U.S.Americans are an oddly competitive bunch. In USA sports, you’ll rarely see a tie game, rarely see any recognition for second or third place, and as the legendary Ricky Bobby says in the classic movie Talladega Nights, “If you’re not first, you’re last!”
The same goes with quaint little tourist traps 旅游陷阱 (lǚ yóu xiàn jǐng) lining the States’ interstate highways. If you want to make something interesting, you’d better be the “best” or the “biggest” of that thing! In some cities, this could be the only thing that gets you on the map.
So in this first of our series, we want to tell you about a lovely little place in Darwin, Minnesota, right off West Highway 12 in Meeker County.
Darwin is the home of a ball of twine 合股线 (hé gǔ xiàn) rolled by Francis A. Johnson. It is 12 feet (3.7m) in diameter and weighs 17,400 pounds (7,900kg).
Johnson began rolling the twine in March of 1950, and wrapped four hours every day for 29 years. It is currently housed in an enclosed gazebo across from the town park on Main Street to prevent the public from touching it. The town celebrates “Twine Ball Day” on the second Saturday in August every year.
An adjacent volunteer-run, free-to-visit museum and gift shop has information on the history of the ball, as well as selling a variety of souvenirs 纪念品 (jì niàn pǐn). It was the long-standing holder of the “biggest ball of twine” title in the Guinness Book of World Records, holding the title from its completion in 1979 until 1994.
Not to be outdone, in Cawker City, Kansas, Frank Stoeber created a ball that had 1.6 million feet (490,000m) of twine and 11-foot-diameter (3.4m) when he died in 1974.
Cawker City built an open-air gazebo over Stoeber’s ball where every August a “Twine-a-thon” is held and more twine is added to the ball. By 2006, the twine ball had reached 8,111 kg (17,886 pounds), a circumference of 40 feet (12m), and a length of 7,801,766 feet (2,377,978m).
In 2013, its weight was estimated at 19,973 pounds. In August 2014, the ball measures 41.42 feet (12.62m) in circumference, 8.06 feet (2.46m) in diameter and 10.83 feet (3.30 m) in height, and it still growing.
This only begs one question: who will make the biggest one in China?