International borders serve as fodder for frequently recurring topics on the Twelve Mile Circle. I’ve written about borders in tunnels, borders across islands, borders creating odd exclaves and even a border that I crossed of dubious legality. However none of those approach the epic heights of one particularly noteworthy border crossing that took place in 2005. I can’t believe I didn’t know about it at the time. I just learned of it while researching another completely different topic that I will reveal to you in a few days (with special recognition for anyone who can figure it out).
David Smith Sr. is the patriarch of a notable family of human cannonballs. That’s right, I said human cannonballs, those people who shoot themselves from cannons at circuses, county fairs and various other public specticals. He’s traveled the world as he’s practiced his unusual art. At one time he even held the world record for the longest human cannonball flight until his son David Smith Jr. improved upon the distance.
The life of a professional human cannonballer might seem a bit odd, but that doesn’t make him a living embodiment of geo-oddities. No, David Smith Sr. crossed that threshold when he shot himself over the international boundary between Mexico and the United States as documented on YouTube.
The Independent reported,
Smith climbed into the barrel of the cannon on a beach in Tijuana on Saturday and flashed his US passport. About 600 people applauded as he soared about 150ft before landing uninjured in a net in Border Field State Park in San Diego. US border patrol agents and an ambulance were waiting near by.
He’d made arrangements with border officials ahead of time to make sure this was a legal crossing, so no worries there. I like the part where someone asks him why he did it and he says, "for money… I get paid!"
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There was an interesting premise behind this stunt. It’s included as part of a public art partnership between San Diego and Tijuana, a symbolic bit of performance art in this instance. A Venezuelan artist specializing in video installations, Javier Tellez, conceived of and organized the project along with psychiatric patients from Mexicali as a form of therapy.
He titled this artwork, "One Flew Over the Void" I’m going to guess with fair certainty that the title drew its inspiration from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I’m not sure if that’s a little tasteless, a stroke of genius or a bit of both.
That same year, a month earlier than the launch, the MythBusters television show aired an episode about the possibility of illegal aliens crossing the border using giant slingshots. It included clips of human cannonballs to craft a theory. The hosts concluded that a slingshot was not feasible. The device wouldn’t work as portrayed in the myth, and if it did then it would likely kill the person flung. That leads me to wonder if Javier Tellez received inspiration from MythBusters or whether it was merely a strange coincidence.
A giant slingshot apparently wouldn’t do the trick but Javier Tellez and David Smith Sr. provided indisputable proof that a giant cannon would work just fine. There haven’t been any reports of border crossings via cannon since 2005 as far as I can determine so apparently that’s not feasible in any practical sense. I’m sure border control agents would be able to spot a humongous cannon as it rolled up to the fence.
A user comment I spotted on one of the websites covering the event summed it up best: "When will we see a man of his caliber again?"