Possibly the most famous lumberjack of all time and definitely the tallest, Paul Bunyan stands proudly on Bangor’s Main Street. Recently, the city denied funding for a model of Babe the Blue Ox designed as a small example of a larger proposed statue. A Bangor Daily News editorial asked if a lumberjack was even still relevant to today’s growing city. I had the chance to speak to Paul about his legacy, Bangor, and the internet. He was at times surprisingly introspective and philosophical, but always imaginary.
Hi Paul, how are you doing?
Well, I’m pretty excited today because the Loggers’ Expo is at the Cross Center behind me and I really get a kick out of those toys.
What have you been up to lately?
Recently I had the chance to work with Zac Brown band which was fun. At 31-feet tall, I guess you could say I’m their biggest fan. I had a small cameo in their Homegrown Fan Video. They were great and I can’t wait for them to play the waterfront this summer. I can hear all the concerts quite well from up here.
What are your thoughts about the concert noise complaints?
Tell you what, I’ve been standing here for quite a while. I remember when it was very quiet and there were hardly even any tourists taking my picture. Now, not every show can be Zac Brown, but all the music makes me smile. It means the kids are having fun.
In your opinion, how can Bangor improve?
The Internet is too slow! It’s the worst. It’s slower than molasses in January. We need high-speed internet if we expect to attract young folks and employers. I applaud those trying to bring broadband to the Queen City. Fast Internet is like a sharp ax, and I can’t wait to surf the web at full speed.
Oh yes, absolutely
What is that like?
Well, I had a 60-inch plasma TV for my phone but the screen was simply too small. Now I’m using a tablet made out of a Jumbotron. The problem is my charger is only 100 feet long. That’s way too short!
You have always been admired for your skill as a lumberjack, but recently you have also become somewhat influential in the fashion world. What do you make of the whole “lumbersexual” thing?
It’s humbling to be considered fashionable at my age, but that’s all it is: fashion. Most of those guys couldn’t carry my ax.
In fairness your ax probably weighs like 1000 pounds.
My hatchet weighs 1000 pounds. The ax is over a ton.
Anyway, for those who might be interested, what kind of plaid is your shirt?
This is called Buffalo check plaid. Yeah, I’ve got plaid for days.
What is that long spear thing that you’re holding called?
Common question. It’s called a peavey and was invented right here in Maine.
Are you working on anything else people should know about?
Yes, I’ve also worked with Bangor Greendrinks.
Green drinks, like a Shamrock Shake?
No, no. Bangor Greendrinks is a kind of party that takes place once a month to bring people together interested in sustainability and beer.
Given that you’re known for prodigiously cutting down trees, is being an environmentalist kind of a conflict of interest for you?
[pause] No. People who work in the woods understand that you’ve got to give back however much you take, or you’ll be out of a job. But to your point, when it comes to my legacy, most people can’t see the forest for the trees.
My incredible accomplishments in the woods have been well documented. And I would go toe to toe with any of these mechanical contraptions just like John Henry. But nowadays, with the help of a good skidder or timber harvester, almost anyone can cut down thousands of trees. What’s much harder, and truly deserving of our respect, is the creation of a community. Looking back, what I’m proudest of are the towns like Bangor that flourished thanks to our hard work.
Speaking of Bangor, there has been a suggestion of letting Babe the Blue Ox join you here on Main Street. Would you like to be reunited with your old buddy?
First of all, J. Normand Martin is the best, I literally owe him everything because he designed me in 1959. And I miss Babe, I really do, but I know he’s happiest in a big green pasture where he can run around. Also, he smells. So, no, I don’t think we need Babe here. However, I wouldn’t mind a nice plaque explaining who I am (and what a peavey is–everyone asks that). There used to be a sign and, believe it or not, some visitors here don’t even know who Paul Bunyan is.
Who is Paul Bunyan?
I’m just a very tall, handsome woodcutter who single-handedly cleared more land than anyone before or since.
What’s next for you?
I’ve cut down enough trees, now I’d rather watch something grow.
PAUL BUNYAN WILL BE WATCHING BANGOR GROW FROM HIS USUAL SPOT IN BASS PARK. HE IS ALWAYS AVAILABLE FOR PICTURES, BUT NOT ALWAYS THIS TALKATIVE. ZAC BROWN BAND PLAYS THE BANGOR WATERFRONT ON SUNDAY, JUNE 7.