MILFORD – With a loud yell Sunday of “Fire in the hole,” a string was pulled and a pumpkin launched hundreds of yards into a muddy field at the Dawn Til Done Farm.
Farm owner Dee Dauphinee invites the public each year to visit the farm for a chance to fire a pumpkin using his trebuchet – a medieval war weapon made famous by Leonardo da Vinci.
Last weekend, there were about 60 or 70 people at the farm to participate, and Dauphinee said almost that many already had stopped by early Sunday afternoon to see the machine in action.
“We added about 60 or 70 pounds,” Dauphinee said Sunday. He took some of the larger fieldstones out of the bucket at the base of the contraption used to propel the pumpkin through the air and added some smaller ones.
“We’ve thrown ’em over 400 feet now,” he said.
The goal is to hit a cardboard castle in the middle of a field near Sunkhaze Stream.
The weekend rainstorm made for muddy conditions, but greatly improved the splat effect when the pumpkins hit the ground, splashed in the water and cracked open, sending pumpkin innards flying up in the air.
The soggy ground at one point resulted in the weight used to stabilize the trebuchet pulling loose from the ground, but Dauphinee and friends in attendance had a plan to get things fixed so the pumpkin-slinging could continue.
“We had so much rain yesterday,” Dauphinee said.
Zackery Monroe, 5, and his sister, Alisha Monroe, 3, of Bangor came with their parents to have a shot at pulling the string.
“This is our first year,” the children’s mother, Lisa Monroe, said. “We found out about it last year after he did it.”
Zackery said he staggered backwards and almost fell over when it was his turn, but was eager to try again.
“Whoa,” he said, watching another child in attendance have a hand at pulling the string.
The trebuchet acts like a big slingshot – a 32-foot-tall slingshot – with a bucket at the base that holds hundreds of pounds of fieldstones.
An assortment of pulleys and cords is used to set the trigger, and then a pumpkin is placed into a yellow sling.
When the string is pulled, the rocks fall and the pumpkin is sent flying into the air.
Sunday’s wind made it a little difficult to predict the trajectory, but Dauphinee said they already had hit the castle once and were working on getting the settings just right.
“We fling a lot of pumpkins,” he said, estimating around 11:30 a.m. Sunday they’d already sent 80 or 90 into the air.
Dauphinee’s goal is to eventually reconstruct the way the trebuchet would have been used years ago and have it triggered by draft horses.
He’d also like the Society for Creative Anachronism – an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th century Europeans – to participate in a re-enactment at the farm.
“It’s a direct appreciation of the genius Leonardo da Vinci,” Dauphinee said, explaining that his reason for building the machine wasn’t just for a big boy to have a big toy.