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Paul Bunyan and Big Blue Ox Day

"They could never keep Babe more than one night at a camp for he would eat in one day all the feed one crew could tote to camp in a year. For a snack between meals he would eat fifty bales of hay, wire and all and six men with picaroons were kept busy picking the wire out of his teeth. Babe was a great pet and very docile as a general thing but he seemed to have a sense of humor and frequently got into mischief, He would sneak up behind a drive and drink all the water out of the river, leaving the logs high and dry."

~ Paul Bunyan Tall Tales, traditional

Officially registered as the Rob Roy (MacGregor) tartan, this pattern is also commonly known in the United States and Canada as the Paul Bunyan "buffalo plaid" or "buffalo check." In the mid-1800s, a clothing company from New England produced the checked-patterned shirt which immediately became popular with workers and outdoorsman, including lumberjacks, and eventually became closely associated with legendary folk hero lumberjack Paul Bunyan, a giant of a man "63 axe handles high" whose deeds and exploits are part of historic folklore of the American north. Accompanied by his equally large and faithful Big Blue Ox, Babe, humorous tales of Paul Bunyan and his superhuman labors stem from the stories shared around old logger campfires in the early 20th century. When Paul and his axemen were not fortifying themselves with hundreds of pancakes for a good day's work, he tramped around the state of Minnesota, leaving footprints that filled with water and created Minnesota's 10,000 lakes! Babe is said to have stomped the first mine shaft into the Cuyuna Range, and when a keg of water Babe was hauling sprang a leak, it spilled all the way south to New Orleans, forming the Mississippi River! And that's just the beginning! 🪓 🌲 🥞 🐂 💙

The "Buffalo Plaid" (Rob Roy Macgregor tartan) pattern has come to be loosely associated with the giant mythological lumberjack of North American folklore, Paul Bunyan, whose legendary exploits include creating Minnesota's ten thousand lakes (including Lake Bemidji, which resembles Paul's giant footprint), and digging the Grand Canyon, by dragging his axe behind him!


Paul is customarily accompanied in these exploits by his companion, Babe or Blue, a giant ox,  who was measured seven feet (or seven ax-handles) between his eyes, and fourteen feet between his horns. 


The character of Paul Bunyan originated in the oral traditions of North American loggers, possibly related to a real person who figured in the 1837 Papineau Rebellion in Canada.

 

In the Two Mountain region in St. Eustache, Canada, the local French Canadians revolted against their new ruler, the Queen of England. Many local loggers joined the cause refusing to surrender to the English troops sent to quash the rebellion.   The loggers armed themselves with axes, mattocks and large wooden forks they had steam bent into hooks.   One of the rebels, a large bearded mountain man named Paul Bunyan, cut a wide swath amongst the Queen's troops.  This Paul survived the rebellion and became highly respected among the loggers of the region for his deeds in battle.  It is believed that exaggerrated tales of this Paul, along with those of other loggers, melded into the bunkhouse tales told by loggers to amuse themselves and impress tenderfoots.


Paul Bunyan tales were told by the fires of bunkhouses in the northern camps from Wisconsin to Maine, from Minnesota to Oregon, to Washington and California for decades.


It is believed that this particular tartan/plaid was introduced to North America by a descendant of Rob Roy -  'Jock McCluskey,' a sometimes lawman, bounty hunter, fur trapper, gold miner and eventually, Indian trader.


For some classic tall tales of Paul and babe, click their illustration.