This autumn, I drove past an unusual site: a giant contraption towering above crowds of cheering people. Suddenly, I saw the machine's “arm” swing forward to hurl something through the air—why, was that a flying pumpkin?
Indeed, I had discovered “pumpkin chunkin,” an unusual competition that involves catapulting pumpkins over great distances—in this case, over 2000 feet! Part Americana, part medieval, this unusual activity uses a 60-foot steel throwing machine called a “trebuchet.”
As I joined the crowd, the speaker informed us that “trebuchets” use a weighted beam that swings a sling carrying large round rocks—in this case, the projectile is a pumpkin or another safe object. The common catapult is a bit different in that it simply launches a projectile from a winched-down bucket at the end of a giant arm.
Catapults and trebuchets were first used in the first century B.C. as arrow-shooting machines and later used in medieval times to lay siege to castles. The word “catapult” comes from the Greek kata which means “downward,” and pultos which means “shield.” The literal translation is “shield piercer.”
Mechanics aside, this was a very strange life for our orange squash friends! I guess some pumpkins are made into pumpkin pies to be gobbled up. Some are carved into jack-o'-lanterns to smile on Halloween. And some get to be high-flying pies in the sky before crashing back to the earth from whence they came.
What would you choose?
Post your comments on pumpkin chunkin below. And Happy Halloween!