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Saturday, October 15, 2005

Pumpkin ballistics

Ready, aim, fire

With Pressure and Perseverance, Pumpkins Do Fly
Virginia 'Chunker' Aims to Set Record

By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 15, 2005; Page A01

CULPEPER, Va., Oct. 14 -- There once was a time when Ray Tolson thought the sport of "Punkin Chunkin" sounded as crazy as can be, when the notion of spending as much as $200,000 to build a 100-foot-long "gun" designed to fire a pumpkin nearly a mile seemed silly.

But that was another Ray Tolson, a Ray Tolson who didn't study air pressure and cloud speed in search of the perfect "air shelf" where an 8- to 10-pound pumpkin could sail perfectly. Who didn't commission university horticulturists to breed pumpkins that are precisely 9.5 inches in diameter, round and with a thick skin -- the perfect projectile.

With the World Championship Punkin Chunkin and a chance to best his world record of 4,434.28 feet less than three weeks away, Tolson, 61, was in his yard in Culpeper County on Friday, furiously fiddling with the gun. He said he has spent 5,000 hours building the glistening, black steel Second Amendment Too, which is why, he said, the grass has grown tall on his five acres, partially obscuring the half-dozen vehicles he used to spend his free time tinkering with.

"I haven't had time to mow," said Tolson, a small man who calls himself a high-tech redneck. "The point is to use the maximum G4 force on the pumpkin without destroying it."

His blue eyes twinkle.

A smile lifts his bushy, brown-and-gray beard.

"There's nothing like it!"

posted by Steve @ 12:50:00 AM

12:50:00 AM

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