Evan’s birthday party was this weekend and he and a few of his buddies headed off to do some paintballing. Where? At Paint Ball Land; where else? Six 11 year olds shooting each other with gobs of paint that sometimes leave bruises. Can you imagine anything that young boys would enjoy more? (Well, maybe breaking glass with rocks, terrorizing small animals, burning something, or lighting farts. I haven’t seen those birthday party ideas on http://www.family.com yet.) This place is located in a place that involves that quintessential redneck phrase “turn off the paved road”. Even better than that; it’s at the far end of a trailer park. It is right in the cul-de-sac at the rear. (That’s French for “let me out of here!”). It must make for quite a summer evening to walk outside and listen to the chirping of crickets and the popping of air rifles in the nearby woods. It wasn’t the fanciest place in the world but the people were nice and had a sense of humor about their place. There was an air conditioning duct that had been jury-rigged with a cardboard box and duct tape; the owner had taken a marker and written on it:

Patent Pending – all rights reserved.

The “battlefield” consisted of a large field and a patch of woods that were littered with cable spools and milk crates to use as cover. Some of the nicer cable spools were put into service as tables. It looked, in many respects, like the proverbial dump.

I suppose my friends out in California are unaware that there can actually be a pastime that involves taking an actual gun and shooting actual projectiles at your friends but there it is. Not simply a pastime but one upon which millions are spent each year (to judge from the prices in the pro-shop anyway).

To say that all of them had a good time would be an understatement of gargantuan proportions. It was more than awesome (for them at least). As I drove up there, the conversations centered around their nervousness about the unknown: would the paintballs hurt when they hit? Opinions varied considerably. Most hearsay was gleaned from older brothers who couldn’t be trusted to provide any comforting thoughts. Several of them had apparently lost sleep the night before from being so excited about going. My own opinion is that all of them should have been lined up against the fence and popped in the butt right away just so they would know how it felt and then the anxiety would be over but the public relations problems with that are obvious. I would have volunteered; there are a couple of those boys who I have always thought could benefit from a good pop on the rear and it would have been really fun too.

They were outfitted with guns, protective gear, ammo and given a brief training. Then it was off to the woods for a real shooting war. I didn’t participate; my role was that of war correspondent – taking pictures that you will all get to see soon. My role soon changed to chairman of the ways and means committee as it became necessary to go throw more money at the proprietor to obtain more ammo. Altogether, about 1200 rounds were fired. Of those, probably six found their targets. Pretty sorry marksmanship I’d say but of course, I didn’t have anybody shooting at me so I can’t say what happens to your aim under those conditions.

Paintballs were fired, welts were raised, battle scars (bruises) were displayed, war stories were told, excuses for defeat were invented, lies were told, and testosterone filled the air. Thanks to yours truly, there was no profanity or spitting although if I had turned my back for even a moment, the story would have been different I’m sure.

They were actually mixed with another group so as to make a bigger game of it and that group actually included a mom and dad. All the boys with me were so excited that they all began requesting pictures when I got them developed. Even more amazing, the opposing team’s Dad, asked me the same thing. We agreed I would email them some; addresses were exchanged. When they all came back out of the woods, my party and the other family all seemed to be old friends; something about the battlefield builds camaraderie I guess. The Mom didn’t seem quite as into it as the rest (big surprise). She was at least polite though – I can’t say I would have behaved as well if the situation had been reversed and she had, for example, taken us all to a baby shower.

As I loaded the minivan with the hot, smelly boys, the word “awesome” filled the air and the excited chattering didn’t stop until we got home and even then, it only stopped long enough to cram cake into their mouths. It must; therefore, be considered a smashing success. A blast, so to speak. (you knew that was coming!)

I’m sure it will be the talk the elementary school today. One would hope so anyway. It was a quintessential win-win situation – they all had a good time and we didn’t have a house-full of little 11 year old boys. Everyone was happy.

Speaking of sports involving balls, I played golf this week and actually found two balls. I also found a pitching wedge. WOO HOO! I can easily imagine walking off and leaving one of my own clubs at some point so I couldn’t bear to keep it. We left it at the pro shop. I assume they have a ‘lost and found’. If not, then I guess that’s where rental clubs come from.

The secret to lowering my score was not to lose 10 balls (before I quit counting) during the game. I only lost two and one of those was obviously right there somewhere. Must have been a black hole lurking around somewhere because I know I saw it but when I got there, it wasn’t there. The biggest thrill for me was that I managed to use the same ball for the entire back nine! That’s quite an accomplishment for me.

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