World’s largest ball of twine
Ranch Wife & Trail Gal
It never ceases to amaze me as I travel along the roads in America, what wonders there are to explore and discover. When I was growing up, my father was always pointing out the “World Famous” sights to see while we took our annual summer vacation.
To me, World Famous meant the wild, weird and unusual places like the famous Mystery Spot along California’s northern coast, Confusion Hill. It’s a crazy oddball tourist attraction spot where you can walk in a room and its gets smaller as you grow taller and where water runs up hill. Maybe the place was once a landing site for aliens, but I always loved the unusual and begged my dad to stop at every one we drove by. Sadly he didn’t consider giant cement dinosaurs or the world’s largest Ferris wheel made out of toothpicks worthy of vacation time, being as we only had a week.
Yellowstone Park, Seattle’s Space Needle, and even the Little Big Horn Battlefield Monument were ones that we usually added to vacation plans, but on my way across North Central Kansas, I read a sign that said, “See the World’s Largest Ball of Sisal Twine” and I knew I had to see this wondrous site.
Traveling west on Highway 24 in the early evening, I arrived in Cawker City, Kan. The main street isn’t but a couple short blocks, so it didn’t take long to find this World Famous prairie attraction sheltered under a roof, built to protect it from the weather. The huge Ball of Twine was glowing orange, reflecting one of those famous, beautiful Kansas sunsets and I have to say, I was impressed.
Being a ranch wife, I have spent years gathering up baling twine off hay bales after feeding the cows and horses. It seems to sprout from every nook ‘n cranny of a ranch yard, no matter how hard you try to keep the strings gathered up. Someone was ingenious enough to SAVE their twine and make a town famous because of it, well, I take my hat off to him!
Seems that in 1953, Frank Stoeber, a farmer near Cawker City, started rolling up his used twine into a manageable ball. Soon Frank read about a ball of twine growing in Darwin, Minn., and decided that he had a good start of his own and being a resourceful farmer, dedicated himself to building an even bigger ball of twine. It didn’t take Frank long to determine it was growing too big for his basement, as neighbors were happily donating their twine to his creation, so he moved it upstairs. Years went by and the ball grew larger and larger.
By 1961 the ball was so large it contained 1,600,000-feet of twine and was 11-feet in diameter. That’s when Frank decided to give the monstrous ball to Cawker City. It was set-up on Main Street and a shelter was built over the glorious yellow mound.
Frank was determined to beat the recorded Minnesota Twine Ball, which was 12-foot wide, and so, kept adding twine to his ball for 13 more years. Alas, he didn’t reach this dream, for Frank died in 1974, only 1-foot short of the record. But the spirit of “Twine” didn’t die with Frank. The local folks of Cawker City were determined to keep the ball growing and kept adding twine every year, watching it grow and grow until it surpassed the Minnesota Ball and then some!
In 2006, Frank’s Ball of Twine was estimated to be 40-feet wide, weigh almost 9-tons, and contain 1,474-miles of twine. It’s continued to grow every year since.
Each year the city holds an annual Twine-A-Thon festival, which includes a picnic and parade on the third Saturday in August. This is also the time everyone is invited to do some twine-winding for themselves, adding to Frank’s World’s Largest Ball of Twine. You’d have to say that people in Cawker City still have that resourceful spirit Frank had in 1953, never wasting even one string. I hear the little shop across the street sells Twine souvenirs, even including Twine Christmas ornaments.
I only wish I would have discovered this roadside wonder in Kansas before I’d left home … I could have loaded up my car, inside and out with twine and made my cowboy husband a very happy fella.