Sunday, February 20, 2011

Squirrel Launching

Part one- Our Creation is Created

"Wyatt, what are you watching?"

"The Expendables," he replied. "Why?"

"Oh I thought you might want to build something cool and learn a little bit about scientific principles in the process," I told him.

"Like what?", he wondered.

" Like a squirrel catapult. Come here and watch these," I said. "On my computer. The other guy in my writing group was talking about how much fun this is and he put up some videos to watch. Check them out and see if you want to build something like that. They were all really excited and I think everyone in my writing group is out today making purchases so that they too can build one of these."

We stood at the computer watching video after video. Wyatt was cackling with glee, nearly rolling on the floor with laughter.

"Yes," he said. "We've got to build one of those."

Helpers do not come along just everyday. Eager, unpaid helpers are few and far between so this was a chance not to be missed. But it was cold outside. There was no sense in getting all of our extremities frostbitten, I figured, so I sent Wyatt outdoors on The Great Material Scrounging Expedition. I waited inside where it was nice and warm. After all, I had the hard part and I needed to organize my thoughts. Someone was going to have to do the thinking and pass along instructions. Presently he reappeared and carried in a 6 foot by 1 foot piece of half inch plywood and two armloads of different length two by fours, ranging from 2 feet up to 10 feet long. Next he went out and brought in a cordless drill, different bits, screws, nails, tape measure, a hammer and a chalk line. We were all set to begin constructing.

I had given this some thought and drawn a sketch of just about what we were going to build but we had no definite plans and measurements to go by.. It was sort of a trial and error type thing. Boards were inspected. Measurements were measured. Guesswork was guessed at. Wood was sawn. The plywood served as the base, reinforced full length with a two by four running down its middle. On each side of this two by four we screwed an upright two by four stretching 5 feet straight into the air. Then we added bracing onto each of these up rights, screwing it all solidly together. Presently we stepped back to admire our progress.

Well looky there. It certainly looked like it would hold together. But something wasn't quite right. Something smells fishy in Denmark, as they say. At least I think that's what they say. That is what they say, isn't it? But I digress.

It was the uprights. Or rather, almost uprights. The ones that rose 5 feet straight into the air. At least they were supposed to. They and the braces were anchored solidly if a bit crookedly together. The tops of them were off a few degrees. We could've used another eager volunteer during the build to hold things straight, such as his little brother Trace but he was off somewhere at the moment wasting his time on foolish pursuits such as learning teamwork in a basketball game.

This very fact threatened to throw the whole project off schedule and lead to delays in construction. What to do now? Dismantle the whole rig and start over from scratch? Continue on with our plan and just pray that it worked? Give in and go play Tiddlywinks?

Piss on that. None of these options appealed to us. After all, were we not Marines? In actual fact, no, we were not Marines but I digress. We do possess the gung ho spirit of Marines and decided to do what they do, improvise, adapt and overcome.

We used our best, long two by four for the arm and bolted it through the uprights, making certain that it was loose enough to swing freely, pendulum like. We could not place it as high as we wished because they were too crooked and there would not have been enough room to drill a straight hole through all three boards. But there were other measures we could take to compensate. A cake pan was liberated from the kitchen and nailed on to one end of the arm and a water balloon slingshot was fastened to the other end for propulsion.

Our creation was nearly created.

And this is where we ran into problems. Specifically, one problem that brought the entire process to a screeching halt, barring completion of our masterpiece. It needed a name. Not just any old common Tom, Dick, or Harry, we needed something appropriate. We pondered. We suggested. We argued. It was a seemingly insurmountable situation. Tempers were creeping toward the boiling point. Was this to be the end of our scientific lesson? Was God now rebuking our project? Would this serve to tear the family apart, going off in separate directions, never to reconcile? Finally, the near catastrophe was avoided when little Wyatt made one final suggestion and the blinders were removed from our eyes. The fog lifted. The clouds parted. Rays of sunlight beamed down and I heard the angels singing.

Our problem was over. Now that we had a fitting name, Wyatt quickly procured a magic marker and got busy adding the final touch. Smiling proudly, he stepped back so that we could both admire his artistic handiwork.

It was large. It was crooked. It needed paint. And it was a thing of uncommon beauty.

The Rodent Rocket was born.

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