Paul Bunyan
Saturday, April 5, 2003
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(GK: Garrison Keillor; SS: Sue Scott; TR: Tim Russell; TK: Tom Keith)

Bemidji is the home of Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox Babe. And it's a pleasure to welcome him to our show, Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox. (BIG FOOTSTEPS, SLOW, WITH ECHO. STOP. AND LONG COW MOO.) And now this fork lift is going to take me up in the air so I can talk to Paul. (FORK LIFT ENGINE WHINES, LIFTS, ABOUT TEN SECONDS.) There. Good. Put on the safety brake. (RATCHET)

TR: Hi. How you doing? Thanks for not saying, How's the weather up there?

GK: You're welcome. How tall are you?

TR: Eighteen feet.

GK: Pretty big guy.

TR: Well, my mother used to say: take all you want but eat all you take. And I took a lot.

GK: I guess so. You don't look like a lumberjack, though.

TR: Well, they ran out of trees so I got laid off. And they retrained me as a community icon. I stand out by the highway and look friendly and people stop and I talk to kids. Point em to where the toilets are and so forth.

GK: Speaking of toilets, would you mind if I asked about----

TR: I would, yes. I don't talk about that.

GK: I just thought maybe you had your own facility-----

TR: I don't have any comment on that.

GK: You don't go in the lake----

TR: I don't want to discuss it.

GK: How much are you paid to stand out by the highway, Mr. Bunyan?

TR: Not as much as you might think. So I moonlight a little. Stand in front of the Gambles Store holding a giant tire over my head.

GK: Just stand there.

TR: Standing is pretty much what I've been trained for.

GK: Hard on the feet, I imagine.

TR: Yes, it is. That's where I get my name.

GK: Bunion.

TR: Right. (PAUSE) It's an old joke. You sort of walked right into it there, didn't you.

GK: That's okay. You ever get tired of standing there?

TR: I don't know if you know any Lutherans, but ---- waiting is something we're pretty good at.

GK: And this big silver thing in your hand ---- that looks like a cruise missile?

TR: This is a thermos of coffee.

GK: You've lived in Bemidji all your life?

TR: Not all of it yet. All of it up to now.

GK: You ever go down to the Cities?

TR: I've been there.

GK: And----

TR: I came back.

GK: Didn't care for it?

TR: Just needed my own space.

GK: So people here in Bemidji are pretty good to you?

TR: Yeah. When I go out on the lake ice-fishing they get a little jumpy, but other than that they're okay. Of course your Lutherans are always going to be a little standoffish.

GK: But you're Lutheran, right?

TR: Not any more, nope. Used to be. But I left. Yeah.

GK: Why?

TR: Too crowded. Not enough leg room.

GK: You go to church?

TR: I'm Unitarian.

GK: Unitarian?

TR: When you're 18 feet tall, you can be whatever you like.

GK: I suppose. The Unitarians are good to you?

TR: They think I'm God.

GK: Really----

TR: They didn't have one before, you know.

GK: Uh huh.

TR: So when I walked in, with Babe, it was sort of a big moment for them.

GK: I can imagine.

TR: Especially after I handed them the Book of Mormon.

GK: I see.

TR: I wrapped it up in tinfoil. Boy, they've been working on that ever since.

GK: So how is it to be considered a god?

TR: Well, it doesn't make it easier to meet women, I'll tell you that.

GK: Have you met any?

TR: I don't want to talk about that.

GK: You have a girlfriend?

TR: Used to.

GK: What happened?

TR: Don't want to talk about it.

GK: She leave you?

TR: You could say that.

GK: What happened?

TR: We were out fishing on the lake and she jumped in.

GK: What happened?

TR: Well, she told me she wanted to go back in but the fishing was so good, I couldn't go, and then when it slowed down some, I looked around and she'd swum to shore and she'd married this other guy and they had two kids already.

GK: Uh huh.

TR: It was the best fishing spot I ever saw.

GK: Where was it?

TR: Well, that's for me to know and you to find out. I caught a bass there last summer that was 240 pounds.

GK: That's big for a bass. A bluegill?

TR: No, it was brown. Brown hair and glasses and a moustache.

GK: That's a bass.

TR: That's what I said. Remember, minnows'll work on sopranos, and worms are good for tenors, but for bass you're gonna want frogs.

GK: Thank you. I'm going to lower myself down now. (ENGINE OF FORKLIFT) Mr. Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe. (MOO)

© Garrison Keillor 2003

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

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