Paul Bunyan

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
–H.D. Thoreau

Paul Bunyan: According to the ubiquitous Wikipedia on Feb. 22, 2020:
“Paul Bunyan is a giant lumberjack in American and Canadian folklore. His exploits revolve around the tall tales of his superhuman labors, and he is customarily accompanied by Babe the Blue Ox. The character originated in the oral tradition of North American loggers, and was later popularized by freelance writer William B. Laughead (1882–1958) in a 1916 promotional pamphlet for the Red River Lumber Company. He has been the subject of various literary compositions, musical pieces, commercial works, and theatrical productions. His likeness is displayed in several oversized statues across North America.”

One of those giant statues is in our nearby Adirondack Mountains in an Old Forge amusement park. A, possibly false, childhood memory was relived during the HDR Photographic Survey of 2007 when I created the accompanying image of Paul, with Babe, as found in Bemidji, Minnesota. Truly one of the more noteworthy Paul Bunyan statues.

The Finger Lakes:  The website tells us that New York State’s Finger Lakes owe their creation not to glaciers, as science tells us, but to the big hand of Paul Bunyan. “Currently among the East Coast’s biggest vacation destinations, stories differ on how the Bunyans might’ve had a hand in their creation. Among the most popular tales holds that one day while hiking through upstate New York, Paul tripped and threw his hand down to break his fall, thus inadvertently carving the aptly-named Finger Lakes.” 

As a child growing up in the middle of the Finger Lakes, I heard many stories of their folklore, myths, and legends (anyone recall the the Native American lovers from separate Iroquois nations who could not be together so decided to jump off Taughannock Falls … only to be saved by a door that opened in the stone gorge wall to take them in forever? You can still see the outline of the door next to the falls.). Of course, we wondered how the lakes got their names. Simply recognizing that they looked like fingers on a map was not enough. So, yes, I was told many times that Paul Bunyan had passed through central New York, stumbled, and his hand formed the Finger Lakes. Despite a hand having five fingers, and there being eleven Finger Lakes, I really wanted to believe that tall tale for some reason. Did he fall 2.2 times?  Both hands? And his axe? So many questions.

The Lakes Are Special: Indeed, the Finger Lakes are special. They have come to be a very popular tourist destination and to be considered one of the world’s most beautiful wine regions. That’s pretty elevated company, but who am I to argue. I was born and raised right in the middle of the region, between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes (themselves named from anglicized Iroquois nations). I moved to the edge of the region for college and my career so far, but always within easy range of at least the westerly lakes. And now, as I look to the next phase (not second career), I return to my roots of enjoying the vineyards and wineries of the region. Of course there has been a wee bit of a boom in that industry in the last four decades and it is wonderful to see how the home region has grown and been reinvigorated. I hope to return home someday, perhaps with a house on a lake, and contemplate the lucky life I have had and how fortunate it is to live it out in such beautiful and special surroundings. The lakes are so much a part of me that I even see them in the corks of an Italian wine.

Next up; Academic Lineage