Sunday, February 28, 2010

Paintball Part 1

(Revised for spelling and such 2/11)

All these years of guys asking me to play paintball and I had always turned them down.  The main reason I gave them; it would take away from my Saturday round of golf.  As you can imagine by the title of this post, I caved in and agreed to play.

There were eight of us that day.  Seven of us were beginners.  Our ages ranged from twenty-seven to forty-two.  All of us at the time were carrying a deuce plus (200 lbs).  Apparently paintball is popular enough to warrant call-ahead reservations.  We had called Friday just to find out when they opened.  “We are booked but we are not over booked. You should call about a week ahead for a reservation.  Saturdays are pretty busy for us.  Tell you what, show up at 10:00 and we will put with a party that is already going out.  They have eight in their party.  We will let your group walk on.  This will make it even teams and more fun for both groups.”

We were given the title “walk-ons”.  Being put in with another group we did not know made us nervous.  We thought it would be our four against our four giving us a chance against each other.  I mean have you watched a paintball game on You Tube?  The videos show guys getting riddled with paintballs by guys with no mercy.  I almost did not show up.  But the heckling I would have received from my friends would have much much worse.  After waiting for everyone to arrive we walk in to pay. 

The guy behind the counter informs us that the other party has not arrived.  “It looks like you guys might be on your own.”  Our sighs of relief were audible.  Apparently I was not the only one that had been viewing paintball on You Tube.  We paid up, got our marker (we were instructed not call them a paintball gun), our air, our mask, and our paintballs.  We were set. 
“Where do we go?” I asked. 
Paintball Master says, “Go sit in the bleachers outside and wait for me.  I have to give you a safety speech.”

We were checking our gear making comments about how much fun we were going to have.  We were trying to pick teams.  Should we go youngest against oldest…  Then Paintball Master walked up and started his speech.

 “Guys I am not going to repeat this so listen up.  You MUST wear your goggles on the field of play, inside the netting, at ALL times.  If you don’t follow this rule you WILL be asked to leave. You will NOT be issued a refund.  For insurance purposes you MUST wear your goggles at ALL times inside the net.  Maybe this help you understand.  If your goggles fall off and you get hit in the eye with a paintball that is traveling at 285 fps your eyeball will liquefy.  Any questions?” 

We had no questions.  Paintball Master gives a really good safety speech.

Sitting there in the bleachers with our goggles on even before we got behind the net, we see a mini-van squeal in the parking lot and stop. 
“Are we too late?!” comes the question from the driver. 
Paintball Master says “Almost”.  Then he looks at us and says “Wait here - that is the party that made reservations.” 

These…kids…start piling out of the mini-van.  They cannot be more than twelve or thirteen years old. Seriously they were like ten or eleven. 
“Are they are a youth group?” somebody asked from behind his mask.  Paintball Master informs us they are local Boy Scout group.

The discussion among us big ugly men focused on the kids.  They seemed to be only about chest high to most of us.  Our thoughts were when they hold up there paintball gun – sorry ‘marker’ - up to aim and shoot a paintball at 285 feet per second that can liquefy my unprotected eye. Isn’t the path of said paintball going to be traveling about 3 feet off the ground? That would be just about waist high on most of us.  Suddenly another anonymous question from behind a mask; “Do you sell athletic supporters and other appropriate equipment in your shop there Paintball Master?”   Paintball Master actually chuckled.

When the scouts make it out to the bleachers there are seven boys and one man.  He looked to be in his late twenties.  The rest of the boys were about the age range of oh I’d say not old enough to ride the rides at Disney World!  I tell you, there was fear in their eyes as they looked at us.  We were bigger, uglier; remember we were already wearing our mask and goggles.  I can only imagine what those little punks were thinking.  “We have to play these big ugly mean guys?”  They must have been ready to leave. 

We could only hope.

The next step in the process before getting to play the game is to test the speed of the markers (paintball gun).  For ‘insurance’ purposes they are not allowed to let the markers propel a paintball faster than 285 feet per second (fps).  “Paintball Master, I will give you an extra $10 to turn the Boy Scouts markers down to like 185 fps.”  “Sorry can’t do that sir.”  He chuckled again. 

Paintball Master introduced to the referees.  These guys were responsible for making sure the rules are followed.  Google’s on, markers set to the right speed, make sure no fights broke out, control the time of the game, etc. There first order of business is to test each and every marker.  This means they shoot some paintballs just purchased from them; until they are satisfied your marker is performing at the correct velocity, per their speed detector. 

