Weird America: Cawker City has the world’s largest twine ball… maybe: Photo Essay

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Starting a twine ball is a really good way to pass the time

You can’t really judge a town by its gas station. But we were on tour, which meant sightseeing was relegated to aisles of terrible food choices and even worse coffee. To us, America was just one long line of pit stop bathrooms and trucker hats. Some were better than others. Like that place in Wisconsin that sold giant samurai swords next to the cash register. But for the most part our tourism was doomed to endless rows of potato chips and weird in-house casinos.

Except this time.

Cawker City, Kansas holds the dubious distinction of possessing the World’s Largest Ball of Twine. Maybe. According to sources, there are several other twine claims, including those in Darwin, Minnesota, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin and Valley View Texas.

But Cawker City was different. Mostly because it was on the way back home.

After a night in a hotel where the TV didn’t have an ON/OFF switch, and hours of driving, we arrived. But as we exited the vehicle and began approaching the twine an air raid siren inexplicably went off. Terrorists or tourists? Or both. We never found out.

The twine is pretty big. A grainy blob of snarl and cordage, the ball sat glumly under a gazebo, all the while collapsing in on itself like a rural-bound neutron star.

Apparently the twine had been started by local farmer, Frank Stoeber, who had fallen ill in 1953. Frank decided that rolling his abundance of excess twine, saved from years of feeding his cows bales of hay, into a ball would be good exercise. Or, at least, a good way to pass the time.

Disputed or not, Stoeber’s twine ball was pretty impressive. But then so too was Cawker City.

The town’s main street is a collection of old buildings, some bombed out, with inexplicable paintings in the windows – some depicted scenes from the Stonehenge while others seemed to celebrate American history.

Also, there is a strand of twine painted on the sidewalks.

There is also the Ball of Twine Inn, which was strangely adorable. According to online reviews it’s a pretty nice place to stay. We didn’t stay.

The only business in town that seems to be overly populated is a bar and grill, with a sign baited with the slogan “Hunters welcome”. A carcass of a long-dead deer lay pinned to the ground across the street.

We drove to the next town over to pee.

cawker city ball of twine 1
cawker city ball of twine 2

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cawker city water tower