The Need for Trebuchets

A trebuchet is a siege engine that was employed in the Middle Ages.  A trebuchet is a type of catapult that works by using the energy of a raised counterweight to throw a projectile.  It could fling projectiles of up to three hundred and fifty pounds (140 kg) at high speeds into enemy fortifications.  The trebuchet did not become obsolete until the 15th century, well after the introduction of gunpowder.

I first saw a trebuchet on the old TV series Northern Exposure where the device hurled an upright piano across an Alaskan meadow.  What kid or curmudgeon doesn’t have the need to fling something at an enemy fortification?  I had to have one.

My wish was fulfilled when I got one, in kit form, as a birthday present many years ago.  I postponed and postponed its assembly until I ran out of excuses.  People kept wondering why I was always busy rearranging my sock drawer when I have only two pairs – the one I’m wearing and the one in the drawer.  I finally started assembly of my floating-arm trebuchet.  I followed the instructions carefully but failed to get one critical component correct.  As a result, when the floating arm dropped, I hurled my test ball the astonishing distance of about three inches – directly behind the machine!  After considerable trial and error and a lot of cursing and sweat, I did get the contraption working with modest success.

Since full size trebuchets can hurl objects the size and weight of dead cows, pianos or automobiles, they surely can hurl an average size human.  I’m surprised that theme parks haven’t created a human-hurling machine to compete with bungee-jumping and other terrifying rides.  “Try our new death-defying ride; Go on the Human Hurler.  It’s like being shot out of a cannon without the gunpowder.”

In moments of weakness, I devised a plot to capture a former unpleasant boss (my “imaginary boss” is named “Steve,” you can substitute your own) and tie him to the hurling end of a full size trebuchet of my own making.

Me:  “Steve, you SOB, you will pester me no more.”

Steve (tied to the trebuchet hurler):  “Gulp!”

Me:  “Prepare for your fate, you despicable tyrant.  I have endured your last invective.”  [I attempt to launch the trebuchet with the same poor result as my earlier kit-building example.  Nothing at all happens to the accursed Steve.]

Steve:  “You moron.  You’re no more competent at trebuchets than you were with all the other projects I gave you.”

Me:  Long pause …   “Uh, well, I need to tweak a few things.  Would you mind staying tied up there for a little while until I figure this out?”

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19 responses to “The Need for Trebuchets

  1. I arrived at this post somewhat late. Whilst reading your post on bathroom conference calls, I noticed “trebuchets” in the display of search terms. Being a huge fan of trebuchets, resistance was futile. I had heard of trebuchets before and knew of them only as the weapon that made catapults obsolete. Then came Northern Exposure with what is still my favorite episode. I’ve always thought we should install them on death row. One week after conviction, you get “released”. Survivors may appeal their conviction.

    P.S. Thanks for mentioning the kit form. I never thought to look.

  2. I am late to the party, but after reading your trebuchet comment at Le Clown’s I had to come and see for myself. I have long thought that an urban trebuchet range would be a big hit… I think I even had an early blog post about it somewhere. The possibilities are limitless.

  3. Love these! Also, petards, but using mechanical energy is more fun to watch than stuff blowing up.

  4. I always thought Human Hurlers were the passengers at theme parks, not the rides. 🙂

    And everyone needs a good trebuchet to deal with annoying bosses. I’m my own boss, and sometimes I’d like to hurl myself from a trebuchet…

  5. My husband got a trebuchet kit for his birthday. I’m more excited about it than he is. I have a miniature gallows that I hang paper dolls in, but it’s not as satisfying as a trebuchet would be.

  6. CaL,
    Trebuchet is a font. Stop feeding us your nonsense.
    Le Clown

  7. I’m sorry that even your fantasy hurl, “Steve,” fell short of your expectations for torture. Keep at it, I’m sure you’ll get a positive result soon. tee hee

    And by the way, I think you’re right about this being the next big attraction at the amusement park. Who wouldn’t want to get hurled uncontrollably through space? I think it’s a winner.

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