I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered just what the effect would be if I were to ram a lance into the chest of an enemy, from horseback, at about 15 to 20 mph. Ok, you probably haven’t really given that much thought. I’m weird that way, I reckon. But if you clicked on this post, or stumbled across it somewhere, there must be a small part of you that’s just curious enough to compel you to read on. I hope so anyway.
The following video clip is from a larger documentary I put together a few years ago on the Knights Templar, for a college project. I’m no film-maker, so I’ll make no claims there, but what I do well, is history, and dreaming up sick things like ramming spears into the carcass of a pig from the back of a pickup truck.
Why truck jousting? you ask.
Well, the documentary was not a low budget film. It was essentially a NO budget one, so we didn’t have money for pretty much anything. That leads to innovation, as necessity always does. She’s a hard mother after all, but one that will teach you self reliance, if nothing else. So I was out at my friend, Keith’s house, in B.F.E., NC, somewhere between Swampville and the Pyramids of Giza, because I needed a rural backdrop for the weapons demonstrations that I wanted to film for the documentary. These days, Keith has two horses, as Murphy would dictate, but back then, he had an old Ford pickup truck, and some space in his front yard, where the horses now roam and graze. There was also several sturdy trees which came in handy when it was time to string up the pig, so we could mutilate him with various implements of destruction, including the lance. But there were no horses. So we had a dillemma.
How do you test the effectiveness of a medieval, war lance, if all you have are the feet and speed of two Southern, redneck boys, and no horse? I suppose we could have just run really fast at the pig and jammed it in, but that didn’t sound very scientific, though it did sound amusing, and I reckon it would have been. Keith called a friend of his who had a motorcycle, thinking that he could ride it past the pig and try to spear it while steering the bike. That also would have been amusing, especially since he probably would have wiped out as soon as he made contact with the pig, and the lance–stuck in the carcass–yanked him off the bike, or rolled it into the grass. Well, it would have been funny from MY standpoint anyway. But he couldn’t get hold of his friend, so we were stuck. We sat there a few minutes, both thinking so hard you could smell it, when he suggested, in jest really–and at this point, you should really be asking yourself, what could possibly be more ‘jest-like’ than suggesting running at, or riding a motorcycle at a pig with a lance under your arm–but nonetheless, he prefaced his suggestion with “This is kind of crazy,” and then proceeded to suggest that we put me in the back of his pickup truck, and he drive it past the pig. My first reaction, for some reason, was “That’s ridiculous,” which of course it is, but so were the other ideas, if not more so. So after a few seconds, I said, “Why the hell not? It will at least be funny!” So that’s what we did.
We set up my stationary camera behind the pig, to one side a bit, so I wouldn’t inadvertently spear it too, and then Mike–oh yeah, I forgot to introduce Mike Myles, our cameraman–climbed into the back of the truck with me to get a shot looking down the lance as we closed in on the pig. We did one dry run at the pig, where Mike shot down the length of the shaft, then he got out and set up to one side to get a shot of another dry run from a distance. Then we did the ‘wet’ run, if you will. For the first two runs, I aimed at the pig, but pulled the lance away at the last moment. On the third and final run, I balanced myself, took aim, and as Keith sped past the pig, I rammed it home. The results are little short of astonishing.
On the ‘science’:
This is not a scientific test, not by a long shot. First off, the lance and chain-mail are not made from medieval steel (see the sword post, where I talk about that in more depth). Secondly, I’m in the back of a modern pickup truck, which kind of undermines the ‘science,’ if you will. As another friend mine, James, pointed out recently, there is also a ‘mass’ issue involved, since mass times acceleration equals force, or something like that. It’s one of those geeky, Newtonian thingys. A truck weighs a bit more than a horse, so it will bring a higher punch when it hits something, or when a sweaty, Southern redneck, standing in the back of it, hits something with a spear traveling at 15 mph. I know this isn’t something that happens very often, but hey, I’m just trying to be scientific.
Anyway, here is a link to the video. It’s quite shocking. I usually tell my students–when I assault them with this video–that the most shocking thing might actually be the reaction of their teacher when he hits the ‘target.’
You can find the other tests on this blog site: sword and bow, or on my Youtube channel, as well as videos explaining my upcoming book publication, Be a Hobbit, Save the Earth: the Guide to Sustainable Shire Living, which will be on Kickstarter soon.