Wandering With Wendy: Home On The Range And The World’s Largest Ball of Twine

Traveling through northern Kansas is not as dreary as one might think the heart of America holds unexpected treasures. Wendy Corr is traveling the country with the Dan Miller Cowboy Music Revue, and finding delightful detours along the way.

Wendy Corr

February 22, 20234 min read

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Editor’s Note: Cowboy State Daily features writer Wendy Corr is traveling across the country as a musician with Cody-based Dan Miller’s Cowboy Music Revue. Wendy will report regularly from the road about people and places within reach of the Cowboy State.

For the last 18 years, Dan Miller has been telling audiences at his Cowboy Music Revue in Cody about Dr. Brewster Higley, who in 1873 penned the poem “My Western Home.” 

Dr. Higley was living in a small cabin in Kansas at the time, and the verses he wrote there would later be put to music as a song that is almost as recognizable as our national anthem: “Home On the Range.” 

“Theodore Roosevelt loved the song so much that he wanted it to become our national anthem,” Miller tells his audiences.

So when Miller and his two bandmates (myself and Stephanie Streeter), were traveling from Kearney, Nebraska, to Salina, Kansas, this past week, they were delighted to discover they were on the “Home On the Range” Highway (aka Kansas State Highway 8).

And they made a hard right turn when they saw the (very small) sign that pointed them to the “Home On the Range Cabin” to realize a decades-long dream to stand in the place where it all began.

“I’ve talked about Dr. Higley so much over the years who, by the way, like me, was originally from the state of Indiana,” said Miller, “that I feel like he is truly a part of our musical family. What a treat to visit the cabin where he wrote ‘Home On the Range.’”

The “Home On the Range” cabin was just one of a few eventful moments for the group driving across middle America last week, a short jaunt on a tour that is taking the band from Cody to Wisconsin – and all the states between – over a six-week period this winter.

Statue Of Liberty In Kansas?

As the trio drove south from Dr. Higley’s cabin on State Highway 281 just east of Gaylord, Kansas, another unique sight caught their eyes – a scale replica of the Statue of Liberty.

The statue was placed on this lonesome stretch of road in 1951 by the Boy Scouts of America, part of an effort to place replicas of Lady Liberty across the United States. Of the 200 statues erected around the country, 25 are scattered across Kansas.

“With the faith and courage of their forefathers who made possible the freedom of these United States,” reads a marble plaque at the base of the statue, “the Boy Scouts of America dedicated this replica of the Statue of Liberty as a pledge of everlasting fidelity and loyalty.”

World’s Largest Ball Of Twine

But no trip across northern Kansas would be complete without a stop in Cawker City to take in the majesty and glory of the “World’s Largest Ball of Twine.”

Made famous by movies such as “Michael” (1996, starring John Travolta) and “National Lampoon’s Vacation” (introducing the Griswold family to the world in 1983), the Cawker City twine ball is the pride of north-central Kansas. 

The ball of sisal twine, made from natural plant fibers, was started by farmer Frank Stoeber in 1953 and was donated to the city in 1961. 

At the time the trio stopped to visit the attraction Feb. 15, the ball measured 46 feet in circumference, weighed 27,017 pounds and contained 8,507,430 feet of twine. But that’s a moving target, as each August more twine is added by residents and visitors at the annual “twine-a-thon.”

Where To Next?

The trio is keeping their eyes open for opportunities to highlight oddities and unique attractions wherever they may pass. 

After Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, the band is spending a week in Minnesota — although they, like their Wyoming families, are impacted by the historic winter snowstorm that is bearing down on much of the middle U.S. 

Then, they will resume their “wandering” through Iowa and Wisconsin, before wrapping up their tour in South Dakota’s Black Hills in early March.

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Wendy Corr

Features Reporter