My friend Bob from college generally visited his Uncle Jim in New Jersey over summer vacation or during spring or winter break. One year, however, the college gave us a four day fall break and Bob, as usual, took off for the farm in New Jersey so, he said, he would live to graduate in the spring.
The crops were all in, so Bob said Uncle Jim had plenty of time to think of projects, which was always a dangerous thing.
Jim had seen a special on PBS about catapults and trebuchets, and that got him to thinking. When Bob arrived for his visit, he saw a large trebuchet sitting in the farm yard. It was made of scrap metal that Jim had lying around. Bob thought maybe Jim had built it for pumpkin chunking, but Jim told him he planned to use it to jerk pine stumps out of the ground. He had clear cut some pine trees to free up land for cultivation. A logging company had come and taken the trees away, leaving the stumps, which Jim said he would take care of.
Normally he would have blown the stumps out of the ground with a mixture of fertilizer and diesel fuel, but Dot didn’t like the noise and it frightened the livestock, so he was left with pulling them out with the tractor.This was a difficult, tedious task and usually involved more digging than pulling. In truth, Bob was glad to hear that Jim had come up with another way to take the stumps out since he operated the shovel that dug out around the stumps.
The next morning, Bob and Jim were out early, towing the trebuchet to the nearest stump. Dot had left to visit a neighbor, saying she did not want to be around when one of the stumps landed on the house.
Bob dug under the first stump (some digging was involved but not as much otherwise) and ran a chain under it. Jim hooked the chain to the arm of the trebuchet. Bob stood clear and Jim triggered the machine. The arm whipped forward, pulling the stump out of the ground with a huge “POP!” The stump sailed heavenward, over the house, landing square on a shed that Jim kept tools in, flattening the structure and scattering hoes, shovels, rakes and other hand implements for a hundred feet all around.
Bob and Jim stood there for a moment, unable to speak. Finally Jim said, “Guess we’ll use the tractor.”
Dot came back a few hours later. She surveyed the damage and said, “Well, boys, at least you didn’t hit the house.”
Jim and Bob didn’t say anything. They went in to eat lunch half an hour later and then settled down to watch PBS for a while. “You know,” said Dot, “It’s too bad there aren’t any more seiges of castles. You fellows could make some money renting yourselves out to the highest bidder.”
Jim and Bob didn’t say anything. Dot started giggling and pretty well kept it up the rest of the afternoon.