Fun_People Archive
30 Nov
Punkin Chunkin

Date: Wed, 30 Nov 94 17:42:48 PST
To: Fun_People
Subject: Punkin Chunkin

Forwarded-by: "" <>
From: dylan@striper

Hi all!

Well, here it is, the promised report on the 1994 World Championship
Punkin Chunkin.  First, some background.

It seems that about 9 years ago, a bunch of guys in lower (slower)
Delaware decided to see who could build a machine who could throw
a 10 lb pumpkin farthest.  The event quickly outgrew its humble
beginnings as the contestants got better and better at this task,
and eventually its organization and  production was taken over
by the Lewes Chamber of Commerce and moved to an abandoned airfield.
It now draws in excess of 10,000 observers and contestants to a day-
long event featuring multiple classes of pumpkin throwing.  But
the big event of the day is still the Unlimited Class, where
anything short of explosives can be used to throw a pumpkin.
(The other two rules are that the pumpkin must be launched intact, and
that no part of the machine may cross the finish line.  {I imagine this
is to prevent the attachment of booster rockets, wings, or an engine
to the gourd.})  The contestants apparently do this for pride and
bragging rights, and the amount of trash-talking in the week leading
up to the 94 Chunkin rivaled that of anything the NFL or NBA produces.

Last year saw an end to the three-year domination by centrifugal
machines, when a pneumatic slingshot launched a pumpkin 1,024 feet,
beating the closest competitor by over 200 feet.  The centrifugal boys
were aiming for revenge, vowing to build bigger and faster machines.
Everyone was predicting winning throws in the quarter-mile range.
Meanwhile, the guy who had retired from the event after winning the
first three years because "it was just to damn easy to beat all them
other guys," came out of retirement to show everybody he could "still
whip their butts," entering his newest creation, a pneumatic cannon
with a 22 foot barrel that he could crank up to "2500, mebbe 3,000

We rolled up to the event site at about 1.  There were thousands
and thousands (the newspaper later estimated a crowd of over 10,000)
of folks on this long field.  The state cops were directing traffic,
flags were flying, vendors were selling food and drink, helicopter
and plane rides were being offered...

The machines were quite impressive looking.  There were three
centrifugal machines, "Bad to the Bone," "De-Terminator" and
"Ultimate Warrior", which essentially were frames supporting 15-30
foot rotating arms with buckets at the end.  Last years winner,
"Under Pressure", was a big steel frame like a crane arm with a
"Y" at the end and a complicated series of cables, all painted
pumpkin orange--I never did get close enough to figure out how it
worked.  The Polytechnic Institute of Gravitational Science had a
150 foot crane with a wrecking ball attached--obviously this was
some sort of a gravity-powered slingshot.  "Loaded Boing" resembled
a traditional slingshot with a bad hyperthyroid problem:  it looked
like a pair of bridge pilings (or very obese telephone poles, maybe
2 or 3x normal diameter) had been sunk into the ground and guy-wired,
and 3 or 4 pieces of what looked like latex surgical tubing except
that it must have been about a foot in diameter attached to some
sort of pumpkin holder were slung between the poles; the whole
thing was drawn back by a power winch.  Then there was the New
Bethel Church Marching Band Tabernacle Choir Motorcycle Club Pumpkin
Throwing Team of Reston Virginia, who were there mostly for a good
time and armed with a flexible fiberglass pole that was to act as
a catapult, mounted on the roof of a bus.  And finally, there was
"Universal Soldier", the pneumatic cannon, which was mounted on a
vehicle that consisted of an old station wagon body on a 3/4 ton
truck chassis; the whole thing was painted in cammo and the barrel,
all 22 feet, was elevated to a 45 degree angle.

