• Ted Stillwell: A quiet Kansas town has the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine

  • I guess you have to be a farmer to really appreciate it, but curiosity finally got the best of me, so I headed out U.S. 24 toward Waconda Lake for a little day trip and take in a little fishing.


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  • I guess you have to be a farmer to really appreciate it, but curiosity finally got the best of me, so I headed out U.S. 24 toward Waconda Lake for a little day trip and take in a little fishing.
    Lately there have been disturbing rumors on the Internet that there is a bigger ball of twine than the famous ball in Cawker City, Kan. They say it is somewhere in either Texas or Minnesota. The Cawker City locals are not too concerned though. They say it’s no contest, because the Texas ball has string and plastic in it, not like the pure hay bailing-twine like theirs. And, as for the one in Minnesota, well, it just may very well have a snowball in the center - who knows. Meanwhile, back in Kansas, they keep adding twine to theirs every hay baling season.
    Just how big is the Cawker City ball of twine? Well, for starters, it is 40-foot around and weighs 17,980 pounds – that’s almost nine tons. It consists of over 7,827,737 feet of hay bailing twine – that’s 1,444 miles. According to the locals, Frank Stoeber started the ball of twine on his farm back in 1953. Four years later, it weighed 5,000 pounds, stood 8 feet high, and had 1,175,180 feet of twine wrapped on it. Stoeber gave the ball to Cawker City in 1961 when he decided to retire.
    The Cawker City Community Club is now the official owner/caretaker of the Ball of Twine. Each year they hold “twine-a-thon” in conjunction with the annual Cawker City picnic cook-off, and parade. The event also includes a horseshoe pitching contest, car show, food, and more “twine-winding,” so the ball never stops growing. You are, of course, welcome to gather up all of your binding twine and bring it along and add to the ball yourself. The picnic and parade are on the third Saturday in August, with the “twine winding” being held the Friday before. You can’t miss the ball; it’s right on Wisconsin Street – U.S. 24.
    Cawker City is in the “High Plains Country” of Mitchell County in north central Kansas, about 230 miles east of here. Cawker City is about twice as high as we are here on the Missouri-Kansas border. The town sits 1,485 feet above sea level. Mount Sunflower is the highest point in Kansas, which is about 200 miles on west of Cawker City and the mount has an elevation of 4,039 feet. I know, Colorado laughs about that.
    Cawker City got its name from Colonel E.H. Cawker, who was one of the founders of the town, in fact, the first building in Cawker City was a house built by Cawker in 1872 (which still stands nearby) and the town grew quickly. Soon Cawker City had mills, banks, churches, an opera house and a city auditorium and naturally, the railroad came through town. By 1880, the town’s population was at its peak, at 2,000. However, as happened in many smaller Kansas towns, the last passenger train came through Cawker City in 1960, and that took its toll. Today, Cawker City is just a peaceful cow town with around 600 people and a big ball of twine.
    Page 2 of 2 - Something else I enjoyed while there was the Cawker City United Methodist Church organ. Built in 1886, it is the oldest church organ in Kansas. Henry Pilcher’s Sons of Louisville, Ky., built the organ for the congregational church of Kinsley, Kan. At the time, it was the only organ in Kansas west of Emporia. In 1931, the Cawker Methodists purchased the organ and moved it into their old native limestone church. In 1976, the Methodists had to build a new church and the organ was completely restored at that time.
    Reference: The Cawker City Community Club
    Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school groups. You can reach Stillwell by calling 816-252-9909 or at his new email address, teddy.stillwell@yahoo.com, please don’t forget the dot.

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