Wooden Baby Boots

Author: 
John Wetrosky of Pine River, MN

Paul Bunyan's wooden baby boots reside in the Pine River Chamber of Commerce Information Center in Pine River. How they arrived there is an interesting tale of Bunyan proportions.

It seems that when Paul Bunyan was born, times were tough, as they most always were for the hardy loggers who worked in the northern Minnesota forests. It took most of Paul's family's monthly wages just to buy flour and sugar and the other basic necessities of life.

Paul was a hardy baby with a appetite to match. It took the milk from four cows just to satisfy this growing lad and his pabulum was made in a big, black twenty-five gallon lard kettle. Paul's mother knew that it was important to feed this lad and she put a high priority on food, rather than clothing and shoes.

But, it was also important to keep Paul warm and shod during those long, cold, snowy winters when Paul's dad labored in the lumber camps, far away from home. Paul wouldn't see his logger father but only at Christmas time and then again in the spring when the loggers returned home with cash in hand from a long winter's work.

Paul's mother used the furs of the beaver, lynx and otter to keep the little lumberjack warm when the temperatures lowered themselves to a point where the milkcows turned blue. Could it be that is what caused Babe, his future companion, to wear a blue coat?

Shoes were also important to adults and infants alike in those days before shopping centers, but to buy shoes for a fast growing boy like Paul†would prove to be a hardship for the Bunyan family.† Paul outgrew a pair of shoes every three or four weeks and his mother was desperate for an answer to this drain on the family finances.

Then one Christmas, when Paul's dad came home for the holidays, she came up with an idea that solved the problem.

She had heard about the wooden shoes that the Dutch people wore across the ocean. They carved these wooden shoes out of aspen trees and stuffed them with straw to insulate their wearers from the cold and damp of the Dutch lowlands.

Paul's dad was put to work that holiday season carving out a pair of wooden baby boots from two huge poplar trees. He worked day and night for two weeks and finally brought the wooden baby boots into the log cabin and fit them on baby Paul's growing feet. From that day on, everytime Paul's dad came home, he carved another pair of the wooden brogans for Paul until Paul grew into an adult and could afford to buy his own leather boots for logging.

Somehow, a pair of those wooden boots became lost in the many moves the family made during Paul's growing up years and a few years ago a pair was found in an old, rundown log cabin just east of Pine River. They were in perfect shape and were brought into the Pine River Chamber Information Center for display. They remain there today and visitors and residents of the area are invited to come in, stand in the boots and have a picture taken for their own scrapbook.