The centrifugal machines were impressive to watch.  "Bad to the
Bone" seemed to be powered, we think, by a diesel-electric motor.
A huge frame shaped like a swingset frame was mounted on a flatbed,
and the motors were on the top.  They would crank up loudspeakers
with George Thoroughgood's  "Bad to the Bone" at high decibels,
fire up a diesel engine, and the arm, painted bright orange, would
start spinning faster and faster.  At something between 1 and 2
revs per second, a trap door at the bottom of the bucket at the
end of
 the arm sprung open, and the pumpkin would fly in this amazing
arc and splat around 1200 feet down-range.  "Ultimate Warrior"
seemed to have some kind of monster engine mounted on top and
connected to the shaft, and it too would spin up to incredible
speeds before launch.  I'm not sure what powered the "De-Terminator".
Then the PIGS fired up.  The crowd was warned to pay close attention,
since this machine had never before fired a pumpkin.  And in the
launch area, people were asked to stay out from underneath the
crane.  Suddenly, the wrecking ball began to drop, and cable running
over the top of the crane began to pay out very fast, and then
pieces of pumpkin came flying over the top of the crane.  The
NBCMBTCMCPT Team went next.  They all crowded around their shaft,
bodily bending it down.  With a loud cheer they let it go, and the
pumpkin payload flew up and out about 20 feet.  Backwards.  "Under
Pressure" went next--like I said, I'm not sure how it worked--but
suddenly pieces of pumpkin came flying through the Y.  Another
pumpkin pie throw.  Then it was "Loaded Boing's" turn.  The winch
began to pull back the slingshot, and ever so slowly it stretched
more and more.  Then the sling came flying forward, and . . .
nothing came out.  At first.  The payload jumped back and forth
between the posts about 3 times until suddenly the pumpkin was
released.  Also backwards, setting a new reverse throw world record
of maybe 50 feet.  And then it was time for the "Universal Soldier"
to take a turn.  The crowd was warned to watch very closely.
Suddenly there was a sound like the cork popping from the universe's
largest champagne bottle, as a cloud of vapor shot out of the
barrel.  But nobody saw any pumpkins flying through the air.  People
in the crowd  looked at each other, puzzled.  One of the spotters,
standing maybe 1200 feet downrange, was wandering around in a
confused manner.  Suddenly, his companion jumped into his pickup
and went bouncing downrange at high speed.  And then, over the
loudspeakers came the announcement that pieces of pumpkin had been
found in the bottom of a crater about 2000 feet away!

At this point, we were more than a little skeptical.   We couldn't
imagine how the pumpkin hadn't been turned into microscopic spray,
and figured that somebody had simply dropped a pumpkin down by the
road.  Put we were proven wrong.

The second round was pretty much a repeat of the first, except that
the Motorcycle Club Etc. launched an orange helium balloon instead
of a pumpkin, which of course fooled nobody but was pretty funny
nonetheless.  And the slingshot managed to fire correctly this
time; however, they were set up to fire at about a 15 degree angle
instead of the necessary 45, and so the crowd was treated to the
spectacle of a pumpkin travelling very fast and nearly horizontally,
and in fact it must have shot around 300 feet at least.  And when
it came time for the "Soldier" to fire, I (and probably the rest
of the crowd) resolved to watch *very* closely.  This time they
stopped traffic on the highway beyond the end of the field--clearly
they were being  serious about this world record stuff.  They were
also waiting for a break in the helo traffic, as the copters were
landing through what had suddenly turned out to be the flight path
of high-speed gourds, a collision with which would almost certainly
be disastrous.  Then, with a loud *FOOP* and a cloud of vapor, they
fired, and suddenly, *WAY* up in the sky, over the spot where the
best of the other machines were landing their pumpkins, I spotted
a small orange dot, and *IT WAS STILL GOING UP!!!*.  At an impossible
speed, too!  And then for a microsecond I lost my concentration,
and it disappeared from view.  Word came back that it had indeed
landed on the highway (flying over where my car was parked--YIKES!),
but they were having trouble figuring out exactly how far the shot
had gone, as there were buildings and trees and, for all I know,
the  curvature of the earth, between the launch and impact spots,
all things guaranteed to make laser rangefinding problematic.  But
somehow they finally figured out that they had shot a pumpkin over
2500 feet!  ...

[Note: On 5 March, 1996 I learned that Carlisle Landel claims to be
 the author of this article.  Carlisle is .
 I'm sorry I wasn't able to credit it when I first sent it out.

[=] © 1994 Peter Langston []