Got my first paintball gun when I was 13 or 14. Christmas gift from the parents. Dad got one, too. And the mask. And some camo. Then we went outside and shot each other. Later, we went to the paintball field in Chocowinity, NC—I can’t remember its name—and shot our friends and some strangers. Had a great time.
One of the strangers was a former Marine. I remember, because he scared me. But in that fun way, where I was like, “OK, he’s probably going to blow me away, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll get him first.”
I didn’t get him first.
But the years went by and I spent way too much time and money on the sport. It’s expensive. But I loved it. And I even got halfway decent at it.
The last time I played was in high school. Then I graduated and went off to college and got too busy with other things to play paintball anymore. Also, I was one day left, most unexpectedly, without a gun. Yes, that’s the nice way to put it. I won’t tell you who’s responsible or what happened, because he is my brother and I love him. And he may or may not be pitching in the Yankees organization. But I’ve said too much.
Anyway, the point is, tomorrow, I’m playing paintball again. It’s for my weekly Outdoors column in the Wilmington Star-News, as well as for research in some other ideas for future stories. I don’t know what it will lead to after the column runs two Thursdays from now, but I do know a few things:
- I’m getting to play a game I love again, and I can’t wait, and
- I’m playing against more Marines.
The field is Adrenaline Junkie Paintball in Leland, NC, about 20 minutes from our house. It’s owned by 20-year military veteran Dennis Layman and his wife, Lisa. And they have anywhere from 15 to 40 regulars come out for open play every Saturday from about 10 to 2 or so. They’re so kind and gracious that they’re loaning me a gun, gear, and 500 balls just for the story. I get to play until the paint gives out. Or until I do. There’s no telling which will last longer at this point.
Because we’ve got a few military bases around here, see, and so many of those 15 to 40 regulars are either active or retired Marines. And specialists. And Special Forces. And sometimes SWAT guys also come out, Lisa just told me, and there might be some of their military-trained at-risk youth there, too.
So, yes, I’m expecting to have a few welts tomorrow evening.
But you know what? That also means I’m gonna have those Marines and Special Forces and SWAT members on my team, too.
Hooah, baby. Hooah.