Paul Files His First Tax Return

Steve Brann, Pine River, MN

I remember it like it was yesterday. I believe his first return came just after the winter of "58". It was the coldest darn winter I can remember and everyone I know went through at least 10 pair of Long Johns between October and April.

Paul came into Camp and his bookkeeper, Johnny Inklsinger, told him that there was a new tax guy in Camp named "Pointy Pencil Pete", and he was just about the best man around for getting some money back from the government. Paul said he had never filed a tax return, and from what he heard, he hadn't missed any good times in doing so! Johnny set up an appointment with Pointy for the next day and Paul said he'd at least listen.

Well, Pointy arrived the next morning early as he knew he would have to climb a pretty tall pine to get up to eye level with Paul Bunyan. After about a good hour of climbing, Pointy spread out his paper and books on a large limb and waited for Paul to show.

After about half an hour Pointy heard Paul and Babe coming through the woods. When they arrived Pointy said as how they better get started because he was a busy accountant and had no time to waste. The first question was naturally about income. Paul hemmed and hawed awhile and said he never got paid much for anything, and Pointy had to explain that even trade goods had value and must be claimed as income. They finally came up with a figure that both could agree on even though Paul thought it was awfully stupid to put a price on timber that didn't cost him anything and river straightening that Babe did on a lark.

The next thing Pointy did was explain to Paul that he could deduct expenses against his "income" and lower his tax bill. That's when Paul got up to leave. Pointy started jumping up and down on that limb yelling at Paul to hold up a second and explain why he was leaving. Paul said he never got a bill from anyone, and he didn't want one from the government either. Pointy said maybe they could figure a way to eat up all that income so there wasn't a bill. Babe heard the word eat and started bellowing so loud the snow was falling off the mountains 200 miles away. When Paul finally got Babe calmed down, he asked Pointy what kind of expenses he could deduct to get rid of this "bill" that he didn't want in the first place.

Pointy thought and thought and after going through about 6 more of the books he had brought along, he yelled "that's it" and pointed to a page in the last book. He told Paul that they can deduct the manure that Babe left gratis all over the forest to help it grow tall and strong.

Paul started to laugh and the ground shook so hard that the ice started to crack on the river. How in the world could anyone come up with an amount of manure that Babe would produce for a whole year? Pointy thought about this for about 10 minutes or so and said the easiest way to figure it up would be to take Babe's measurements and come up with a formula for the manure. Pointy asked Paul how big Babe was. Paul said about 123 ax handles at the shoulder. Pointy started frowning as he poured over those books and finally threw up his hands and said the government has no such unit of measurement as an "ax handle". Paul thought and thought and finally asked Pointy what kind of measurement the IRS would use for such a feat. Pointy allowed as how a measure of a barrel might work. Paul asked what kind of barrel and Pointy said a BIG barrel. And that folks is how the government came to use the "pork barrel" as a vehicle to measure the amount of ox-pucky that a congressman or senator could stick us with in a year.

Told to Steve Brann when he was no bigger than last year's pine cone.