A Chance Meeting with Paul Bunyan

I walked through the woods in Michigan, as I love doing. I love woods, so green and... woody. I wandered around, taking it all in – the smell of earth, the sounds of leaves and birds, the feel of the cool breeze, the almost-unpleasant taste of rotting leaves in the air. I stared, wondering how I could put it into words or even capture the entire thing in a photo. I pulled out my camera as I walked, not watching where I was going. I must have tripped on a root or something, because I suddenly fell and smashed my head into a tree trunk. I blacked out.


Looking up through the leaves

Photo courtesy flickr creative commons: A. Blight


As I slowly came to my senses, the light filtering through my ever-widening eyes, I saw a man staring down at me.

“You okay, son?”

“Uh...” I stammered. “I guess.” The man held out his hand. I grabbed it and he pulled me up with amazing strength.

“You must've hit your head hard to knock yourself out like that,” he said, leaning against the tree I had run into. The man was tall; my height of 6'1” only came up to the bottom of his armpit. He wore a red-and-black checkered shirt, worn blue jeans, and big leather boots. He had a big black bushy beard.  His hair matched his beard. Gleaming blue eyes shone from his weathered face. To his right, leaning against another tree, was a large red axe, probably four feet tall by itself.


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“I guess so,” I said, shaking my head vigorously in a vain attempt to clear the all the cobwebs from my mind at once.


“Where you from?” he asked me, stroking his beard.


“Uh...” I said. “Long story short, the campground over there.” I pointed over to where the campground was – or should be. I looked over and saw woods.


“Campground?” the man asked, genuinely puzzled. “What's a campground?”


“Something that isn't there,” I said, spinning around and around, trying to find our trailer. There wasn't a speck of civilization in site.


“Apparently,” said the man. “You're still recovering from that nasty bump with that tree.”


“No, it was there. I know it,” I said, still desperately trying to find our campsite.


“Well, if you're certain, why don't we look for this, err, campground?” he asked, standing up.


“All right,” I said, shaking my head again.


“Hang on. I don't think you're fit for walking right now. I'll get you a ride.” He whistled, and from behind a patch of tall brush came a giant, bright blue ox. The animal must have been 6'6” at the head. It's horns stuck out, but amazingly didn't catch on the trees or brush. “This here is Babe. She'll be your ride for the time being.”


“Babe?” I said.




“And you would be...”


“My name's Paul,” he said, sticking out his massive hand. I took it, and instantly regretted it as his very firm handshake felt like he was cracking multiple bones. After he released my head, I introduced myself, still massaging my hand stealthily.


“Well, son, let's find this here campground you speak of.” Paul grabbed me around the midsection and placed me slightly roughly on Babe's back. After retrieving his axe, he started walking in the direction I had pointed to before.


Illustration of Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox, Babe by William B. Laughead from "Paul Bunyan and His Blue Ox." Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Illustration of Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox, Babe by William B. Laughead from "Paul Bunyan and His Blue Ox." Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


We must've hiked only hiked for a minute or two before I realized I was not where I thought I was. The lack of any familiar campground objects was starting to tell me that I was in a much different place than before.


I had no clue where I was, and it was disturbing. We wandered along, but still found no trailers. As we walked, Paul pointed out different trees and bushes, naming their uses, such as which ones could be used quickly for a fire and which ones could be brewed into a tea on cold nights. Finally, we came across a skinny river with plants leaning across the water's surface. Paul stopped Babe, who let me off, and knelt down by the water. He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a small digital camera. Flipping it on, he leaned across the water and, after focusing for almost two minutes, took a picture at the surface of the water. He straightened back up and returned his attention to me.


Artistic shot. Do you know I'm actually from Canada?” he asked.


“You are?” I said, surprised.


“Yep. Fought in a battle against the British. Me and a bunch of other loggers decided we had had enough with them Brits. Chased them right out of West Canada. Then some company went and turned me into an advertisement, and now I can't go anywhere without people rushing me. Would you mind snapping a picture of Babe and myself by this river?


“Sure,” I said. He handed me the camera, and, leading Babe over, posed leaning over her back. I snapped the picture.


“Are you sure it's in focus? Try one more.” I took another. “I think I blinked.” I took another. “Babe moved.” I took picture after picture, with Paul finding issue with one or the other. Finally, he said, “One of those will work. Thanks.” I started walking towards him, but lost my footing again. Another tree came rushing at me, and I whacked my head again. The last thing I saw was Paul's concerned face staring at me.


Green forest

Photo courtesy flickr creative commons: LuvMI


As I slowly came to my senses, the light filtering through my ever-widening eyes, I saw a park ranger staring down at me.


“You okay, son?” he asked. He double-checked my vision, and let me go. As I walked away, I heard water nearby. I looked over towards the sound, and saw a skinny river with plants leaning across the water's surface. I smiled and turned away. As I wandered back to the trailer, I noticed I was holding something. I looked down and saw the camera still in my hand. Right then, I realized not all large men play football. They, and I, can do anything, including being a perfectionist photographer.

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