The referees gather everyone around the general area for the speed test.  I was about 5th in line for getting my marker tested.  The marker I had was borrowed from a co-worker whose son plays. It looked really cool.  It was electric blue, chrome trigger, chrome air hose, it even had a battery for a LCD paintball counter.  The LCD displayed optional settings: “Semi, Auto, or Nitro”.  Sure I had let this little secret slide by my buddies.  There was no rule I had heard saying I had to divulge any information about my equipment. 

The first four speed tests had gone almost without notice. 
Plink, Plink. 
“This one is good to go.” 
Plink, Plink. 

It was my turn at the speed detector.  I hand the ref my marker. 
“Cool man.  I have not seen one of these bad boys in a while.” 
He pulls the trigger. BBBBBIIIIIDDDDTTTT!!! BBBBBIIIIIIDDDTTTT!!! BBBBBBIIIIIIIIIDDDDDTTTT!!!  Not only is this thing set on Automatic, it is L-O-U-D loud and recoiling like a Tommy gun. I am grinning from ear to ear thinking to myself this is going to be great!  I turn to my buddies. 

Nancy says, “O HE__ NO!” 
Daisy says, “I think I just peed a little.” 
I glance at the kids we are about to play.  Bug eyed has a new meaning.  I tried to help. 
“I think there is a setting for ‘Semi- Auto’; is it not selected?” 

The referee says “Well it does not matter. It is not pushing any paintballs out, just air.”  He tries it again.  BBBBBBIIIIIIDDDDDDTTTT!!! The recoil is giving the ref fits trying to hold it steady.  It gets a little sideways on him and its pointing at Nancy again.  Nancy screams “HEY HEY WATCH IT!”  
The ref reassures Nancy “There is nothing coming out.  It’s froze up.” 
Sally says, “Kipp go get a rental; now!” 

As a small consolation when I get back from renting a maker from Paintball Master, the ref gives me a perk and ramps my rental up to 290 fps.  I said “Thanks man.”  Ref says, “No problem.  That made my day.  I have never seen so many grown men shake like they were hit with a lightning bolt before.”

Not knowing what it felt like to be hit by a paintball moving at 285 fps I wanted to be prepared for the worse.  I wore a long sleeve Under Armor type shirt, then a thick Izod fleece, then an Adarondak.  Yes I was called names.  No I will repeat them.  But I will say the boy scouts are learning more terms than slip knot and Sheppard’s crook these days.  The other guys on my team were trying to be macho by only wearing just a plain t-shirt or a long sleeve sweatshirt.  One buddy wore a solid white t-shirt.  He might just as well had “shoot me here” printed on it. 

Our first game is on the Woods field (so named for all the trees).  The object of the game is elimination.  One team starts on the left side of the field the other team on the right side.  Ready set go.  First team to eliminate the other team wins. 

One of the rules of engagement is do not fire upon an opponent that is less than 15-20 feet without first shouting “Surrender” or “Yield”.  Of course if you surrender or yield you are out of the game, eliminated, just like if you were hit with a paintball.  To surrender you raise your marker above your head and clearly state “I surrender/yield”.  Not a choice or statement any man wants to make. 

Once the game got started I spot my first target.  He is about the surrender distance behind a fallen tree.  I scream out “Do you surrender?!” The kid replies by shooting a barrage of paintballs right at me.  How he missed my deuce+ frame I do not know.  I returned enough fire at him to force him to duck behind the tree limb.  “Do you surrender?!”  I asked him again.  He pokes his head up once more without the marker above it.  I do not consider myself to be a paintball marksman, so go ahead, I will let you can call it blind luck.  I must say though, it sure feels good to place a paintball right between the eyes of a pair of goggles.  WHO-WAA!

Not long after that, I begin thinking I am invincible.  Before finishing the thought, I got hit in the forearm by somebody I never saw.  It did not hurt.  It is more of a surprise or shock really, than a feeling of pain.  “I’m hit.”  I raised my marker above my head and started walking the walk of shame.  As I heard the paintballs hitting limbs and trees all around me, I took one hand off the marker and used it to cover more important unprotected “equipment”.

I get to the neutral zone and find out Sally, white shirt buddy, has a big paint stain right on his love handle.  “Did that hurt?” 
“YES.” Sally responded. 
He lays down his marker and removes his mask and goggles. 
“Wait a minute, where are you going?” I asked.
“To my truck, I think I have a darker colored shirt.” 

After a few more minutes everyone trickles in.  No fatalities.  We are all still alive.  Everyone is breathing heavily; old age, adrenaline, or maybe both.  When the game was over we had won.  Or so we were told by the referee.  We were all lying on the ground trying to catch our breath.

