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November 4, 2003

What day is it?
Posted by Teresa at 09:57 AM *

I know I’m starting to sound like poor hapless Charlotte Sophia, but I came down with some kind of stomach bug while we were driving home from World Fantasy Con. I ralphed in the parking lots of just about all the northbound rest areas on the New Jersey Turnpike, which was an achievement of sorts. I’m just now starting to get up and around again.

The cool part of the drive north was that we fell in with some of the homeward-bound traffic from the World Champion Punkin Chunkin 2003 competition. Our first hint of this came as we were crossing the Delaware, when the beams from my headlights hit the odd-looking trailer in front of me. Painted on it were the words, BIG TEN INCH, World Champion Pumpkin Chuckers.

I let out a whoop: “Super-cool!” The Big Ten Inch, with its 100-foot-long barrel and its 4,000-foot-plus throws, is a famous pumpkin-chucking machine. I pulled up alongside the driver and had Patrick do a thumbs-up out the window, but he didn’t look around, which is probably the right thing to do when you’re hauling a trailer over a bridge late at night.

Some while later, as we were just about to exit one of New Jersey’s many fine turnpike rest areas, Patrick squinted at a couple of trailers that were pulled up alongside the curb, and said, “What are those, ground-to-air missiles?”

I glanced over at the machines as we passed, screeched to a halt, backed up, and rolled down my window. “Excuse me,” I said to their keeper, a nice young man in shorts, gumboots, and a heavy pullover, “are those catapults?”

“Yes!” he said, beaming.

“Cool. What have you been doing?”

“Chucking pumpkins.”

Of course. What else? I told him about passing the Big Ten Inch on the Delaware bridge. He asked whether I’d seen the Discovery Channel piece on catapults and pumpkin chuckers, which of course I had. “We were on that,” he said. “Our team was the one whose dialogue had to be bleeped.”

“I remember you!”

He shook my hand. He was happy. And why not? If one of the measures of celebrity is being accosted in a parking lot by an admiring stranger, he was there.

“We took second place in the torsion class this year. We would have killed the guy who won—we got that thing cranked up really tight—” (he said, waving at the huge hank of rope that was looped through the chassis of his machine) “—but we broke our arm.”

I made the appropriate sympathetic noises. “Gotta get a stronger arm.”

“This arm was strong. It was a solid ash beam—” he held up his fingers to indicate what looked like a squared-off beam at least 10” on a side “—coated with fiberglass.”

“Whoah,” I said, for lack of anything better.

“No, really, I’m glad we broke it. If we hadn’t cranked it up so far that the arm broke, we—”

And I knew how it had to end, so I said it with him in unison: “—wouldn’t have been trying hard enough!

We agreed that I should maybe come to the pumpkin chucking next year. If I don’t go to World Fantasy Con in Tempe, I’m thinking about it.

Comments on What day is it?:
#1 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 12:00 PM:

Dang. I need to get out of the house more.

#2 ::: catie murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 12:03 PM:

Oooh, ooh, I saw him on tv too! Well, I saw the pumpkin-chucking piece, anyway. I don't specifically remember people who had to be bleeped. Still, that's really cool! Although, boy, humans are weird. Pumpkin tossing, who'da thunk.

Hope you feel better soon.

#3 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 12:37 PM:

Last year I went to the annual North Plains (Oregon) pumpkin hurl. It was low tech: Catapults, slingshots, trebuchets.

#4 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 12:43 PM:

Did Saddam Hussien know about these? ;)

I was once on a programmming team obsessed with spud guns but these completely outclass potato artillery. And I love the pictures on the Big 10 Inch site of blasting a SUV with high velocity produce -- fulfilling some commuter fantasies of mine.

#5 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 01:24 PM:

Every year West Virginia University has a Pumpkin Drop where pumpkins are dropped off the top of the engineering building, and the winner's pumpkin lands closest to the target without breaking the pumpkin. (Although this is also a parize for biggest splat) This years winners were 5th graders while the 2nd and 3rd place winners were high schoolers. Here are some pictures from last years drop.

Here's something from the year a group of third graders won (beating out college engineering students).

