August 03, 1987 12:00 PM

For 50 years he wore what most lumberjacks wear: a plaid flannel shirt, blue jeans and sturdy lace-up boots. But this summer Paul Bunyan slipped into something more comfortable. From a boom truck sometimes used to hang Christmas decorations, Jim George, parks and recreation undersupervisor in Bemidji, Minn., lowered a giant T-shirt onto Paul’s eight-ton cement frame. Said George of the nine-foot-wide T-shirt, which has been submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for recognition as the world’s largest: “I prayed that it would fit.”

The shirt fit, but why would anyone want Paul to wear it? Last year, Autotype U.S.A., an Illinois-based manufacturer of screen printing supplies, decided to publicize its “no job too big” motto. Bemidji’s statue of Bunyan, the mythical lumberjack whose exploits are the basis of dozens of tall tales, was “a natural,” according to Ronald Weiss, an art director who does all of Autotype’s ads. Weiss contacted the mayor of Bemidji, a town of 11,360 that bills itself as Bunyan’s birthplace. (True, two other cities in northern Minnesota make the same claim, but Bemidji is the only one with a Paul Bunyan Mall and a Paul Bunyan Sub Shop.) The town agreed to accept the T-shirt as a birthday present to Paul—the statue was erected in 1937—and dispatched George to take his measurements. The undersupervisor employed an extra-large tape measure. “I started with my wife’s,” he says, “but that wasn’t big enough.”

After a couple of days on display, Paul’s new shirt took up residence nearby, inside the Bunyan House Information Center. The legendary lumberjack’s sartorial shenanigans drew no comment from his companion of many years, Babe, a blue, five-ton concrete ox. Babe, however, may have other things to think about—like the wrens that have built a nest in his nostrils.

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