It all started when I saw a query for "Twelve Mile Indiana" recorded in my web access logs. That’s not too strange. My site is called Twelve Mile Circle. Someone typed the name of an obscure farm town into a search engine and out popped my site. That’s plausible. I get misdirected links all the time.
But then I got to thinking about this so-called town of Twelve Mile. It had no obvious connection to the Twelve Mile Circle, other than its name. It’s a third of the way across the continent. I figured I might learn a few facts but probably nothing much useful, or for that matter interesting.
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I looked at the expected wikipedia entry to gain an initial perspective. It’s an unincorporated rural community with about 1,100 people in Cass County. It has an elevation of 801 feet. It has an annual Christmas Pageant. OK, nothing too remarkable so far.
Nobody is exactly sure how it got its name. It "comes either from Twelve Mile Creek or from its position approximately 12 miles from the cities of Logansport, Peru and Rochester. It was previously known as Hen Peck." Ordinarily this little nugget would be more than enough to amuse me. Hen Peck is even funnier than Twelve Mile. I could write an entire entry around that name with complete satisfaction, but then everything took a strange turn.
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Twelve Mile is believed to be the home of the oldest organized lawn mower race in the United States, a contest dubbed the "Twelve Mile 500." I believe the satellite image displayed above shows the actual track. The local Lions Club has sponsored this annual Fourth of July Race since its inception in 1963, switching to a Grand Prix style in 1970. No less an authority than the U. S. Lawn Mower Racing Association recognizes Twelve Mile’s exalted status. Yes, this is a real organization and people are totally serious about their competitions with speeding lawn mowers. Ironically, despite the name, neither twelve nor 500 applies to the race. Each heat runs for sixty laps on a quarter mile track for a total of fifteen miles. The machines themselves reach speeds of about 30 miles per hour. It has drivers and pit crews just like the big leagues.
The Twelve Mile 500 gets some attention in the local press, including an article in Logansport’s Pharos Tribune. Also, enthusiasts and participants themselves post photographs of the event, including coverage of the 2005 race in a blog called The Bever Dam.
If you knew how much I liked oddball racing events like Demoliton Derby, you can imagine how much I now want to see a lawn mower race! This may be a different Twelve Mile but it certainly deserves abundant recognition.
UPDATE (July 9, 2008): I’ve just been informed that there is now a Twelve Mile 500 Riding Lawn Mower Race website, at appropriately enough, www.twelvemile500.com. Woo-hoo! Check it out!