Hey, Babe! Maine competition for Paul Bunyan's sidekick statue supremacy

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A Paul Bunyan-sized battle may be brewing over bragging rights to the best statue immortalizing the behemoth lumberjack's sidekick, Babe the Blue Ox.

The Bemidji Pioneer reports the that Bangor, Maine is contemplating adding a Babe statue to accompany its 56-year-old statue of Paul Bunyan. Bemidji's legendary lumberjack is 20 years older than Maine's PB, but the Bangor statue, at 31 feet, is taller is than Bemidji’s 18-foot Paul.

The Bemidji newspaper noted that Bemidji now holds "an obvious advantage" in evaluating the best Paul Bunyan statue, because there is no Babe in Bangor, which, like Bemidji, claims to be Paul's birthplace.

But that may be changing. The Bangor Daily News reported that on Thursday, the city commission was presented with a model of a potential statue of Babe to be constructed to stand alongside his master. The model was presented by sculptor J. Normand Martin, 80, the artist who designed Bangor's Paul Bunyan.

If constructed, Babe would measure approximately 20 feet in length, according to Martin. His Babe model is muscular, with a lowered head and an expression of rage.

Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht told her hometown paper that the belligerent Bangor Babe has a different personality than the one that greets visitors in northern Minnesota.

“Their Babe is… sort of menacing-looking, when we think of Babe as a pretty happy and carefree and friendly kind of fellow,” she said. “Kids want to pet him, they want to get right up there to his nose, and I think (the Bemidji ) Babe is a very friendly looking Babe.”

What's the deal with Babe, anyway? According to the website AmericanFolklore, Paul Bunyan found the little ox during the winter of blue snow and made a pet of him. (Yes, him.) The legend says that Babe "...grew so big that 42 axe handles plus a plug of tobacco could fit between his eyes," and that the massive creature was Paul's tireless helper in hauling loads of lumber through the north woods.

Bemidji is in the process of spiffing up Paul's digs, with renovations planned this summer for Paul Bunyan Park.

The Brainerd area has its own Bunyan claim. Several generations recall being greeted by name by the 26-foot tall Paul Bunyan statue, which was moved from its original spot to the Paul Bunyan Land Park a few years ago.

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