Bemidji (which is the Ojibwe word meaning “frozen brass monkey”) is located in northern Minnesota, and sits quietly on the beautiful and placid lake of the same name.
For reverse snowbirds like us, the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” is a delightful summer destination for cooler weather. And in addition to moderate temperatures there’s also some dandy roadside Americana, like the super-sized version of Paul Bunyan, and his sidekick Babe the Blue Ox.
Did you know that Paul Bunyan’s dragging axe produced the Grand Canyon, or that Babe ate 100 bales of hay in one meal … barbed wire and all? These and other tall tales are part of the folklore from logging areas all across the Northern US.
In the late 1930s, Bemidji’s large logging industry held an annual festival to honor super-logger Paul and his big, blue compadre Babe.
“Babe was brought into town on a Grinols Implement & Fuel Co. truck
arranged so that its exhaust exited through Babe’s nostrils.”
Personally, I think they missed a golden opportunity for some raucous bunkhouse humor when they didn’t vent the exhaust out the other end!
Lots of cities around the region honored the super-lumberjack, but Bemidji upped the ante with a statue of his ol’ podnah Babe. The childlike simplicity, comic strip appearance, and bright colors make this retro team one for the record books.
Stumbling into wacky roadside attractions is always fun. We discovered Paul and Babe while on a quest to find the source of the Mississippi River, and our basecamp was a tent in Lake Bemidji State Park. As we said, Northern Minnesota is a wonderful summer escape for southerners fed up with the heat, but Bemidji is not the place for cold weather wimps like me. The average daytime HIGH in January is a teeth-chattering 16°F, and the lake can freeze to 30 inches! Now I know why Babe is blue.
James & Terri