The wind roared in, the wind roared back,
but, staggering, Paul forged a track
up to the twisting wonder.
An ancient man stood at its base,
with lines of time etched on his face,
who wore a woven cover
that bore the marks of thunder.
He didn’t blink at Paul’s great size,
but tilted back to meet his eyes.
The jack saw flecks of lightning.
“So now, Paul Bunyan, now you howl,
and tear the sky and wake the owl!”
The atmosphere was tightening.
The whirlwind grew more frightening.
“Climb and face the mountain’s wrath
if you still seek a better path.
There you will meet your teachers.
But, pilgrim, learn your lessons well
or find naught but the Mount of Hell!”
The air around the speaker
roared like a living creature.
[[Climb the Whirlwind Mountain]]
[[Flee the Whirlwind Mountain]]
~[[Start Over ->Paul Bunyan and the Whirlwind Mountain]]~ ''Paul Bunyan and the Whirlwind Mountain''
by Gabriel Ertsgaard
The last tree down at Saginaw,
Paul Bunyan looked around and saw
a sea of desolation.
Himself a thing of wilderness,
now overwhelmed with emptiness,
he scanned in each direction
for some sign of redemption.
No other sight but barren land;
the sturdy axe dropped from his hand;
Paul felt his power waning.
Then from his throat, a desperate yell!
The sky resounded like a bell,
and dark clouds started raining
in answer to his keening.
When his wild shout was finally spent,
the lumberjack growled this lament
above the rough wind blowing,
“True, every titan tree we took
made wooden homes and paper books,
but I can’t keep from knowing
that there’s a dustland growing.
“Must be, I think, a better way,
but what jack seeking out his pay
could find or make it ready?
We earn our wages, quickly lost,
and those who gain don’t care the cost–
not when the work turns deadly,
nor leaves the ground unsteady.”
These words had barely left his mouth
when a loud rumbling from the south
caused Paul to look behind him.
He saw a whirlwind, upside down–
it’s pinnacle far off the ground,
beyond even his vision–
so high that whirling mountain.
[[Approach the Whirlwind Mountain]]
***The ancient sage then stepped aside.
A sharp chill crept across Paul’s hide,
a body-drenching numbness.
Though he was hesitant to climb
a storm so hostile and sublime,
with one glance toward his witness
he stepped into the tempest.
No ledge to hold, nor nook to clasp.
Paul shrewdly cupped his hands to grasp
the circulating pressure.
Then like a leaf above a vent,
he fluttered up the steep ascent.
A cloak of denim heather
adorned the awesome weather.
[[Encounter with the Eagles]]
~[[Start Over ->Paul Bunyan and the Whirlwind Mountain]]~ Strange images will sometimes creep
past restless neurons, scorned by sleep,
to dance in fertile darkness.
The troubled phantoms of Paul’s mind
proved obstinately disinclined
to doze in his subconscious.
His dreams became a forest.
Then with a shudder, groan, and creak,
one stern tree turned, it braced to speak,
that shade and shadow tower.
“Why must you summon us from rest?
We are but ghosts already cleft.
We have no buds to flower.
Withdraw your dreadful power!”
“Withdraw, withdraw!” the phantoms groaned,
“This side of doom, let us alone!
Our trunks are fog on the air.
No remnant grove to seed the earth;
robbed both of bodies and rebirth.
Once much lay within our care–
but from your blade, naught was spared.”
The startled logger lost his grip.
The gust beneath his fingers slipped
away with whirling chaos.
The specters of the ghost wood fled;
he tumbled ankles over head,
befuddled, dazed, and helpless
into a well of darkness.
~[[Start Over ->Paul Bunyan and the Whirlwind Mountain]]~ Alas! Paul, aching, lost his grip;
the wind beneath his fingers slipped
beyond them with a bluster.
Twixt lightning strikes, heart filled with dread
he tumbled ankles over head,
befuddled, dazed, and flustered,
till talons pierced his shoulders.
