The shooting area is in an open field separated from the public by yellow plastic tape strung along metal fence posts.
In the distance, ATV’s and pickup trucks wait for this year’s contest to begin, looking themselves like small tin cans hung on a fence post for target practice. They scurry around after each shot, mark where pumpkins come back to Earth and send back GPS co-ordinates that help calculate the distance of each shot.
On the firing line there is activity as half a dozen cannons are lined up and crews are checking mechanisms, counting pumpkins, and figuring how to beat competitors. The King and Queen of the Punkin’ Chunkin’ Festival has been crowned. Winners of raffles have been announced. Lunch is winding down and stragglers hurry to grandstands from full parking lots.
There are a few issues, but, by one in the afternoon, pumpkins are being launched, one after another. There is a siren to warn us of a firing, then, a few seconds later, an explosion.
Pumpkins shoot out of the barrels hot. If you are sitting just right, you can track the pumpkin as it leaves the barrel, follow it in its arc till it plummets into the field and splatters into harmless slices of pumpkin pie. No one gets injured, maimed or killed in this war. It is country fun for country folks.
The distances are announced over a simple public address system and the crowd cheers for a good shot.
In unsettled times like these, Chunkin’ Punkin’s seems a better pain reliever than alcohol, pot, or religion.
The winning shot, this year, travels 3185 feet. Competition is fierce and people enjoy the annual event.
Trying to do it better is what keeps this country alive even if it is chunkin’ punkin’s, spitting sunflower seeds, or tossing cow chips.
I’m a city slicker with enough country bumpkin mixed into my DNA to find all this, as Mr. Spock likes to say, ” fascinating. ”