Copycat catapultists stole from ‘catapod’ idea | Latte Guy | Feb. 4

Copycat catapultists stole from ‘catapod’ idea

Someone in Mexico owes me some money.

Perhaps you saw in the news last week a story about some drug smugglers from Mexico who were using a catapult to toss four-pound bricks of marijuana over the international border fence into Arizona.

Alerted by the U.S. Border Patrol, the Mexican military seized the catapult, the flatbed trailer it was mounted on, and about 35 pounds of marijuana left behind by the fleeing smugglers.

The idea of using a catapult as a modern commodity delivery system is an idea I came up with more than a decade ago.

My idea involved using catapults to transport household goods and furniture rather than marijuana. However, I think the two uses are close enough in concept for me to believe that somewhere in Mexico there are drug smugglers who owe me royalties.

The use of a catapult as part of the moving process came to me when I was helping a friend move from Vashon to Bainbridge.

Conventional moving techniques required us to drive trucks back and forth between Bainbridge and Vashon, not to mention the need to back a moving truck down a ferry ramp.

It occurred to me that you could save a lot of time and trouble if you could found some way to get the furniture and moving boxes more directly from Vashon to Bainbridge.

In an inspired moment, I had a vision of using a round packing crate the size and shape of a Volkswagen Beetle. You’d fill this “packing pod” tightly to a precise weight, and then, instead of loading it onto a moving truck for overland delivery, you place the pod onto a large catapult that you had towed to the site for this purpose.

The catapult would be released, and the packing pod would be launched airborne across Elliot Bay to its targeted destination where it would be caught and unloaded.

I haven’t quite worked out the logistics of catching the pod yet, but I’m thinking of a large net, an inflatable castle like they have kids’ parties, or perhaps an over-sized catcher’s mitt.

I’m still awaiting interest from the venture capital world and a more favorable IPO environment before I roll out my “CataPod Moving System,” so you can imagine how disturbing it was for me to see those scurrilous drug smugglers stealing my idea.

I’ve been fascinated with catapults ever since I read a book by Jim Paul called “Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon.”

The author and a friend built a functioning catapult that they used to hurl large rocks off the Marin County Coast in California into the ocean just to see if it could be done.

Since then, I’ve followed catapult news closely.

Early catapults were akin to crossbows, and were originally used to hurl oversized arrows and spears.

Later, they evolved into siege weapons used to hurl boulders or various incendiary items. In an early adventure in biological warfare, catapults were also used to hurl diseased carcasses, excrement or putrid garbage over castle walls.

King Edward I of Scotland famously laid siege to Stirling Castle in 1304 using a giant trebuchet named “Warwolf.” As late as World War I, catapults were used to throw hand grenades from one trench across no man’s land into enemy trenches, an early version of the mortar.

Catapult technology reached its zenith some years ago when Ozzy Osbourne tried to use a catapult to fling cow organs into his concert audience.

This beta version of the catapult, which Osbourne dubbed the “Liver Tosser,” splattered security personal on stage with most of the airborne entrails.

Sadly for Western culture, plans for the Liver Tosser were abandoned.

A workable catapult that can toss a miniature marshmallow across a room can be created in a matter of minutes by using an ordinary mouse trap, a plastic spoon and some electrical tape.

More advanced and powerful homemade weapons of siege can be constructed following the directions in William Gurstelle’s seminal work, “Backyard Ballistics,” featuring not only working catapults, but hairspray fueled Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, and PVC-based Tennis Ball Mortars.

So if you see any drug smugglers hauling around a flatbed trailer and a stack of suspicious projectiles, tell them they are in possible violation of U.S. law.

That ought to scare them straight.

Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.

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