LONGMONT — A small group of Boy Scouts struggled to cock the launching wire on its Roman catapult — a large wooden device that resembles a crossbow.
Once the wire was taut and a 10-pound bag of flour was placed in front of it, a Scout yelled, “Blood circle!” — meaning get out of harm’s way — before taking an ax and snapping the line, sending the flour bag flying more than 7 feet before it smashed down in the dirt, spraying flour everywhere.
The launch was part of a new competition at the Arapahoe District Scout Show, held Saturday at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in Longmont.
Scouts from Longmont, Dacono and Boulder brought their catapults to the far corner of the parking lot to see what kind of damage they could inflict.
Each catapult was different. Dacono Crew 98, the first-place winners, built a more traditional catapult, with a large throwing basket and 350 pounds for a counter weight.
Troop 66 of Longmont built a smaller arm catapult, but instead of having a counterweight, the arm was pressed down hard on springs. The basket at the end of the throwing arm was a toilet seat for added flair.
The Scout Show has always featured scouts in a smaller version of the catapult competition, said Terry Baker, assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 66 and adviser for Crew 66 of Longmont.
Baker’s Crew sponsored the catapult competition for older Scouts because “the Boy Scouts would always look at the catapults (the younger boys built) and wish they could do something like that,” Baker said. “Last year I promised them a catapult competition for the troops.”
The organizers of the event hope this year’s first large catapult competition will generate interest for next year’s show.
Each catapult had to be 100 percent built by the scouts. The throwing arms could not be longer than 6 feet and could not be made out of metal. The arms also couldn’t be air-powered.
Baker said he thought a 10-pound bag of flour would be a heavy enough projectile to shoot from the catapults and also would challenge the scouts building them to create sturdier contraptions that wouldn’t fall apart when the flour was launched.
The competition offers everything boys love, Baker said, such as “throwing things and simulated explosions.”
Troop 98 had no trouble sweeping the competitors with its giant catapult.
On its third and final throw, the troop let ’er rip, breaking the supports on the catapult and putting it out of commission for the rest of the competition.
One Scout said it was one of the troop’s goals Saturday to break the catapult.
Erik Josh, 16, helped design Troop 98’s entry.
“We figured we needed something stable but able to hold 300 pounds counterweight,” Josh said.
The boys had some trouble in the design their catapult because the metal pipe the troop used as an axle for the throwing arm kept bending from the weight.
Even the 1-inch-thick steel pipe they eventually settled on for their final entry into the competition was bowing in the middle, Josh said.
Miles Wentland, 15, the senior patrol leader for Troop 273 of Boulder, said he and his Scouts brainstormed many different ideas before settling on the Roman catapult.
“We looked at online Web sites that talked about creating Roman catapults, but there were no blueprints, no measurements,” he said. “So we experimented.”
Wentland added that he had hoped more people would be competing “because it would be more fun.”
Troop 66 came in second, and Troop 273 came in third.
Before the big boys began launching flour from their catapults, the Webelos, or younger scouts, launched tennis balls through hoops from their much smaller catapults.
The winners of that competition, Pack 372 of Boulder, shot 36 balls through the hoop, twice as many as the closest competitor.
Alex Jansen, 10, said the catapult competition was a “big team effort. If one scout didn’t do his job, it would all fall apart.”
Paula Aven Gladych can be reached
at 303-684-5211, or by e-mail