Siege Onager Design for Dr. Seuss

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Onager Design for Dr. Seuss
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Dedicated to my new son Owen born Jan 16th, 2001

by Eric Ludlam:

Notice; You may need to read this with a slight Boston accent to get it to rhyme

Owen to launch a Duplo block

Mama Mama!  I'm so mad
 Little Jimmy is so bad

He called me names that are rude! what can I do about this dude?

Bombard the Neighbors!
Were the names all that bad?
 Why don't you go and ask your Dad?

Owen Dada, Dada!

Where's your Siege Machine? Little Jimmy is so mean.

He called me names that do insult! Can I borrow the catapult?

I giant rock sent through his roof Would teach him not to be aloof.

Eric Little Owen, what can I say? You show you are my son this day.

If you wish a siege to lay you could build a treb-u-chet

Hauling an Onager
But if to Jimmy's you must go
 an Onager's a cinch to tow.

Owen An onager? That name's absurd from language dead must come that word.

Eric Onager is Latin, true; Of wild asses with temper grue.

Romans made them long ago Ingenium secrets they did know.

Owen Tell me, Tell me, do you infer That we could build an Onager?

Flinging rocks across the street with this device would be quite neat.

Eric Let us think, what do we need Roman notions are our lead.

Twisting ropes create `torsion' upon the arm infers motion.

Tied to the end we add a sling and then projectiles we will fling.

Owen The Romans seem to be quite strange with funny words to fling down range

and still I'm missing your answer how do you build an Onager?

Ashen arm w/ fibre lash
Let us seek an arm that's long
 it's most important to be strong

The wood to choose for this is ash around the beam a fibre lash

Plane down the sides so that it's round upon the base end, a divot ground

A solid rod of iron goes upon the end for hooking loads

Owen Your ashen arm is quit neat stretching out about 3 feet.

but can't we make it much longer to make ourselves this Onager?

About to fling some potatoes
The shorter arm is not too hard
 and will fling rocks some 50 yard.

To launch a rock across the street and Jimmy's roof it will meet.

Owen Well now, I am quite eager to build a friendly Onager

Eric From the arm we can build the rest using math before we test.

Onager Parts before assembly

Onager upright & proportions
A three foot arm; from there derive
 A base length now of feet five

The torsion holes must be precision placed Engine ropes through them are laced.

Three feet from the back; the arm to match Upon the back beam, a trigger latch.

Two feet from the front face Uprights against it will brace.

Owen Lengths and numbers add up fine cutting wood to dust divine

What next goes into the Onager that we might toss a frothy lager

Eric Uprights strong must be found Three feet up from the ground

The arm will rotate from this side A quarter circle circumscribed.

Four cross bars must now be cut Match the width to thy truck

Mortise and tenon each beam deploy to fit together like tinker toys.

Near the torsion hole; fore and aft two cross bars we will craft,

For the aft inner brace, a curved cleft Down to which the arm will nest.

Owen Your onager is looking strong Surely it shall not be long

Boat Winch
From the sky; rocks inter
  Let us finish this Onager

Eric Lets add our last two beams of brace In the back and front we place.

The front beam must withstand shock the uprights to them will lock

In the stern, a timber large On it a winch and trigger charge.

Upon the trigger, we will attach a lanyard for a safe dispatch.

Next we need metal parts cut fine to turn our rope into a skein.

The hole carrying beam we will protect. This washer plate will be perfect.

To twist up our rope an Epizygis Held in place by Modiolus

Owen Stop right there, this is absurd Epizolus is not a word.

Modiolus/Epizygis Before & After
They are not English, but Greek phrase
  For simple things with special ways.

Epizygis is but a lever but in Greek sounds quite clever

Modiolus means a washer plain but now we use it to explain

that all these things are precise instruments in a device.

Once together we will wrap and floss One hundred feet of rope across

between the beams and around the lever through the modio ... whatever.

Owen Your funny words do best describe the wobbly path the rope ascribes

Let us stop the strange banter and finish building the Onager

Eric Snag some pulleys and some twine a pull down rope will be fine

Trigger & Pouch of Potatoes
if we can hook it one to two
  to pull the arm down through

the little notch in yonder brace and hook the trigger in it's place.

One more tool we had forgot; A throwing pouch to fill with rock.

Go find your Mother; she can sew a sturdy pouch with which to throw

Of canvas sturdy, and rope perfect will make a throw with out defect.

Owen Mama mama, make this please Dada says it's what he needs

For Onager and Latin things that happy thoughts will soon bring.

Amy I'm glad to see Dad's got you distracted from destructive thoughts to be enacted

I will make this strange thing and to you happiness will bring.

Owen I've got it Dad, now we can fling. Lets tie it on and test this thing.

Eric Tie on the pouch 3 inches from the end On the hook, the pouch loop descend

A vegetable to defile will make a nice projectile

Now stand thee back a good distance pull the lanyard and avoid mischance.


Owen A three foot shot is so lame I must say you are to blame

An Onager does really suck I think now I am quite stuck

Tightening the skein
Silly boy, the machine's not wound,
  we must twist the skein around

to form more tension in the string and remote destruction we will bring.

To wind them up really tight a spanner tool will be just right.

For our purposes we shall hope a two by four, and piece of rope

will be enough to twist this skein and throw a rock across the plain.

Owen If your grunting on your spanner makes it to your daily planner

and the skein twists tightly through the Modizygis thingy doo

will it be enough to deploy a rock into a house destroy?

Eric Twisting skein is mighty rough I don't think you grunt enough

But now we're done, and can try to toss a rock across the sky

if it works from now till dawn, you will get to mow my lawn.

Video Clip: Amy chunks 3 apples

Video: 352x240 MPEG 1
Audio: MPEG-1 Layer 2 128kbit/s 44100Hz stereo
Size: 767K
Length: 3 seconds
The lawn can wait, let's try once more
  and launch a potato encore

Onager THWACK!

Owen It works, It works! This is so neat in castle siege I can defeat

Lets raid the garden in a while and gather some more projectile.

I do like it, that's for sure I do like this Onager.


My Onager is three feet tall, five feet long, four feet wide, with a three foot arm. This poem describes most critical aspects of the machine.

An average throw for our onager is 150ft with 4 to 5 small potatoes.

Copyright (C) September 2001-2018 Eric M. Ludlam. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized duplication and distribution of this page is strictly prohibited.
Twas' brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe.

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Twas' brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe...
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