I used to do all my trash picking by bike. I’d often ride three or four hours a day, sometimes six or eight if I was particularly motivated. As you can imagine all this biking kept me in pretty good shape. However, since I started using a car the bike has fallen by the wayside, to the point where I barely used it at all. Needless to say I’m not in particularly good shape anymore.
I realized recently that I missed exercise, that it makes me feel good – both mentally and physically – to get the heart pumping. I’ve been taking a lot more bike rides, and when I do I generally go somewhere that might have garbage. This recently took me to Rosemont (between St Laurent and Papineau), a neighbourhood I’ve neglected since the beginning of the car era even though it was just a short bike ride away.
One box on the curb held a bunch of sewing supplies and other junk. More interesting though was the large (approximately 5″ wide) metal ball that found its way to the corner of the box. It weighed a ton (or at least felt like it) and I concluded that it was a solid chunk of cast iron.
My first thought was that it might be a cannonball. It was heavy, round, and looked old. What else could it be? Could there be any other purpose for a large cast iron sphere? Then I started wondering how cannonballs worked. I worried… Were they filled with explosives? Did they explode when they hit the ground like in the movies? Could this thing potentially blow me up? I didn’t want that. However, based on its weight and shape I really didn’t think that there could be anything inside the ball outside of more cast iron. I biked it home, moving quite gingerly on the off chance that I was wrong.
I brought it home and showed it to my room-mate. His first thought that it was a shot put ball, and he was correct. On the ball is engraved the number 12, which is apparently the weight in pounds typically used in high school competitions. (Olympians use 16 pound balls, FYI). It felt a lot heavier, which I suppose is because the weight is so dense.
I did a bit of research and found out more information about cannonballs. The vast majority were solid balls of stone, lead, or iron, meaning that some cannonballs were pretty similar to shot put balls, and that shot put balls could potentially be fired from a suitable cannon. Cannonballs didn’t explode on impact as you often see in movies – they were more like bouncing bowling balls that mangled anyone in their path. Cannonballs were the most common projectile used in the American Civil War, though different types of exploding projectiles came into use around this time as well. These exploding cannonballs are still quite dangerous: one man was killed while restoring one in 2008.
While a (non-exploding) cannonball would have been a cool find, I appreciate having shot-put ball. Maybe I’ll take it to the park and see how far I can throw it without blowing out my shoulder. The world record for a 16 pounder is just over 23 meters. I’d be surprised if I could throw this 12 pounder half that distance!