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Mary Rea | This ‘moneyball’ has some strings

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Trying to make a living in the Methow Valley has always been a challenge. But I’ve got an idea that might solve everything.

Build a giant ball of string.

There’s not one giant ball of string west of the Rocky Mountains so the field is wide open. My first thought was we wouldn’t have to start at the beginning. We could go on EBay and buy a ball of sting that had already been winding for a couple of years. But, believe it or not, at a site where you can purchase almost anything, you can’t buy a ball of string larger than a skein of yarn.

There was a rumor that a string ball recently sold in Baltimore for $8000, but I couldn’t track down who bought or sold it. These balls are rare, making one in the Methow Valley even more likely to boost the economy.

Darwin, Minnesota is the home of a ball of baler twine rolled by Francis A. Johnson. It is 12 feet in diameter and weights 17,400 pounds. Johnson began rolling the twine in March 1950, and wrapped for four hours every day for 29 years. (He died of emphysema. Doctors suspect that nearly 30 years of twine dust did him in.) The ball is currently housed in a specially made gazebo on Main Street. An adjacent museum and gift shop recounts the ball’s history and sells a variety of souvenirs such as string ball door stops, bumper stickers, mugs and hand embroidered flags.

Frank Stoeber, a resident of Cawker City, Kansas took Johnson’s ball as a challenge and started his own. Stoeber wound 1.6 million feet of twine before he died in 1974. The town kept the ball, added to it, created a yearly festival named after it and has been raking in the bucks ever since.

The World’s Largest Ball of Twine is a highly disputed title, which will add to the draw of a local project. If twine sounds too boring or is too hard to find, we can go for rubber bands.

Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum in Orlando, Florida owns the world’s largest rubber band ball, which is more than six feet tall and weighs close to 10,000 pounds. We should be able to beat that easy.

Think of kids sitting on the ball getting their pictures taken; tourists following a scenic route to view all the gigantic balls across the US, including ours.

This could be a real moneymaker.

Mary Rea of Mazama is the author of the Novel “Ladies Night Out.” Her blog, which follows where her mind wanders, is at She can be reached at

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