss soup made Babe fat and saucy. His big blue eyes grew bright, and his bellow was so deep the mountains shook with the sound. His chest deepened and his back widened and his muscles grew hard. And outside the blue snow began to melt.

Now people say that Babe grew to be 24 ax handles wide between the eyes, though others say it was 42 ax handles. They might both be wrong because Jim, the pet crow who roosted on Babe's left horn, one day in the dead of winter decided to fly across the tip to the other horn, and he got lost on the way and never made it to the other horn until spring thaw. Babe was big and strong, that is for sure.

And Babe loved Paul, and Paul loved Babe.

They spent many a year together after that, and they had many amazing adventures. Why, they say that if it weren't for Babe, Paul Bunyan might never have become the world's greatest logger.