Reading Rainbow

Season 3 Episode 1

Paul Bunyan

Aired Weekdays 2:30 PM Jul 01, 1985 on PBS

Episode Recap

Some lumberjacks are cutting down trees in the woods. As a tree begins to fall, a logger shouts, "TIMBER!" Today, LeVar is in the great outdoors in the state of Maine to celebrate trees. He tells us to put on something warm and have a hardhat handy. When you're in the woods where trees are being harvested, chances are that tree branches may fall. The business of cutting down trees is known as "lumbering" or "logging." Lumberjacks or loggers choose the right trees to harvest so a new forest will take birth. Trees provide food and homes for birds and animals. Many of the things we use once started as a tree like furniture, musical instruments, and paper--especially paper for books. Today's book is an American tall tale--a story of a person from long ago who was bigger than life--about a great logger who cleared a path through America. The story is called Paul Bunyan, one of the tallest tales in telling. Paul was the strongest baby ever born. Paul had an ox named Babe. When Paul was 17, he wanted to set out west to clear land for farms and villages. While traveling, Paul once drops his ax in Arizona. Some people say that's how Paul made the Grand Canyon. LeVar tells us, lumbering was no trouble at all for Paul Bunyan because he was so big. LeVar tells a funny joke about Paul Bunyan. LeVar asks the viewing audience what they could do what they couldn't now if they were big and tall like Paul Bunyan. Some viewers say if they were big like Paul, they could pick up a dinosaur, step across a river without swimming, and hit a baseball around the world. LeVar is taking a close look at a beautiful part of the forest he's in. He says that the forest has living proof of nature's renewing cycle of life. The soil he shows us has leaves and other tree parts that are decomposing and going back into the earth. The soil has the nutrients for the trees and plants. Pine cones have seeds inside which have a sail on each one. When the wind blows, it carries the seeds to different places for them to grow. The idea behind harvesting trees is cutting down the biggest ones so that there would be room for little trees to grow. That way, the forest never dies. However, there is one thing that can destroy such a beautiful forest--a forest fire. One little match can do so much harm to one big forest. It could take over 30 years for a forest to be renewed. There are people who do their part in saving forests from fires. Forest rangers practice fire drills so they can be ready to save a forest. A segment of the program shows how the firefighting rangers do their work when a forest fire is spotted. The best way to keep fires from destroying our woods is by keeping them from happening in the first place. As Smokey Bear says, "Only you can prevent forest fires." There are other great American tall tales. There are also folktales or folk stories. An animation is shown which features other tall tale and folktale characters like Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Johnny Appleseed,. LeVar is in a nursery of baby trees. Each tree started out as a little seed. LeVar shows the viewers how to plant a seed. Millions of seeds are planted by the forest service. When the trees are about two or three years old, they transplant them in areas of the forest that have been cleared by the loggers. LeVar has other books he recommends to the viewers if they liked Paul Bunyan. The first book is called The Legend of Blue Bonnet. It's about a little girl who loved her family so much. But the family died because they had no food, and for many days it was hot and dry. The second book entitled The Whale in the Sky is about a tribe who have a way of telling stories. They use totem poles, tall trees with carved figures on them. The third book is about the United States' national anthem--The Star-Spangled Banner. The reviewer even sings parts of the song herself. LeVar says to the viewers, "Loggers spent many days away from there homes at logging camps, it got boring. So they had contests." LeVar and some others show us some games loggers used to play many years ago. At the end of the program, LeVar reminds us to think about how wooden things, and books, once started as trees. During the credits, LeVar and the others have another logging competition.
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