Game two was called “Defend the fort”.  The punks, I mean the boy scouts, had to stay in the fort while we attacked.  You do not need to know all the details of that game.  YES - we lost that game.  But I will say this, if we would have had been given one very important detail by the referees about defend the fort, we would have won.  Turns out all you have to do is get a foot in the fort and you win.  Why do I bring this up because Dixie had made it to the fort and at very close range (within stepping in distance) yells “SURRENDER OR I WILL BLOW YOU’RE HEAD OFF”.  After taking a shot to the high tender thigh area, Dixie was out.  Surely the kid was acting on pure terror induced impulse when he turned and fired at that location.  But one more step by Dixie… 
We left the Woods field and went to the Trenches field.  This field was treeless.  There were mounds of dirt that had been pushed up by a bull dozer.  Then trenches dug with a backhoe.  The idea behind the trenches was a battle field.  Think of it as capture the flag.  There was a mound set up with a flag placed in a PCV pipe.  There was only one mound with a flag.  So it was a one way field.  The idea is for the advancing team to take the flag.  I suppose we were just too smart for the young guys.  They were taken out rather quickly. 

After the first two games in the trenches we did not want to dash the boys desire to ever play paintball again.  So we left the fort empty of any defenders and tried to hide from them as best we could in order for them to advance on the fort and capture the flag.  Least that’s our story and we are sticking to it.  

This picture was taken at the trench course. The short guy, is referee number 3 (he is in part 2). Just so you know, he was about a head taller than the Boy Scouts. Take a good look at this picture. It may not stay posted for long, once the guys find out what I have named them.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Peer Pressure

My brother heard about my blog. The first thing he says is "Do not put me on it." All of the sudden I start thinking about the things we did together growing up. Maybe he will not mind just this one. I love you man.

You have seen the car commercials with the cars doing crazy stunts? They always display somewhere on the screen in small print: “Professional driver performing stunt on a closed course. Do NOT attempt." Raise your hand if you see that as a challenge. You and I my brother would get along just fine. My brother and I grew up watching shows like Rockford Files, Starsky and Hutch, Dukes of Hazzard and the A-Team. Who says TV does not influence your decisions? When we were old enough to drive, we tried many of these maneuvers we had seen on TV.

I remember one time my brother buying a 1976 station wagon for like $300. When I asked him why he bought a station wagon he answered "I want to try something." For some reason, that was good enough for me. "Can I come along?" "Sure you want to call Buddy #1?" (Buddy #1 may not want to me to talk about him either). Buddy #1 said sure just come pick him up.

So we go pick up Buddy #1 and he gets in the back seat. Off we go about two miles from our house on a dirt road. Come to find out brothers plan was to see if we could run over small trees without stopping. "COOL!" The basic plan was, if we saw a small pine or oak near the edge of the road we would veer over and clip it with the front bumper. Sure it worked quite well on the first few twigs we hit. But after about a half dozen, the excitement started waring off.

From what I remember next, Buddy #1 was hanging over the bench seat from the back seat pointing and screaming "HIT THAT ONE, HIT THAT ONE!!" We were traveling about 25-35 mph. I joined in the hysteria, "YEAH THAT ONE. ITS NOT THAT BIG!" "HIT IT STRAIGHT ON!" Peer pressure is a powerful weapon. So is energy.

The chrome front bumper on the wagon hit the tree square. We went from 25-35 mph to 0 in a nanosecond. Buddy #1 was suddenly on top of the dash board. The station wagon was stalled. I was stunned. For a moment there was no sound just a lot of dust.

I remember thinking (even as a teen) whether this whole trip was a good idea. Why would we be out on a dirt road, driving a vehicle deliberately at pine trees, trying to bull dose them over with a station wagon? What were we going to tell our parents? How were we going to tell Buddy Sr. his son died? "Buddy #1 made us do it. He was in the back seat screaming "Hit that one! Then he leaned over and jerked the wheel!" What kind of trouble were we going to be in? Who’s idea was this anyway? Wait a minute, brother was the one driving. I can't get blamed for this. Dang he is going to be a world of trouble. Then it happened.

Buddy #1 started laughing. As he turned to look at us it got louder. Then it would get quiet while he shook. He would catch his breath and start laughing out loud again. Before long we were all laughing. Not sure about them, but I was scared of Dad and Buddy Sr. I was laughing because I knew was going to continue living. We asked Buddy #1 if he was OK. “Guess that one was a little bigger than it looked” was the reply.

