he old-time lumberjack would certainly be puzzled at the precaution taken in modern timber operations, in favor of the untamed wilds he once called home. To him lumbering was not only his trade, but his passion and extended itself to every aspect of his life.
Woodsmen of that time faced an unparallelled working environment and a lifestyle influenced by a mixture of imminent danger and hearty recreation. Crews worked drawn-out, grueling hours in the unforgiving cold away from any signs of civilization. It was difficult, isolated and it was home all at the same time. It is here that they forged a distinct culture of their own. Logging to them wasn't so much what they did as apart of who they were.
Perhaps out of all vocations none such better exemplified and tested adulthood than that of the lumberjack, and none other did best personify this spirit than Paul Bunyan.
A woodsman of noted strength and ingenuity, Paul Bunyan is credited with logging off the Dakotas during the winter of the "Blue Snow." A true American icon; enormous statues honor his legacy, writers celebrate his exploits, businesses market his image and even dictionaries add his name, but there exist much more to his legend than most people know.
The lumberjack king as formerly spun in the lore of the old-time logger was a very dissimilar class of Paul Bunyan than we know him today. He was rather a Goliath than a Gulliver in stature and had yet to leave his footprint on Minnesota’s one-thousand lakes. Here was a man self-assured, brawling, hot-blooded and illiterate. He was, as "Moonlight" Henry Smith once described, “The typical lumberjack was the most independent person on earth. No law touched him, not even smallpox caught him. He didn't fear man, beast, nor the devil” (qtd. in Bloodstoppers and Bearwalkers
, Richard Dorson).