Sure, eating a watermelon is good summer fun, but if that’s where the fun ends it’s probably only because you don’t have a catapult on hand. The obvious remedy for such a situation is to build one.And in fact, that’s what the Pernsteiner family of the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley did several years ago. They built a trebuchet — a type of catapult that relies on falling weight rather than tension — using only materials they had on hand. Besides watermelon, they launched a number of other items, including a pumpkin, 2-liter pop bottles, a bowling ball, sack of flour and plastic-wrapped ball of cooked spaghetti. The watermelon didn’t go the farthest, nor was it easy to control (John Pernsteiner recalled one that flew backwards), but it did have “an exciting explosion when it hit the ground,” he said.
Should you want a backwards flying, exploding watermelon in your summer adventures, instructions for building these medieval siege devices are diverse and plentiful on the internet. One entry for a “Giant Trebuchet” features directions on how to “make a giant trebuchet in less than a day with a couple of trees, some rope and a few other easily found parts.” Should you be lacking in spare trees, however, other plans include materials such as lumber or metal. If you need to scale your project to launch, say, a marshmallow, you can find plans that make use of cardboard or even pencils.
It should be said that the Pernsteiners’ trebuchet has since been dismantled for safety reasons, as it proved as capable of launching humans as watermelons. Should you take on this dare, use necessary precautions and mind that your watermelons don’t land on the neighbor’s roof.