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Pumpkin Catapult Shoots Skyward in Lowrys

Charlotte Observer
By Andrew Dys
Posted: Saturday, Oct. 09, 2010

LOWRYS, S.C. Some things have to be seen to be believed, and a pumpkin catapult is one.

Yes, a two-story contraption that costs as much as a car. And it throws pumpkins, which land with a big splat.

It's like a Halloween prank, but better - and without the cops.

Only, don't call what is thrown "pumpkins": Pumpkins are for pies and blue-haired grannies and bosses who wear ties and have meetings.

These are "punkins," if you listen to the professional throwers, Gastonia's Kim Moore and his son, Jordan. (The name of this discipline, by the way, is "chunkin.")

The Moores should know. They came in second the past three years at the World Championship Punkin Chunkin in Delaware.

"But this year, I expect nothing less than first," said Kim. "This catapult is, if I say so myself, a beast."

On Thanksgiving night - after you've eaten your pumpkin pie - they will be featured in a Science Channel special about punkin chunkin'.

Today, out in Lowrys in northwest Chester County, at Cotton Hills Farm's 10th annual Farm Fair, you can watch punkin chunkin' for yourself.

The punkins - hard and green, rather than orange - the green ones are denser and fly better - are thrown at better than 400 mph. They go hundreds of yards high, and more yards than that in distance, until they splat into what Kim technically describes as "smithereens."

Science guys, these Moores.

No, really. Kim Moore is a veterinarian and self-taught engineer, and his three sons, including Jordan, are either engineers or studying to be engineers.

This catapult is not made of beer cans, rubber bands and hope. This is wood and steel and rope and physics and math - and a punkin.

Using their self-built contraption - called Romans Revenge because the Romans perfected the Greek catapult - the Moores practiced at Lowrys on Friday.

That catapult is made out of hickory and an aluminum I-beam. It's medieval technology up-fitted for the Space Age. "Our record in competition is 2,215 feet," said Jordan, "but practicing out here we have already thrown farther."

Starting at 10 a.m. today, and every hour on the hour until 4 p.m., the Moores will crank up the catapult, load in a punkin grown right there by the Wilsons - somewhere between 8 and 10 lbs. - and let 'er rip.

Today's chunkin is for more height and less distance - the better for people to see it soar higher and fall closer, and view the splat.

"The higher we throw it, the closer the splat, the more crowd-pleasing," said Kim.