Tall Tales

photo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_River

Hey y’all! Hope everyone had fantastic 4th of July celebration!  I was off, yayy!  I met with a friend and saw a movie then had dinner.  You know, very American things to do. 🙂  Most of the firework shows were the weekend before and I was working, so I missed out on them. It’s all good though!

All the celebration of America got me thinking about a movie I loved as a kid called “Tall Tale”.  It’s a Disney movie based around the long forgotten folklore of American history which includes Pecos Bill (Patrick Swayze),  Paul Bunyan (Oliver Platt), and John Henry (Rodger Aaron Brown).

I remember learning about these larger than life characters as a kid in school, but this movie really brought them to life!  Of course, it helped that there was a beautiful horse that Pecos Bill rode named “Widow-maker” played by one of the most beautiful Frisians you’ve ever seen!

Anyway, the movie is about finding one’s self and having the courage to stand up for what you know is right no matter the cost,  friends and family are everything, and even though you can’t explain things doesn’t make them not true or not real.  At least, that’s what I gathered from the movie.  It could also be argued it’s where my love affair with the West started too.

One of the most famous folklores revolves around the Mississippi Basin area, mainly Minnesota, which as you can tell from the map, the region is a very LARGE portion of the United States.


Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/matthewstinar/3139363559

Let’s start at the beginning, and with the Mississippi River that would be Lake Itasca, Minnesota.  Lake Itasca is where the mighty Mississippi first begins it’s 2,320 mile journey over, down, and around to the Gulf of Mexico.  This is not about the Mississippi or really Lake Itasca, MN though, it’s about the incredible Paul Bunyan, the lumberjack, and his blue ox “Babe”.

There is a big debate on exactly where Paul Bunyan was born, but it’s defiantly known that he was delivered by five giant storks and they were super tired when they finally dropped him off.  He grew extremely fast and extremely large.  

Paul found Babe in a snowbank the day of the blue snow which is why he is blue.  Bunyan felt sorry for him and took him in.  Babe would grow to be a HUMUGOUS size.  He was as tall as 11 pine trees, as wide as the Missouri River, and it took a crow a whole day to fly from one horn to the other.  What a creature!

It’s said that the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota were created by Paul and Babe trekking around exploring the land.  One day when they were logging, Babe was towing a giant water wagon, the wagon sprung a leak, and the water filled the basin that created Lake Itasca, and yep, you guessed it! Created the mighty Mississippi River!

There are many versions to the stories as well as many, many different stories.  They change from person to person and from region to region, but the stories still have the same content, just changed up a bit.    

I am sure the stories about all the people in American Folklore started as what we would now call “locker room” talk.  These men and women to some extent did really exist.  Of course, the stories that got passes along were extremely exaggerated and at some point just plain made up, but they sure did make a good story for around the campfire.  Even if they were just completely made up, it could be argued that they were invented in order to have someone to aspire to, make a connection with, or possibly just know there is someone larger than yourself doing larger than life deeds.  I am sure it made the every day “drag” seem a little bit better. 

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Hi, I'm Erin Lowe

Through Living Travel Designs, I craft custom vacations that get you engaging with the world around you—particularly on nature and wildlife-focused trips that leave you in awe. 

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