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A real-life Paul Bunyon

May 19, 2011
Mike Austin, Shepherdstown

I was raised in the Pacific Northwest and from my earliest years heard many tales about Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox. It was wonderful growing up with those positive images of hard working, good natured folks who could handle the most difficult task with ease. Less well known was Paul's capable accountant "Johnny Inkslinger" who perched on a tall stool and wore out numerous crow-quill pens keeping the books. These American folk heroes came to mind recently when I went out to Morgan's Grove Park to try to arrange to have some large dead tree limbs removed - damage from recent storms that were a safety hazard.

I was worried about the expense of having a commercial contractor come in to cut the heavy tree trunks and branches and the challenge of finding a way to dispose of the wood. As I approached the area with the fallen trees I saw a professional-looking man with a hard hat on and several chain saws already diligently at work. My first reaction was that I was too late and someone had already turned on an expensive contractor that we could ill-afford. I approached him cautiously and inquired about his task and who had commissioned him to do the work. With a big smile he said that he was doing it because it just needed to be done. He loved spending time in the park helping to care for it and he particularly enjoyed cutting wood. When I asked him if he used the wood for fuel, he said no, but he had found someone who needed it and they were coming to haul it away. Sure enough, as I was leaving a bearded man passed me driving a riding lawn mower in the midst of a huge cloud of blue smoke that was coughing and sputtering and pulling a little trailer.

This is how I met Tom Walsh who was just out doing something, because it needed to be done. Early that same evening I went back to the park to assess what progress had been made and found that the trees had been completely cut up, the wood hauled away and the debris cleaned up as well. Many of us who are working to make our community a better place get depressed and overwhelmed by the task at times, but fortunately there are just enough "Paul Bunyans" around like Tom Walsh to keep us going. What a wonderful example to build upon as we try to mentor the younger members of the community!

 
 

 

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