Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Tale of the "Hole In The Head Gang"

Once upon a time there was a young Baron...

He had a minion that lived on the shore of a large lake that was plagued with rude, noisy jetskiers and they decided one fine summer day to do something about them.

By the way, this minion's name was Henry and his and the Baron's meeting is a story for another time...

Early one Saturday morning we got together and started planning what would be a rather impressive implement of destruction and also a near-death experience for one of us.

Making our way to his father's garage we started searching through a impressive array of left-over car parts, broken machinery, bits of scrap steel, and what, upon reflection, may have been the engine of one of the smaller models of jet-propelled aircraft.

We searched through this mound of detritus for the better part of the morning, finding most of what we needed, the rest was supplied by a small side trip to the basement of a nearby house that was used for storage.

All of our scrounging produced the necessary materials to build our very own junkyard ballista.

The frame consisted of the remains of an engine hoist with a bad jack that was replaced with a piece of pipe, some threaded rod, and a couple nuts that allowed for some degree of adjustability of the arm of the hoist.

On the end of the top arm where the lift's hook used to be we mounted the hand-cranked winch from an old boat trailer, to the end of the winch's cable we attached a pair of welding clamp style vice-grips that had the adjusting screw replaced with an eye-bolt so the cable could be attached through it.

On the opposite end there was placed a set of auto leafsprings with all but a couple leaves removed, with a length of cable running from one spring mount to the other, this would serve as the bow for our little abomination.

To arm this monstrosity all you had to do was clamp the pliers around the cable and start cranking on the winch, once it was drawn back as far as we felt was safe (relatively speaking) all you had to do was drop one of the two foot long pieces of 2X4 lumber we had in abundance (from a recent deck job), step back a few feet and throw rocks at the vice-grips till they popped loose and released the cable.

Needless to say we hadn't thought out everything we needed for this little mad science project...

With our latest creation tucked into the trees along the shore of the lake we made it quite clear that we didn't want any of those blasted jetskiers on what we considered to be "our" end of the lake.

There was no real way to aim it and accuracy was a joke, but it wasn't necessary to actually hit anything since the threat was enough to do the job required.

Things worked fine for a few days, lumber was flying and we were having a grand old time keeping the waterways safe from marauding operators of PWCs...

It was our end of the lake and, by the gods, we were going to keep it safe!

That is, until about the third or fourth weekend...

Saturday morning may have dawned brightly that day, but we didn't see it since I rarely got out of bed before noon on weekends and it was another hour or so before I got up to Henry's place.

Either way, it was a fine summer afternoon on Greenwood Lake as we took our stations at the weapon emplacement.

After giving our machine a once-over we realized that we had forgotten our rations, so my minion went back for them as I started to cock and load our WMD...

I hooked up the pliers to the cable and started to crank that thing back as far as I dared, cables were quivering with anticipation of releasing wooden justice on those that would dare invade our domain.

After making sure the winch was locked I started to lean down to grab up a piece of lumber when I heard a sound that haunts me to his day...

Several sounds actually, first was the loudest ping I'd ever heard, like someone plucking the largest violin ever conceived, this was immediately followed by a sharp piercing whistle passing about an inch over my head, and ended with a solid, slightly wet sounding, thwack and the rustle of falling tree branches.

Snapping my head up instantly I was greeted with the sight of a tree trunk about ten inches in diameter sliced neatly in twain at about shoulder height with the top portion laying beyond it.

Turning my attention, ever so briefly, to the culprit of this near-tragedy, I saw where the cable had snapped off at the far end of the leafspring and sent it scything in my general direction.

Turns out that we had used a cable that was just a bit too light for the loads we were putting on it and it failed gloriously.

When my favorite minion finally made his return about ten minutes later he found me there staring at the severed tree trunk and managed to ask one of the stupidest question I'd ever heard up to that time... "Is something wrong?".

I stared at him for exactly twenty-seven seconds before turning around and walking back to his house without saying a word.

As far as I know that ballista is still sitting there slowly rusting away, we never returned to it and the following week we embarked on a new project, the design and construction of a vehicle-mounted fire extinguisher-powered paintball cannon...

But that's a story for another time.

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