By DAVID GREEN
In the overall scale of Big Things, Soap Lake’s 60-foot lava lamp isn’t all that big. Sure, it would tower over a six-foot person, but it would pale in comparison to something like the Space Needle down the road in Seattle.
Soap Lake, Wash., doesn’t have a giant bottle of slowly bubbling oil yet, but city council has given its OK to the 30 ton structure. All that’s needed is $3 million. Or maybe $25 million. No one is really sure how much it might cost because, obviously, it’s never before been done.
Why a lava lamp? Well, that’s stretching things a little. The Soap Lake region is said to be one of the last on Earth to have had a massive lava flow. What better way to commemorate that spectacle than by building a 60-foot lava lamp.
Soap Lake is suffering—not like they’ll suffer if their lava lamp ever busts open—but their former claim to fame is spoiled. Visitors once came by the thousands to bathe in nearby Soap Lake. The mineral-laden water would froth up on the shoreline as people frolicked in the healing waters.
Those days are long gone. Mineral waters aren’t sought by many people anymore, especially not diluted waters like Soap Lake that were the victim of flooding from Grand Coulee Dam.
According to an article in the Seattle Times, people no longer have to look before crossing Main Street because there’s not much traffic in the town of 1,700 people. Former businesses are now closed and shuttered. There’s not much left but the lake.
If it ever becomes a reality, this will undoubtedly be the world’s first 60-foot lava lamp, but it’s only one of a string of Big Things. Most every state in the Union has at least one.
Long Beach, Wash., has the world’s largest frying pan and possibly the world’s largest wooden razor clam. They also lay claim to the only mummified merman. He’s said to be worth 80,000 visitors a year to the town of 1,400.
The small town of Coulee Dam boasts The World’s Largest Sand Pile, although that apparently hasn’t generated much revenue. Winlock’s World’s Largest Egg (painted like an American flag) doesn’t appear to be a really big attraction, either, but maybe it’s because a town in Indiana and another in South Carolina also lay claim to the title.
Washington also boasts the largest paper airplane, cherry pie, milk bottle, totem pole and wagon. Head south into Oregon for the largest opossums. To the east, Montana has the largest eagle and penguin.
Cross the border into Alberta and there are 16 Big Things, ranging from the largest Starship Enterprise (in Vulcan, Alberta) to the king of kielbasa. Move on to Saskatchewan and find the biggest oil can.
Canada has the biggest mystery items: bunnock, loonie, twoonie, inukshuk, pyrogy and more.
You probably figure this column is leading up to the usual conclusion: what is Morenci’s role? How can we enter the Big Thing competition to attract tens of thousands of annoying tourists? You’re right. That’s what’s been on my mind.
It seems that all the obvious choices have been taken: the biggest sandfly, doorknob, worm, beer can, gumnut, bunyip and stubby.
So what’s remaining that really says “This is Morenci”? I’m thinking of Bean Creek, but no, not the World’s Largest E. coli Bacteria. It seems to me that we should go with our old favorite Carpoides cyprinus, the quillback carpsucker.
A DNR research team spotted the fish during a Bean Creek survey in the early 1980s. It’s a bottom feeder that revels in the muddy ooze of the Bean. It’s said to exhibit bizarre behavior patterns. It spooks easily. It often remains suspended and motionless for long periods of time. Totally torpid but a strong fighters.
I think it says us and I think we should move forward. Let the fund-raising begin.
Or let’s just build it and hope for a grant.– Nov. 20, 2002