Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Paul Bunyan Was a Personal Friend of Mine"

Paul Bunyan was a pal of mine,
and so was Babe the great blue ox.

I met them first in a logging camp
way out Minnesota way,
and when the cold winds came
and the heavy snows,
and logging season came to a close,

me and Paul and Babe
hopped on a sidewheeler riverboat
and steamed on down
the great Mississippi --
New Orleans bound.

And what times we had on that
riverboat, drinking wine
and playing faro and whist,
and other games of chance!
We had a whole season’s wages
to play with, the three of us,

and we didn’t care if we lost
or won. It was the game that
mattered. The thrill of the game.

But then one day Babe seemed
different. Kind of quiet
and distracted like.
Couldn’t concentrate on his
hand, which proved a real
annoyance when you had him as
partner in a game of bridge.

He started losing, not
just at bridge, but at whist
and poker and roulette
and even craps.
I guess it was catching, because
me and Paul started losing too.
And then we lost everything --
All three of us, busted out.

Paul and Babe and me went to the bar,
and Paul ordered three gallons
of steam beer, backed up with
three quarts of corn whiskey
and three pints of mulled cider,

and after we lighted up three
cigars the size of a baby’s arm
Paul said, “Babe, talk to me, man.
Talk to us. We’re your pals.
Something’s bothering you for sure.”

Babe ordered jeroboams three of the
finest fine champagne, and after
we had drunk them down, he said,
“Pals, I am smitten. Smitten in love
with one of them cows down in the hold,
one of them self-same cows bound to
wind up as steaks and roasts for some
New Orleans fancy eating place.
Her name is Daisy, and I’m in love,

and I don’t know what the fuck to do.
I was gonna buy her from the cattle
merchant, but now I’ve lost every red cent
I had.” “Me too,” said Paul.
“So also I,” said I. “Which brings us
to the question:
how we gonna pay for these drinks?”

“The hell with the drinks!” said Babe.
“What about my Daisy?”
“Don’t you worry none about Daisy,”
said Paul. “Yeah, but what about
the drinks?” said I.
“Don’t you worry about these drinks,
neither,” said Paul. “Just leave it to me.”
And he turns to the bartender.
“Hey, pal, put these on my tab, will ya?
I’ll take care of it later tonight.”
“Sure thing, Mr. Bunyan,” says the bartender,

and Paul turns back to me and Babe and says,
“Let’s go.” And he led us downstairs, down to
below the decks, and on the way we couldn’t help
but notice that he grabbed a fire ax from off
the wall. “Paul,” I said, “what are you gonna do?”

“Yeah,” said Babe, “you’re not gonna get us in trouble,
are you?”
“Relax,” said Paul, and finally we got to the part
of the hold where they kept all the cattle, behind
a sort of wooden fence down there.

“There she is,” said Babe. “There’s my Daisy.”
She was a pretty cow. Spotted black and white.
She said moo.

First thing Paul did was take that ax to the fence
and chop a big space through it.
“Come on out, Daisy,” he said to the cow.
“It’s okay.”
Daisy came out and she nuzzled snouts with Babe.
Then without saying a word Paul went over to
the bulkhead and started chopping.

Two or three mighty chops and the
mighty Mississippi came gushing
into that hold.

Paul, Babe and I were among the lucky ones.
We managed to swim to shore. Others
were not so lucky, including the
poor cow, Daisy.

Standing sopping wet on the shore,
looking at the still-smoking stacks
of the riverboat
poking up forlornly and crookedly
from the surface
of the littered water
in the moonlight,
I had to ask, “Paul, just what
were you thinking?”

“I only wanted to set Daisy free,”
he said. “And besides, we had no way
to pay our bar bill. I’m sorry, Babe.”

“I know you meant well, Paul,” said Babe.
“At least you tried.”

For another minute we stood there,
sopping wet,
looking out at
the dark mighty Mississippi,
with those slightly less-smoking stacks

sticking up crookedly out of the
sparkling surface of the water
not so littered now
with inanimate and formerly animate objects
all drifting downstream
in the moonlight --
New Orleans bound.

And then we walked off
down the moonlit road,
me and Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue ox,

in search of a warm and dry place
to rest for the night,
in search of new adventures.

illustrated by danny delacroix and eddie el greco

artistic supervisor: rhoda penmarq

"a rhoda penmarq production is a swell production!"

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