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The World's Largest Balls of Twine

There are three twine balls that are supposed to be the largest in the world. I've seen them all.

The oldest (and probably most famous) of the giant twine balls is in Darwin, Minnesota.

Francis Johnson began winding his twine ball in 1950. We'll probably never know why. It was a tourist attraction at his home until he died in 1989.

He left the ball to the town of Darwin, which moved it into a lot a block south of US 12. They've built a shelter around and and protected it from the masses with Plexiglas walls (which make it difficult to photograph).

Johnson's ball has moved, but it hasn't grown any. Only one man every wound twine here, and that's what sets this ball apart:

This is the "World's Largest Twine Ball Built By One Man".

Cawker City Twine Ball

Frank Stoeber of Cawker City, Kansas, began winding his ball in 1953. Unfortunately for Frank, when he died in 1974 his twine ball was still smaller than Johnson's.

Cawker City, unlike Darwin, didn't want their twine ball to be a static monument. They placed it under a shelter in the middle of town, but they have not enclosed it.

More importantly, they hold an annual "twine-a-thon". Residents (and probably guests) gather every year for a few hours of intense winding.

Now Cawker City's twine ball is larger than Darwin's, and it grows a little more every year.

But there is another.

Branson Twine Ball

In 1985 J. C. Payne of Valleyview, Texas, heard about the Darwin and Cawker City balls and decided he wanted to own that world record. He collected colored nylon twine from donors and began winding in 1987.

By using a "system of pulleys" he wound his ball in only four years, finishing in 1991. He then had it certified by Guinness as the World's Largest and moved on to other things (a giant barbed wire ball among them).

He sold the ball to the Ripley's Believe It or Not museum in Branson, Missouri, where it now sits, just one more oddity in a building full of them.

It's hard to tell from the picture (and it is tough to photograph this thing in the narrow room it shares with a wishbone collection, a robot made from disposable plastic razors, and rice grain paintings), but it doesn't look larger than the other balls. It certainly doesn't feel larger than the other balls.

That's just one of the reasons I don't consider it in the same league as the other two. Here are more:

It's worth a look if you happen to be in Branson, but it isn't worth making a trip to see.

The Darwin and Cawker City twine balls are both worthy of a special trip. It's hard to say which is a better experience. I recommend seeing both.

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