Random Nonsense – My New Air Filter


It came as some surprise to me that my truck needed a new air filter, since I had just installed a new one a couple of weeks ago, but who am I to question the experts at Jiffy Lube, and, I must admit, the guy did take the time to show me the filter and it did have a little dirt on it. I was also caught off guard by the fact that a truck of my particular make and model requires a special “turbo” air filter which was going cost a great deal more than a regular one. Lucky for me that today, of all days, the turbo filters were on sale for only $119, a steep discount off the regular price of $149.   And if that wasn’t enough, this helpful guy said that the labor, which usually runs about $59.99, was temporarily on sale, but he said, looking at his watch, that this deal expired in about 5 minutes.  Pressed for time, but sensing he wanted to do some business, I said “you do it all for $200 even and you got yourself a deal.”  He seemed a bit overwhelmed and confused and I could tell that he didn’t have much experience matching wits with a negotiator of my caliber. Sensing weakness, I moved in for the kill.  “My last offer is $210, take it or leave it.”  He said he would have to talk to the manager and disappeared into the restroom, returning after a few seconds to let me know that he had really, really tried but the best he could do would be $225.  Having beat him down so badly already, I felt a little generous, so I shook his hand and said, “You got a deal.”


I must admit I felt a little guilty as I drove off, waving at those fools in the rear view mirror, but it’s a dog eat dog world, and dogs like me end up having dog for lunch almost every day.

Strong, Maine – The Toothpick Capital of the World




The Small Town:               Strong, Maine – Population 1,259

 The Claim to Fame:         The Toothpick Capital of the World



Rarely, in the annals of shameless civic self-promotion, have I seen a more glaring example of an opportunity squandered.  Strong, a small town in Maine, used to be the “Toothpick Capital of the World,” because, at one time, Strong Wood Products was producing about 20 million toothpicks a day.

And yet they don’t have an annual toothpick festival.

If this was my town, the first thing you would see upon entering the city would be the world’s largest toothpick, hundreds of feet tall, towering over the surrounding landscape, proclaiming to the world that you have entered toothpick country.

And just down the street would be the world’s only toothpick museum, a celebration of the rich and proud heritage of the toothpick, a place where you can learn things about toothpicks which you never wanted to know.  You probably didn’t know that Agathocles, a tyrant of Syracuse, died in 289 B.C. when using his toothpick – an enemy is said to have soaked it in poison without him knowing. And did you know that toothpicks have been around even longer than our own species, that archaeological evidence shows Neanderthals used toothpicks?  Well you know now.

But, to top it all off, the big juicy cherry on top of this toothpick sundae, would be the annual International Toothpick Festival with throngs of people churning past hundreds of stalls offering a mind-numbing array of toothpick arts and crafts. And there would be a toothpick spitting contest, followed by the toothpick balancing contest, where the record is forever stuck at one, but people keep trying.  And Sunday evening, to end the festivities, some local girl, in her toothpick gown, would weep as a toothpick tiara is gently lowered onto her head, and she is declared this year’s Toothpick Queen.



Thomasville, NC – The World’s Largest Chair?


The Small Town – Thomasville, NC Population 21,354 2010 Census

The Claim To Fame – The World’s Largest Chair?

The world’s largest chair in Thomasville, North Carolina is not the world’s largest chair and hasn’t been for quite some time. But ask almost anyone in Thomasville and they will assure you that it is, indeed, the world’s largest chair. Show them a photograph of the actual world’s largest chair with a tape measure next to it and they will suggest that the tape measure is defective. Or they’ll play some semantics game centered on the exact meaning of the word chair. If all these rationalizations come up short, it’s probably a conspiracy whereby the evil folks of Gardner, Massachusetts have almost certainly bribed some official from Guinness Book of World Records or whatever government body or agency is responsible for keeping track of such things.

All of this brings to mind a very distinct phenomenon I’ve noticed while searching for small town claims to fame. When a town’s claim to fame is threatened, most citizens will cling to it until the bitter end, an overwhelming abundance of proof to the contrary be damned.

Many small towns have a claim to fame which involves a UFO or two. Once a UFO story gets a foothold in a community, look out. The perpetrators of the hoax can come forward and share all of the intricate and credible details of their fraud, but it doesn’t matter.

A runestone was “found” in Kensington, Minnesota some decades ago. This large stone with a supposedly ancient Scandinavian inscription, if genuine, would prove that the Swedes visited the area that is now Minnesota long before Christopher Columbus dropped anchor wherever it is that he dropped his anchor. A parade of experts has come forth over the years and presented a wealth of evidence that proves it is fake. A number of experts, for example, have proven that many of the words that are inscribed on the stone weren’t even used in that particular form until centuries later. Nevertheless, to this day, much of the community will argue that the stone is authentic.

Why people choose to believe such things in spite of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary is fascinating, but much too complex a topic to discuss in this brief article and is probably best examined in some later article or, even better yet, addressed by my readers. Both of them. Hi Mom and Dad.