With feathers rough, like strips of bark,
a brace of eagles, wild and dark,
then bore the weary woodsman.
Though blinded by the raging swell,
he heard his eerie captors tell
a fractured, half forgotten,
strange fragment of a legend.
“...The tortoise cast its baleful eye
upon the twins, then gasped and died.
The ground beneath them ruptured!
Though wisdom dawned, it dawned too late
to save those brothers from their fate,”
the gnomic storm birds muttered
while round the mount they fluttered.
Then as their voices gathered force,
Paul heard them tell the fateful course
those star-crossed twins had wandered.
While stalking their forbidden path
they slew a titan, drew Earth’s wrath–
knew not what they'd engendered,
nor how the age had faltered.
Paul hung below four burning spheres.
Each fleeting moment stretched for years.
The roar became a whistle.
He tried to grasp the tale's intent,
grasp what that troubled story meant,
while ice shards formed sharp crystals
around his hair and bristles.
But suddenly all claws withdrew,
and off the faithless eagles flew!
They screamed as they departed,
“Each living thing must carve its place,
but cut too deep and doom a race!”
Betrayed, confused, disheartened,
Paul plummeted through darkness.
~[[Start Over ->Paul Bunyan and the Whirlwind Mountain]]~ Cold panic raced into Paul as he fled,
for all around he glimpsed with dread
a strange, storm-painted shadow.
Fierce and cruel the wild winds roared
as if some grim, relentless horde
steered the jack that way and fro
towards what doom he could not know.
Then dark Earth cracked to claim her own,
so spiral wind gave way to stone
and strange, subaltern fungi.
Though roughly jarred, his senses spilt,
Paul broke his fall across a quilt
of mold that gleamed like tigers’ eyes,
and floated up like fireflies.
Lost in a haze of ghost-green spores,
Paul thought he watched the fateful course
the two star-crossed twins had wandered.
They tore a column from the sky
and grew too powerful to die,
but now were locked forever
beneath the Earth in slumber.
Then as the fungal dust dispersed
so did Paul’s vision of those cursed
world-rending, tragic godlings.
The void surpassed the work of night,
suppressing every wisp of light,
for deep, still, unrelenting,
black space devoured all things.
~[[Start Over ->Paul Bunyan and the Whirlwind Mountain]]~ No death, nor life, nor time, nor space,
nor silence, speech, nor pain, nor grace,
nor hollowness, nor body–
but numbness, omnipresent, vast,
before the first, beyond the last,
pure fullness, fully empty.
A dancing hint of warmth dispelled
that lost abyss in which Paul dwelt.
He gasped. His lids flew open.
The logger staggered to his feet,
inhaled the energizing heat,
and saw stretched far above him
the piercing blue of heaven.
Paul gazed at the glinting sky
till, with ragged throat, he cried,
“For what, that cryptic vision?
A business baron might succeed
in changing course toward better deeds–
or else some politician
with unrestrained ambition.
“But why an oaf with sap-brown hands
who simply labors on this land
for those who hold its title?
Oh, on me lies a frightful geis
for having felled those thousand trees.
It steers me, like a bridle,
toward something strange and vital.”
Through underbrush, mud, stumps, and grass,
the jack roamed seeking out his axe.
Then cradling its handle,
he wiped the blade across his shirt–
scrubbed off the crusted muck and dirt.
More battered than an anvil,
Paul shuddered like a candle.
Too long he stood, his mind in doubt,
feet split between opposing routes–
retreat or ever onward.
Paul Bunyan, though, could not tread back
his tantalizing, well-worn track.
Pondering what lay forward,
he slowly wandered westward.
Author’s Note: Although usually gigantic, Paul Bunyan’s height varies greatly depending on the tale and (just as importantly) the storyteller. In some of the earliest Paul Bunyan literature, there is no hint of unusual size, whereas in most of the more famous stories, he reaches the sky. In the present work, Paul Bunyan is roughly the size of the half-giant, Hagrid, from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.
~[[Start Over ->Paul Bunyan and the Whirlwind Mountain]]~