We walked back home. Like most of our outings in a motorized vehicle those days, we would leave in it but we would end up walking back home. We got another car and towed the wagon back home. Brother got the wagon running again in a few days and sold it for $500. (My brother can make a profit from anything) Not long after our war wagon adventure we started seeing car commercials with crash test dummies...sissies.

John 3:16

You have seen it. You see it at most sporting events. If you are old enough, you saw it on a rainbow haired man, wearing a white t-shirt, with big sunglasses. If you are a youngster, you have seen it on Tim Tebow's face. "John 3:16"

Hopefully you have taken the time to read it. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Hopefully you know what it means. In the book "I became a Christian and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt" by Vince Antonucci. He put it in perspective for me. (I am paraphrasing what I remember Vince saying).

Inevitably in every parent's life there is one time at the mall, at the swimming pool, at a football game, at a theme park, in a public arena when you look around to check on your child and they aren't there. You stop and take a quick look here and there. When you realize they are not next to you, there is a panic that sets in that brings your world to a stop. At that moment nothing else matters to you anymore except finding your child. The rush of emotion that pumps through your body is indescribable. You are panic stricken, you are clammy, you are scared out of your wits, you are rationalizing, your entire focus becomes finding your child to make sure they are safe.

The love we have for our children, is minimal at best, compared to the love God has for us. Read John 3:16 again. God loves you. I mean He really loves you.

Tim Tebow is trying to get the message out to the world because he understands God's love. I am blogging about His love because I understand it. Tebow and I have never met. But we have a common goal to share the same message. Because we want you to understand it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Writing Blind

Funny how all of the sudden I cannot think of anything to say.

I thought a few days ago about how cool it would be to post my thoughts on the web for the world to see. The world would find my blog and ask for more. How quickly I have realized that the world is already here.

I have a bunch of questions at this point on how to set up this blogspot. Do I keep it simple? Do I spruce it up? How do I spruce it up? Does everybody else go through this? What types of topics shall I start with? Well at this point I only have one fan, counting me. I am really starting to feel like a grain of sand.

Well my one fan might enjoy this. Have you ever been in a cave? I once traveled to Wedowee, Alabama on business. Nearby was a tourist trap called DeSoto Caverns. It was off the beaten path. How much space do I have to write? The signs advertising DeSoto Caverns only advertised the cave. How surprised I was to see they had a miniature golf course as well. You pay your money to tour the cave in the gift shop. The person that takes your money seems erily famliar to your tour guide. Hope this thing has spell check.

I joined the others waiting for the tour to start. I was still dressed for work (shirt and tie). The two young ladies that were waiting for me and the tour guide were dressed more casual. They seemed very friendly, toward each other. The cave tour guide promised us a good time. Either she was a very keen observer or she was sticking to her prepared speech very well.

The tour guide promised us a total darkness experience we would never forget. She went thru the saftey portion of her speech. She was carrying a flashlight. If she did not return within one hour the other staff members would come in looking for us. Did you ladies see any other staff members? Sir do you have a question? No mam.

She opened the barn doors labeld "cave". Just kidding. Seriously she opened these great big doors that had a paved path that led to the entrance of the cave. She asked us to watch our step as things in the cave are damp sometimes wet. The outside light from the barn doors, sorry, the doors followed us in for about 60 yards. She starting telling us that they have lined the walking paths with lights so we could find our way easily. About the time the outside light was fading and the path lights were illuminating our way, she called out that we were approaching "the church".

"The church" as she called it was the largest room of the cave. It had three or four rows of wooden pews like a church. She asked us to sit down on a pew while she gave some more details and instructions. My fellow tourists sat next to each other hugging and giggled. I sat on the other side of the church. Our tour guide now minister began preaching about stalagmites and termites. Or was that stalactites, I do not remember, I was starting to nod off. I snapped back when she said "I will cut the lights and you not be able to see anything."

She said we would not be able to see our hands in front of our face. She said if we got stuck in the cave we would go blind in a matter of hours without any light. She started the count down. 3...2...1. CLICK! Sorry that is the best I can do with my typing skills. Sure enough I could not see anything. Total darkness. I tried to put my hand in front of my face, nothing. I even waved it back and forth. It was eerie. It was also very quiet. I screamed "WHAT IS THAT CRAWLING ON MY LEG!" Screams from the preacher and the other members of the congregation were heard. CLICK the lights were back on. I have never gotten more evil eyes at one time since that day. The three young ladies found absolutely no humor in what I had done.

I say all that to say, writing this blog feels like sitting in a cave. Is anybody going to see this?