Hancock Shaker Village





The Small Town – Hancock, MA           Population 717 (2010 Census)

The Claim to Fame – Shaker Village


The fact that Hancock, MA was once home to a Shaker village is not of great note. There were more than a few of these communities spread out all over the eastern half of the country decades ago.  But Harvard’s Shaker community, like all the rest, is gone.  

Each and every one of them is gone. Hmmm?  I wonder why.  I wonder if their disappearance has anything to do with the fact that one of their core beliefs is celibacy.  Now I’m no expert in such matters, but if you want your community to remain an ongoing entity, celibacy isn’t a real good starting place. 

I realize you can recruit from outside the fold, but, once again, this celibacy thing is problematic.  It isn’t really sweetening the deal.  It’s not a real great sales pitch for potential recruits.  

And to top it all off, just in case anybody’s natural instinct to procreate got the best of them, the communities went to great lengths to keep members of the opposite sex away from each other by having separate living quarters.

So, each and every Shaker community ultimately disappeared from the face of the earth. Hmmmm, mysterious.  

Now if you are really serious about establishing a self-perpetuating community, it would be a good idea to emulate the Catholics and abolish birth control.  

Naches, WA – Ted St. Martin – World’s Record for Most Consecutive Free Throws



The Small Town – Naches, Washington           Population 795 (2010 Census)

The Claim to Fame – Ted St. Martin – World’s Record for Consecutive Free Throws


In my fifty plus years I have seen some amazing athletic accomplishments such as  Jordan in the NBA, amazing catches in football, and astonishing feats in track and field, but I have to say, that the one sports record that I find nothing short of miraculous is Ted St. Martin’s record of 5,221 consecutive free throws.  Are you kidding me?  How on earth can someone make, let’s say, 200 in a row?  Even the best NBA players shoot about 90% if they are lucky and the record in the NBA is 97 by Micheal Williams when he was with the Timberwolves.   Now let’s review that number again.  5,221. It just blows my mind.


Here’s a little visit Ted had with Charles Kuralt years ago.




Salem, ND – The World’s Largest Holstein Cow


The Small Town:           Salem. North Dakota              Population 946


The Claim To Fame:     Salem Sue – The World’s Largest Holstein Cow


I’m pretty sure that Johnny Cash had a song about a cow named Sue. I could be wrong, but I rarely am. Those that have seen Sue know that she is well worth singing about. Of all of the oversized roadside attractions in North Dakota, she is the largest.  Measuring in at a whopping 38 feet tall and 50 feet long, she is larger than any of the other large turtles or fish or buffalos that the state has to offer. She is visible for miles around and, when standing at her hooves, one gets a wonderful view of the surrounding North Dakota countryside.


Her promoters claim that she is the world’s largest Holstein cow.  Fake cow anyway. I’ve done a little research and believe they might be missing out on a golden opportunity to claim that she is simply the world’s largest cow of any breed.  I’ve Googled the heck out of it and, for the life of me, I can’t find a larger cow of any sort on the planet earth.  And we all know that if you can’t find it Googling it, it doesn’t exist.

Here’s a nice video of Sue.


Sue is, as I said, a fake cow.  I starting wondering how big the world’s largest real cow is.  I know this blog entry is about Sue and I don’t mean to steal her thunder, but my mind gets wandering and, if I want to talk about real cows, I can.  It’s my blog.  You’re free to stop reading at any time.


The world’s TALLEST real cow is Chili, a black and white Friesian bullock that weighs well over a ton and stands 6 feet 6 inches tall. Chili —à  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BSzLd-ayUs


The world’s LARGEST or heaviest cow was a Chianina bull from Italy named Donetto that weighed in at an amazing 3840 pounds.

Small Town Claim To Fame – Jamestown, ND – The World’s Largest Buffalo



The Small Town:  Jamestown, North Dakota       Populaton 15,427 (2010 Census)


The Claim to Fame:  Dakota Thunder – The World’s Largest Buffalo


Sixty tons of steel and concrete, 26 feet tall and 46 feet long, the world’s largest buffalo sits massive and solitary on a hill overlooking the prairie in Jamestown, North Dakota.  A fitting tribute to the North American bison if you ask me. Many, if not most, roadside attractions are a bit cheesy and silly.  Tommy Turtle is a good example.  Dakota thunder, (I can call him that now since he was recently named) on the other hand, always seemed a bit realistic to me. I’ve been face to face with couple of buffalo and this sculpture captures the amazing strength of this animal very well.

He always seemed sort of sad to me, as if he was looking out over the prairie, remembering the days when the buffalo ruled this turf in herds stretching to the horizon.  Or it could be he’s sad because of the annual humiliation he is subjected to at the hands of mischievous students from the local high school.   Dakota Thunder, you see, is anatomically correct and it was (maybe still is?)  a tradition for the graduating class of Jamestown High school to paint these anatomically correct male parts the school colors of black and white. I’m not sure whose job it is to paint the buffalo’s, uh, stuff, back to the original color, but I would guess they don’t do it during business hours. This means some guy probably has to work late one night each year, telling his wife that his truck wouldn’t start or the hooves needed a late night touchup.

