A BEAR SHOOTER FOR THE OLD TIMERS
By Norris Chambers
If you drove a vehicle in the old days you knew about tires and tubes and the many ways they could trouble you. And you also remember that the inner tubes were made from real rubber that would stretch and snap instead of curl and break. Newer tubes are not very stretchy and don’t even smell like rubber.
It was necessary to remind you of the difference in rubber quality so you won’t attempt to use one of the newer tubes to make the power strips for a slingshot. You might not even know how to make a slingshot. A slingshot can be made by cutting a forked branch from just about any kind of tree. The main branch serves as a handle to be held in the hand and the two open ends of the fork protrude above the thumb and forefinger. This forms a perfect “Y” to be held with the two prongs pointing upward. The bottom stem makes a perfect handle for holding upright with the hand. A rubber band about a half inch wide and six inches long is attached to the end of each branch and on the other end of the bands a leather pouch (part of the tongue of an old shoe) is connected between them. A rock, or other small missile, is placed in the pouch, drawn back and released. The tension from the stretched bands hurls the projectile through the fork and toward any target that has been selected. With regular practice the slingshot can become a very accurate weapon and is ideal for hunting small birds, squirrels, snakes and similar quarry! The forked limbs can be replaced with any desired size of frame by carving the desired stock from a board.
A forked mesquite tree at the edge of the hay field gave us the idea of a very large slingshot. After some discussion we decided not to cut the tree. We could leave it where it grew and with a little trimming the forks would propel our missile into the large field beside it. We hadn’t given much thought to what we would send sailing through the air. Most of our planning had been used on the machine’s design. We decided to use two complete tire tubes on each side. This would allow four single tubes of pure rubber on each side. For the pouch we veered from the leather to a quarter-size wash tub. This would allow the slingshot to throw either one item or several. We bound the rubber propellants to the big mesquite fork with insulated electrical wire. We fastened it tight enough to assure ourselves that it would not slip out. A large rope was used on the pouch end, along with the wire. It was a nice looking slingshot, but we found that we could stretch it very little with our combined strength.
Stretching the sling would be a simple matter with the portable device we had salvaged from a drilling site. It was called a “page jack” and was constructed of heavy metal equipped with small wheels for easy moving. A pliable cable with a metal hook on the end was wound around a geared drum that was hand operated with a handle on top. When the handle was pulled back and forth the drum turned and pulled the cable. A chain connected to the rear of the small machine was secured to a nearby tree.
We could connect the cable to the rope on the pouch and the sling could be stretched to the desired position. We could then cut the rope with a hatchet and let the tightly stretched tubes do their thing. We were anxious to see what would happen!
We made a quick trip to the garden area and plucked a large pumpkin. Clifton said that it would be a shame to destroy it in the machine but it would be an ideal missile and we needed to see how the sling-cannon worked. We loaded the pouch with the pumpkin and jacked the bands several feet backward. Clifton took the hatchet and cut the rope without further ceremony. There was a quick whishing sound and a loud clatter as the tub hit the tree limbs. The big pumpkin disappeared in the sky somewhere high over the field. The bear shooter was a success. Since we didn’t have any bears to shoot we had to decide what to do with it. Since Halloween was just around the corner we decided to send a few mysterious shots into the sky. A lighted object could be seen for many miles at night. A display like this would make many roaming pranksters wonder what it was!
When it was dark on Halloween night we wrapped several tow sacks around a big pumpkin and secured them well with binder twine. The sacks were well saturated with kerosene and ignited. Before the fire could damage our machine we cut the rope and waited to see the fireball streaking into the sky. We heard the whish and the clatter and the big ball of flame started its upward journey.
Apparently the speed of the fireball extinguished the flame. Our mystery fireball experiment was a failure. If you need something to generate a little fun try building a bear shooter and shoot a ball of fire over an oat field on a dark night. As the old timers say, “Fun is where you find it!”