James Stevens –
Paul Bunyan and the
Frozen Logger (Jogger)
I just released a new CD, Songs of the Pacific Northwest,
contributions by sixteen regional musicians. Since logging played a big
our history it is not surprising that a number of these songs are about
logging. One of the most well-known of these songs is The
Frozen Logger. It was written in 1951 by James Stevens, who
lived in Seattle during
years. Who was this guy and what other things did he do? How did Paul
fit into this? And what about the jogger?
Stevens (1892 – 1971) was born on a rented farm in Iowa.
His “gypsy father” decided to roam, and his mother worked as a hired
$12 per month, so he was raised by his grandmother. At age 10 he was
live with relatives in Idaho
where he learned to handle horses and cattle. He left home at age 15 to
with horses and mules on construction projects. He also worked in
where late at night around the bunkhouse stove he listened to the lore
woods and tall tales of Paul Bunyan.
He served in
World War I in France
and later developed an interest in books. He characterized himself as
laborer with wishful literary yearning,” and became self-educated at
libraries, which he called “the poor man’s universities.” He settled in
and began writing for H. L.
Mencken’s American Mercury magazine.
One of his stories was about the mythical giant Paul Bunyan, which
evolved into a best-selling book.
to Stevens, “The Paul legend has its origin in the Papineau Rebellion
This was a revolt by French-Canadians against their young English
them was a bearded mighty-muscled rebellious giant named Paul Bunyon
(note the French
spelling). His slaughters became legend. He later operated a logging
he became the most famous camp chief in Canada.
At nights around the fire in logging camp cookhouses, songs and tall
By 1860 Paul Bunyan became a
genuine legendary folk hero. Lumber companies used these legends in
promotional literature. But it was Stevens who, in his book Paul
Bunyan (published by Alfred Knopf
in 1925) and in later writings, established Paul Bunyan stories as a
significant part of American literature.
By the end
of his literary career Stevens had produced nine books and more than
stories and magazine articles. Among his works were “Brawny Man”
“Mattock” (1927), “Homer in the Sagebrush” (1928), “The Saginaw Paul
(1932), “Paul Bunyan Bears” (1947), “Big Jim Turner” (1948), and “Tree
Treasure” (1950). He became the dean of Northwest writers. He was also
protector of the Northwest forest industries and worked to preserve the
heritage of the woods.
later years he moved to Seattle
with his wife, Theresa Seltz Fitzgerald, where he was active in
Congregational Church, the local American Legion, and the public
committee of the Chamber of Commerce. He retired in 1957 as public
director for the West Coast Lumberman’s Association, and died in
Seattle at age
79 on Dec. 31, 1971.
song The Frozen Logger was
recorded by Odetta on Tin Angel (1954), Cisco Houston
on Hard Travelin' (1954),
Walt Robertson on American Northwest Ballads (1955), Jimmie Rogers on At Home
with Jimmie Rodgers: An Evening of Folk Songs (1960),
and many others including The Weavers
and Oscar Brand, and was even sung (although never recorded) by Bob
Weir of The
Grateful Dead. The original text from Stevens’ Bunk Shanty Ballads
As I set down one
evening in a timber town café
A six foot-seven waitress, to me these words did say
"I see you are a logger and not a
For no one but a logger stirs his coffee with his
You can hear the rest of the song
on my CD as sung by Andy Blyth.
I moved to Seattle in 1996
I heard about
a parody called The Frozen Jogger from
friends in Vancouver,
B.C., although no one could remember all of the words. It took me a few
to track down this song, but I finally contacted its author, David
Spalding in Edmonton, Alberta.
Spalding said that he “wrote this
in Edmonton at the height
jogging craze, when people were really padding off into the snowy
not perhaps at forty-five below.” In his song our hero goes out jogging
shorts, forgetting his sweater, when the temperature hits forty-five
As I ran out one
evening, along the snowy
A warmly bundled housewife I happened there to meet.
She said, “You are a jogger, for this I surely know,
That no-one but a jogger wears shorts at ten below"
He is not seen "for
many a weary year," although "once there was a rumor he was seen in Stanley
Park" (in Vancouver).
This song somehow migrated to Vancouver
where my friend, the late John Dwyer heard it and added the final five
to turn this into a broken-token song. Again, you will have to buy the
hear this song as sung by myself, accompanied by Jerry Middaugh on
You can find more information on my
CD Songs of the Pacific
order copies on my web site: http://www.stolaf.edu/people/hend/SongsOfThePacificNorthwestCD.html.
This collection of songs grew out of a workshop at Rainy Camp, a
singing retreat of the Seattle Song Circle at Camp Don Bosco in
Feb. 4 - 6, 2005. Most of the songs were recorded live in the camp
others were recorded elsewhere or taken from previous recordings. Some
songs are traditional, others are newer songs written in the
Most have never been recorded before. They all represent a part of the
folklore of the Pacific Northwest.
Stewart Hendrickson is
Chemistry Professor Emeritus – St. Olaf College, Research Professor
University of Washington, and in his new career, an unemployed folk
(voice, fiddle, guitar; http://www.stolaf.edu/people/hend/music.html
). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions, ideas or comments.