#6 ::: Derryl Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 01:27 PM:

It has been a long-time goal of mine to go to the Punkin Chunkin competition. Every year the boys and I go to the website to view the latest winners, and I think they've pretty much decided they have to be there as well.

#7 ::: Jeffrey Smith ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 02:25 PM:

Teresa--

You suffer a catastrophic computer crash, then a violently ill road trip...and you bounce back with an item as winning as this one.

Any time, this piece would be delightful. This week, it's awe-inspiring.

#8 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 03:05 PM:

Some year, someone needs to arrange for WFC and the Punkin Chunkin competition to be in the same city.

#9 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 04:07 PM:

Well, can we put WFC downrange?

#10 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 04:26 PM:

Naah, Erik, how about luring some spammers in range?

Spam and pumpkins -- there must be a recipie for that . . .

#11 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 08:35 PM:

No, but you've given me the right answer. Chuck spammers at WFC.

#12 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 08:37 PM:

No, but you've given me the right answer. Chuck spammers at WFC.

#13 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 08:59 PM:

I assume you then intend to use a torsion device such as a trebuchet for chucking spammers, as you should be able to get more than one in the bucket at a time, given a sufficiently large bucket. This does cut down the range a bit, though. The use of a bit of reconstructed medieval technology at a fantasy convention would seem appropriate, I must say.

Now that I think of it, it would be possible with the use of plastic sheeting, WD-40, and certain power tools, you could get a spammer into the Big 10 Inch. While you would certainly not get the full 4,000 foot range, even if you soaked the spammer in beer first as recommended, you would have a better standoff distance than with the trebuchet.

But That Would Be Wrong . . .

#14 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 04, 2003, 11:36 PM:

Who's WFC?

I loved The Hapless Child,Teresa. I wanted to set it to music back in my 12-tone period...which now sounds oxymoronic. I may have actually started it, but I didn't get very far.

#15 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 12:43 AM:

WFC = World Fantasy Convention, a convention which many people who believe fan-run conventions should have policies set by the fans who individually run them have problems with.

But that's another story entirely....

Cheers,
Tom

#16 ::: Elise Matthesen ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 12:46 AM:

Did I tell you about the unexpected pumpkin chuckers around here? A number of years back, a mummers team I was on mummed a nice building on a residential street in the Twin Cities that turned out to be a Jesuit novitiate house. We were startled, but had a lovely time with the sociable Jesuits within; they enjoyed the play, and offered good hospitality. At the end of the conversation, we thanked them, and said that we had had no idea Jesuits could be so much fun. Oh, yah, they said, we have a whee of a time. Why, on Halloween, thet had some sort of decoration out, and Brother So-and-so sat inside waiting for somebody to come up and ring the doorbell, and when they did, he'd stick his hand out the mail slot and grab them. Made for a pretty scary time, though I think he said he didn't scare the already timid ones. Just the bold ones. Anyhow, one of the brothers added that they had held a flaming pumpkin lob out in the parking lot the next night.

"We used to use Lutherans," he said, and came as close as a Jesuit can maybe come to winking.

Them guys, they was fun, as the folks in my home town would say. I had no idea.

#17 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 12:47 AM:

T: as much as I enjoy seeing you at cons around the country, it seems to me you might ought to re-evaluate your con attendance. If I'm remembering correctly, you've gotten sick at nearly every con you've been to lately... (And have you tried B Complex?)

MKK

#18 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 04:01 AM:

I think I am going to say "pumpkin chuckers" repeatedly to my child today.

You guys have any interest in jumping in piles of leaves? It's millefoglie week out in the north forty...

#19 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 09:58 AM:

Way sorry to hear about all the hurling and chucking and chunkin and ralphing. The pumpkin-projection technology encounters, however, are seriously neat stuff. Thank you for letting us know about them! (And continue with the feeling-better thing! No repeat of last Thanksgiving's aftermath, okay?)

#20 ::: Ms. Jen ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2003, 02:49 AM:

Life in SoCal is very dull, as the only Punkin Chunkin-ers are the individual amateurs who late on Halloween night toss pumpkins into the street. Organzied, professional, trailer toting Punkin Chunkin-ers? Amazing. Must be an East Coast thing. Out here we have large truck (PEVs*) trailer toting Off Road Racing fanatics....

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