Friday, October 07, 2005

Pumpkin Throwing Extravaganza 

Last weekend The Girl and I drove up to New Hampshire for Alumni Weekend at her alma mater, New England College. We stayed with one of her college roommates, Special K. It was a fabulous weekend, but particularly noteworthy was the pumpkin throwing. I know, you're now asking, "What?" That was exactly my reaction when The Girl first mentioned it. I was asking if I could wear the same outfit during the day that I was planning on wearing out to dinner that evening, and she suggested I probably wouldn't want to wear the pinstripe blazer to the pumpkin throwing event. She said she wished she'd had the camera handy to take a picture of my expression as I repeated, "Pumpkin. Throwing. Event?"

Not A Freak recently posted her thoughts on Martha Stewart and pumpkin rowing, which sounds entertaining, but this was something again. Once we hooked up with Special K and headed on out to the airfield for the Henniker Pumpkin Throw of 2005. This event started in 2001 by the guy who owns the airfield. There was lots of free food, plus a small airplane and helicopter that were taking people up for rides. But the main feature were the two trebuchets, one by the host and one by students at NEC. The students were working very hard on theirs, spending a great deal of time pulling, measuring the ropes, tying things off, etc. There were about a dozen of them in charge of pulling the ropes to load the thing up, and they were all straining. Before they got ready to go, Bob (the host) wrangled a handful of little kids to pull the single rope on his streamlined contraption (mea culpa, I did not have my camera with me - maybe next year), he locked the mechanism and the kids went back to watching. Then he loaded a pumpkin and (after clearing the area behind just in case) casually unleashed his creation, which elegantly swung around and sent the hapless pumpkin in a graceful arc over the field and towards the targets. It was quite a sight.

Eventually things were ready to go over at the NEC trebuchet. The rope handlers (all with gloves) tugged and strained on their twin leads while the pumpkin was loaded. On the set signal of "RUN AWAY," the handlers all released the ropes and scattered in all directions. Good thing, too, because the counterweight dropped, dragging the pumpkin in its little sling but then the pumpkin fell from its sling before even leaving the ground. The trebuchet continued on its wobbly path, but not in a smooth gliding fashion - more of a herky-jerky, side to side motion, with all connectors creaking. When it reached the top of its arc (when the pumpkin would have gone on its way had it stayed along for the ride), apparently the machine felt it was obligated to throw something, so it broke off the top half of itself and chucked it several feet ahead. The entire thing then continued its creaking, rocking, wobbling activity until it finally came to rest.

The students then gathered for pictures, got some food, and everyone watched Bob launch many more pumpkins over the course of the afternoon. We took our leave after a few, but the party seemed ready to continue throughout the day.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 11:38 AM