Small Town Claim to Fame – Rugby, North Dakota – Geographic Center of North America





The Small Town: Rugby, North Dakota Population 2,876 (2010)

The Claim to Fame: The Geographic Center of North America

Some claims to fame require some effort, such as a state championships in basketball or building the world’s largest buffalo or the largest quilt. Other claims to fame are just dumb luck. Such is the case with Rugby, North Dakota, the geographic center of North America. Rugby just happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Or was it?

There are those who say that, in spite of the big stone obelisk and all the t-shirts and post cards, this particular king has no clothes, that the actual geographic center of North America is actually in Balta or Orrin, North Dakota. Or out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a slough. Depending on how you define North America, the center of the continent may actually even be in South Dakota. Pierre, South Dakota once made the claim in the 80’s and Rugby quickly threatened them with a law suit.

In Rugby’s defense, the real experts say that pinpointing the actual center is impossible due to a number of factors, and Rugby is as good a guess as any. Let’s just keep the big pile of rocks in Rugby for now and congratulate the community on being at least somewhere “near” the center of North America.

Small Town Claim to Fame – Blanchard, ND – KVLY TV Mast

The Small Town: Blanchard, North Dakota – Population 26.

The Claim to Fame: The KVLY TV Mast


I have always been fascinated by the structure now known as the KVLY TV mast. In my teens, when it was known as the KTHI TV mast or simply, the KTHI tower, I liked to occasionally take the back roads on a weekend trip to Fargo just to stop by and marvel at it. If I was traveling with someone who had never seen it before, it was always fun to stop about 12 miles away and, ask them to guess how far away it was. A typical answer was 2-3 miles.

towerAt 2063 feet, it is currently the tallest manmade structure in the U.S and the third tallest in the world. From 1963 to 1974 it was the tallest structure in the world. In 1974, the final segment of the Warsaw Radio Mast in Poland was completed, making it the new record holder, beating MY tower by a measly 58 feet! My tower was now in second place! I almost booked a flight to Poland with a hacksaw. As it turned out, this wasn’t necessary. The Warsaw tower collapsed of its own accord in 1991 and the KTHI tower was once again the world champion! Records will show that I was at a UND Fighting Sioux hockey game that evening and had nothing to do with the structure’s failure.

It wasn’t until 2010 that the amazing Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, stomped all over The KVLY tower with a final height of 2722 feet. Since then, another tower, in Tokyo, Japan, the Tokyo Sky Tree, has been completed, bumping my tower back to a still respectable third place in the world.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the KXJB TV mast, just a few miles down the road near Galesburg, North Dakota, is only four feet shorter than the KVLY tower. One day, in July of 1998, a crew that had just finished repairing this tower, temporarily affixed a 4 foot flagpole to the top and, for a few glorious days, it was the world’s tallest manmade structure.

Center, North Dakota – Hazel Miner Story



                                                                                 Hazel Miner


The Small Town:  Center, North Dakota, Population – 571 (2010)

The Claim to Fame:  The Story of Hazel Miner

Almost 100 years ago, an early spring blizzard hit North Dakota, leaving more than 30 dead in it’s wake, and one sad and tender story about a 15 year old schoolgirl named Hazel Miner. A story that was to be celebrated in words and song for decades to come.

They didn’t have early warning radar in 1920, but word got out that a storm was coming and so the school let the children leave early for home.  These were the days of horse and buggy so 15 year old Hazel loaded her two younger sibling, 10-year-old brother Emmet and 8-year-old sister Myrdith, into the buggy and headed for home.

Most of you reading this can attest to just how quickly these spring blizzards can move in. The trio was only about half way home when the visibility was suddenly zero and the horse wandered off the road and they lost their way.  At some point, as they roamed aimlessly through the open prairie, the buggy tipped over as it caught the edge of a coulee and spilled Hazel and the children into the cold wet snow. Attempts to right the buggy were in vain and Hazel knew that the safest thing to do was stay where they were and wait for help. It was to be a very long wait.

Panic stricken parents and neighbors formed a search party, but as night fell, with the storm still raging, they had to abandon their search until daylight.


Back at the buggy, Hazel huddled with the children as best she could to protect them against the storm, singing songs and telling stories, but the cold and the snow crept in and Hazel was forced to open her coat to spread it out over the children. As the night wore on, the songs grew quieter and the stories less frequent. Sometime, in the middle of a long night, all was quiet.


Early the next morning, the search party set out again.  At some point a shout arose from the group and someone pointed to the overturned buggy, half covered by snow. As they arrived at the scene, their worst fears were realized when they saw Hazel’s frozen and lifeless body, half buried in the snow and ice, her open coat still spread over the children like a mother bird’s wings over her young ones. Suddenly, the sad silence was interrupted by the muffled sounds of a small voice. They pulled Hazel’s body away and, much to everyone’s surprise, Emmet and Myrdith were still very much alive!

Efforts to save Hazel proved futile, but the children recovered and went on to tell the story of their loving sister and her selfless act for years to come.