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March 19, 2008

Beyond Thunderdome — The Rise of 'Smart Poo'


Except this isn't some post-apocalyptic fever dream — it's really happening in England as you read these words.

Long story short: "A British businessman fed up with being targeted by vandals has installed a 30-foot Roman-style catapult on the premises to hurl bucket loads of chicken manure at culprits attacking his rural offices."

Here's Al Webb's story about this throwback weaponry, from the March 17, 2008 Washington Times.

    Ex-stuntman targets vandals with nasty catapult

    A British businessman fed up with being targeted by vandals has installed a 30-foot Roman-style catapult on the premises to hurl bucket loads of chicken manure at culprits attacking his rural offices.

    Former stuntman Joe Weston-Webb [above, with his catapult] thinks the vandals are in cahoots with competitors of his company, aptly named Grumpy Joe's Flooring Sales, in the River Soar valley of Nottinghamshire, England.

    The defense arrangements, which include priming the catapult with chicken droppings from a nearby farm, include 32 closed-circuit TV cameras, security fencing and motion-sensor lights — all guarded by a no-nonsense sign that reads:

    "WARNING: These premises are protected by smart poo"

    His company, at Kegworth, in Nottinghamshire, has been hit by a string of raids by hoodlums.

    But Mr. Weston-Webb's fury really exploded when arsonists struck at his company buildings, causing $4,000 worth of damage, and slashed car tires and smashed windows with paving slabs at his daughter's home nearby.

    The 70-year-old entrepreneur says he thinks jealous business rivals may be responsible. The attacks, he says, started earlier this year, after Grumpy Joe's won a lucrative contract to supply a British TV show, "Strictly Come Dancing," with portable flooring.

    "It's too much of a coincidence," Mr. Weston-Webb told reporters recently. "We are pretty certain it was a rival company, but I can't prove it."

    He thinks the police are little, if any, help. "There's no way anyone will get caught" by the authorities, he said. "So I thought I would set up my own defense."

    He then rolled out the catapult, a remnant of his days as a traveling showman, which he used to shoot his wife, Mary, across a small stretch of the River Avon and into a net.

    Mary Weston-Webb defended her husband's decision to lace the place with his rather odd booby traps.

    "We just feel so helpless," she told the Times newspaper in London. "We feel very vulnerable."

    The local police authorities in Nottinghamshire — the legendary home of Robin Hood, where the flooring company is located — are less than amused.

    They have warned Mr. Weston-Webb that "a crime-prevention officer will be making contact" with him, "to offer some practical security advice" — as well as a few well-chosen words on just what constitutes "reasonable force" in deterring would-be criminals.

    "The reasonable force must be proportionate to the threat," said police Inspector Jeff Haywood."The setting up of booby traps is outside the scope of the law and is something Nottinghamshire Police would advise against."


Here's a more detailed March 5, 2008 Times of London article about this 21st-century Druid of Nottinghamshire.

    I have a 30ft catapult filled with chicken droppings — and I’m not afraid to use it

    The headquarters of Joe Weston-Webb’s portable flooring empire is protected by security fencing, motion-sensor lights and CCTV cameras.

    None of these conventional measures has deterred arsonists, however, and in desperation, Mr Weston-Webb has now fortified his defences with less orthodox technology left over from his time as a travelling showman.

    A 30ft Roman catapult, loaded with chicken droppings from a nearby farm is primed each evening. And a cannon, which Mr Weston-Webb once used to shoot his wife across the River Avon, will fire a railway sleeper if triggered by an intruder.

    Mr Weston-Webb was yesterday erecting a sign outside his business, which stands at the end of a farm track in the lower valley of the River Soar in Nottinghamshire — a place known locally as Soar Bottom. It reads: “Warning: These premises are protected by smart-poo and railway sleeper projectiles.”

    He told The Times: “I have an exploding coffin too. The intruder would have to climb into the box in order to be blown out of it and I don’t expect anyone would be stupid enough to do that, but I’m working on it.”

    Mr Weston-Webb, 70, fears that his company, Grumpy Joe’s Flooring, has been a target for rivals in the portable flooring industry ever since it won a lucrative contract to supply the BBC show Strictly Come Dancing.

    In the early hours of February 2 arsonists started a fire that caused £2,000 worth of damage. On the same night, four cars outside his daughter’s house had their tyres slashed and windows smashed.

    “My daughter lives 12 miles away,” he said. “It’s too much of a coincidence. We are pretty certain it was a rival company, but I can’t prove it.”

    He says he did not build up his flooring business in order to let his rivals walk all over him, nor have years arranging to fire his wife, Mary, over rivers in cannon and catapults left him shy of other experiments.

    “She’s 54 now and far too big to fit into the cannon in any case,” he said.

    Mrs Weston-Webb was one of Mr Weston-Webb’s squad of “Moto-Birds”, travelling the world driving motorcycles and cars over ramps and water features. While injured with a broken arm, she climbed into the catapult her husband is now employing to defend his warehouses, before an expectant crowd of 30,000. “I flew across 160ft of the Avon,” she said. “Unfortunately the net was set at an angle and I bounced into the river.”

    Mrs Weston-Webb stood by her husband as he attempted to build a car with wings that would fly from the edge of a quarry (it didn’t) and a ramp that would take a double-decker bus across the Avon.

    And she stands by his decision to lay booby-traps. “We just feel so helpless,” she said.

    Nottinghamshire Police said yesterday that they would send an officer to offer advice on “conventional security techniques” and on the use of “reasonable force”. Mr Weston-Webb promises to be reasonable. “We are putting a rubber block on the end of the railway sleeper,” he said. “It should just knock an intruder down.”

March 19, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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You know, I'd probably kill my husband if he told me I was "too big" to fit into anything. Too extreme you think? OK, let me just vandalize his place a little. After all, I'd have insider knowledge as to how the chicken poop falls.

Posted by: Milena | Mar 21, 2008 12:35:01 PM

Oh, why did you need to post something referencing Mad Max films right after I was pointed to the following web address and felt the great need to share with the entire world...


Posted by: Mary Sue | Mar 19, 2008 1:47:49 PM

Seriously, if I had a vandal problem like that, I'd use a different weapon. Flying chicken shit would probably just appeal to the vandal mentality.

I figure, since the perpetrators are probably mostly male -- however you want to interpret that -- it might be more effective to use something more offensive, like maybe pelting the hoods with used tampons & Kotex. Now, since, uh, supply, as it were, could present a problem, red paint would probabaly work. Just an idea.

Hmm. I was just thinking... That line about how the wife, at 54, was "far too big [read: fat] to fit in the cannon" these days, cracked me up. So, meditating on that, maybe flinging big, giant, white, old-lady cotton underpants (the really comfortable kind) could work. At least, my experience has shown them to have a thoroughly repellant effect...

You know, excessive YouTubeage can rot your brain.

Posted by: Flautist | Mar 19, 2008 1:20:37 PM

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