Paul Bunyan and the Mosquitobees (An American Tall Tale)
Paul Bunyan, the famous logger who was as strong as Hercules and Goliath combined, loved just about every creature in the world, especially his big blue ox, Babe. Paul loved his dogs, too. He loved Elmer, the moose terrier who was the bet rat hunter in the world; and Paul loved Sport even though Sport’s hind legs pointed straight up. As far as Paul was concerned, that was terrific because when Sport grew tired from running on his two front legs, he just flipped over and ran on the other two. Paul loved Fido, his shaggy watchdog, and he loved chickens and heifers and goats and mules, and he even had a fondness for the strange, gigantic Hugag who used to roam the Dakota woods. The Hugag had a body like a buffalo except it had long, stiff legs that had no joints, which was the reason the Hugag couldn’t lie down and had to sleep leaning against pine trees which, in the end, made Paul glad because those big Dakota pines were always leaning way over in one direction, and so they were easier to log. Yes, Paul Bunyan loved just about every creature in the world, but one day some creatures came along that Paul did not like one bit.
It happened this way.
Sourdough Sam was just cleaning up from breakfast when suddenly all the loggers came hiking back to camp.
“What’re you fellas doing comin’ home so early?” Paul asked the men. “You left here just a few hours ago.”
Sam nodded in agreement. “That’s right,” Sam said, and he proved that was true because he was just wheeling the giant prune stones from breakfast out of the kitchen. “It can’t be noon yet,” Sam said.
“That’s funny,” one of the loggers said, and he scratched his head. “If it’s so early, why’s it so dark?”
Everyone looked up, and sure enough, the sky was black as pitch, which was strange because this was summertime, and it wasn’t raining, and it wasn’t snowing, and it wasn’t even noon.
Because Paul was so tall, he was closer to the sky than anyone else, so he was the first to hear the sound. “I hear buzzing,” he exclaimed, and a couple of loggers climbed on Paul’s shoulders to listen. “Yep,” the tallest one called down. “There’s something flying up here, and it’s blotting out the sun.”
That’s when that something swooped lower, and they all saw what it was. Their mouths opened so wide you could have fit all of Sourdough Sam’s giant flapjacks in them, and Paul said what they all knew. “Fellas, this is one big herd of mosquitoes!”
Now, these weren’t the kind of mosquitoes you and I know. These were the ancestors of our mosquitoes, and they were huge. They were gigantic. They were enormous. And Paul knew just how big and tough those mosquitoes could be because awhile back he’d seen a couple of them picking their teeth with a heifer’s thigh bone.
The men ran for cover because those gigantic mosquitoes were closing in to attack. They locked their livestock in the barn, and they locked themselves in the bunkhouse, but those mosquitoes were so fierce, they began to tear the shingles off the roofs. Pretty soon Paul saw that those mosquitoes had figured out how to use a grindstone, and they were sharpening their stingers on it. Something had to be done.
So Paul asked all the men for ideas, and finally, Jonny Inkslinger, the camp clerk, said “Let’s call in a flock of giant bees from the coast. They’ll surely kill those mosquitoes.”
Paul sent immediately for a big package of Giant Bumble Bees; now these were much bigger than the bees we know, and luckily they arrived the very next morning.
Trouble was when those bees met those mosquitoes, they hit it off with each other right from the start. Pretty soon they were buzzing and swinging and stinging and singing together, and then those bees began to marry those mosquitoes, and their children were really terrible because they had stingers on the front and the back, and they could sting a fella coming or going. Some of those mosquitoes married fireflies, and they were terrified because they could even see in the dark.
Now Paul hadn’t liked those big mosquitoes, but he liked those gigantic mosquitobees even less. But Paul did not know what to do. Neither did Sam. Neither did Jonny. Not one of the loggers had an idea.
Well, in the long run, that bee blood was the mosquitobees’ downfall. Bumble Bees cannot resist sweets, and they had to eat sugar in huge quantities, so none of the flowers around — big as they were — could satisfy the mosquitobees’ hunger. By July they were starving, so the whole herd flew across Lake Superior to attack a fleet of ships bringing sugar to Paul’s camp. Those mosquitobees began to eat, and they ate, and they ate, and they ate so much sugar and so many molasses, and they bloated up so big, when they tried to fly back to the camp, they couldn’t rise above the waves, and that whole herd of mosquitobees drowned.
That was the end of the mosquitobees. Paul always felt a little sad that he’d met up with some creatures who couldn’t be his friends, but he sure was glad they never returned.