Northern Utah has a beautiful fall season. Gentle breezes rustle the fallen leaves that gild the tranquil portrait of Cache Valley with deep reds and bright yellows. Last Saturday began as another quiet study of autumnal repose, but then volleys of screeching pumpkins rained down from the sky like hellfire.
As raucous music like the drums of war whipped the crowd of nearly a thousand into a frenzy, operators of great medieval weapons took aim. Their target was a truck in the middle of a field emblazoned with the name and colors of a rival university, to be smashed in effigy by the plummeting gourds.
Automotive destruction wasn’t the only item on the agenda at the sixth annual Pumpkin Toss, hosted by the Utah State University chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. There was also a distance category, which was won handily by Team Reaper, a group of engineering students.
“It’s called a floating-arm trebuchet," said a member of Team Reaper, "so it involves a counterweight and a lever arm, but the counterweight falls straight down through a slot and then there’s a track to roll back and forward and it allows you to transfer a lot of energy into the pumpkin, a lot more than you could [with] a traditional-style trebuchet.”
There was also an event in which the pumpkins were emptied of their seeds and stuffed with candy before being taped back together like some twisted organ transplant. The candy-filled pumpkins were then lobbed into the field, where they smashed against the ground, yielding their new insides. Snarling packs of children descended upon the fallen rinds like feral hounds and retreated back to the safety of the perimeter with their spoils. The children were separated into age groups to prevent the smallest from being trampled underfoot by the rampaging hordes.
After the event, things again grew quiet as the people returned to their homes. A field strewn with the corpses of pumpkins was eerily peaceful, as if all the horror we had witnessed were not but a dream.