Become the Hunted: Paintballing Suburban Style By Matthew Golden

Elkins Road
Sugar Land, TX 77479

April 2004–We drive through the suburbs to reach our destination with huge homes towering above us as we drive along a road. It is blocked off by a wooden barricade at the dead end, where a long stretch of dark green forest extends as far as the eye can see.

This forest is not like any other, it is full of my memories of the past paint ball matches, with laughter and warm memories of friends. We then proceed to the paint ball area after getting out of my friends car. As we make our way to the ridge we can see our friends talking at the meeting spot, next to an old tree with its bark chipped from various years of gun testing. The remains of what used to be paint ball gear and boxes still lay under this giant tree to this day. Today I see a few familiar faces and also some new ones, which is good because new comers are always welcome on our fields and they are treated with a friendly welcome. After brief hellos, we prepare for the long day of paint balling ahead of us, and hoping it will meet our expectations.

My old high school friend Robert, now in the military, is back from Georgia, on vacation. What better way to enjoy a few days back at home than spending it with old buddies from high school in a familiar sport? He brought the fill station with him, a large object that looks like a tank for a scuba diver, used to pressurize our tanks so our guns will fire. There is also plenty of water which Robert has brought from home to ensure we can cool down after a long match.

There are a few new faces here this time, but it is not their first time paint balling, they just came to our field to try out something new. In the five years that I have come to this field, not once have I seen another team. Still, they are welcomed as friends and we know it is going to be a fun day ahead of us. Our usual team is split, but today we come together and form one ultimate paint ball team. This is something that has not been done in years, due to the lack of people we had coming to the field. This opponent’s team, although very young, had some superior firepower. They have about four people with good guns while we are down to three, with our fourth using a very old gun made in the early 1990’s. But surprisingly it still shoots well enough to play many games.

The sport was invented in 1981 by several forest rangers in the state of Connecticut. The paint ball “markers” were originally used to identify trees. These “markers” were also used by farmers to identify cattle. Now the youth of the world are turning old run down buildings and forests into virtual battlefields. But, it is not only a sport appealing to the youth of the world, many adults also enjoy the game.

The paintball guns are called “markers” in order to keep people from getting the wrong impression about the sport. These markers have came a long way since their original design, and manufacturers create a large assortment of different creations. Markers can look like a space age weapon or a real gun issued only by the military.

The forest that we are playing at today has a pathway that splits it into two halves. The left side has more brush and the other has large varieties of trees and bushes scattered throughout the meadow. Both of these sides stretch for a long distance, so we just tell our players not to wander off too far. To the south lies a quiet river which is the end of our field and you are forced to go left or right. Various crates and barrels are scattered along the landscape on the left side. A obstacle course made by other paint ballers who did this for the purpose of a close combat “speed ball” course. It resembles the close combat used in professional courses and gives players some strategic points to take.

You and your enemy could be shooting at each other from a mere 20 feet away, in which a paint ball could really hurt you. For me, this forest is full of good memories and I would never ruin the trees or landscape with rusty barrels and nails hammered into the trees. This especially annoys me due to the fact that this side of the forest is where I have had my best matches. But today our team gets the right side of the forest. This match looks promising for us today. The years we have played at this field will give us a terrain advantage over our competitors.

We take about five minutes for our teams to find a starting spot. Our team is now ready and waiting for the other to shout back to us. We hear the enemy yell that they are ready and the match has begun. The adrenaline begins to pump throughout my body, and I know that the hunt is on. Getting shot does hurt for beginners, after you play for awhile you do not feel the pain. I play this game like it’s real war, if I was to be shot I would be dead, and therefore I do my best no to. But when you are shot you simply walk off the field and wait for the match to end.

As I peer into the trees I can see the enemies up ahead. They have spotted us as well, and they ponder and wait for us to take the initiative. We slowly creep up to their position while we send other men around to hit them from their sides. The fire fight begins and paint balls are soaring through the air, showing no mercy for anything they hit and whistling past our heads. The enemy is trapped in the middle behind a big oak tree. They then realize that we have them cornered from all possible positions and in a desperate plea to escape our heavy fire they attempt to scatter. One of their newest players trips over his friends and they both came out in the open. They were exposed to our barrage of bullets and sent off the field. I put some heavy fire on the tree in front of me to keep the enemy from attempting to fire back. Robert moved forward and around the tree to make him surrender. This is perfectly legal and when a enemy gets real close and tells you to surrender you are supposed to.

Although our opponents lost that day over and over again, we eventually switched teams up to give them advantage and show them some new tricks. We were once in their shoes and know how it is to loose matches against more experienced players on odd terrain. So we helped them out and allowed them to enjoy paint balling as much as we do.

Our field resides in the city of Sugarland in a obscure location, yet others have found it as well. It is a great place to go if you wish to get away from the everyday city life. It is a vast landscape full of plant and animal life, which draws people like myself to find it a great forest to play paint ball. Paint balling works very good here, but the land can be used for many purposes. People occasionally also use this area as a bike trail or just an area to walk around and catch a breath of clean air. I am trying to enjoy the forest while it still stands. It lies on the outskirts of a neighborhood and looks prone to be cut down soon. To make matters worse there are hunters who kill all the animals in this forest.

I remember seeing deer prancing through the forest in the past. I remember seeing boar grazing in the open field under the sun. Now I wonder if these animals are even alive to enjoy the area as much as I do.

As I come here I remember all the good matches we had. The first time we came here must have been the most interesting and fun. I purchased some Vietnam trip wire and smoke bombs, one of which could turn half the forest into a dense fog. We could use it on our side of the forest to provide blankets of thick cover, or throw it at the enemy to choke them out of a location. We had a local threaten to call the fire department that day but we came to an agreement to never use those smoke bombs again. That day we dubbed the field “Nam” after Vietnam. We purposely did so because the land and the first battles we had there reminded us to of old Vietnam movies you see on TV.

After that day we have been coming back for years trying to replicate the fun. Even when one of our players had a severe concussion he found the time to come out and play paint ball. We have so much fun here that nothing will stop us from showing up when we have set the date. Rain or shine we still come to the field under the worst conditions, which should give you a idea of how dedicated some people are becoming in this sport. The sheer amount of action and adrenaline will have you coming back for more.

Other paintball fields could be an option, but for the most part I have seen lack in creativity. Usually they have areas designed for differently types of combat, including speed ball courses. I do admit that professional fields have better speed ball courses than ours does, because they are more intricate with their setups, for example, create the small towns like in the wild west where you can have gunfights behind buildings. But in our little field in Sugarland you will find something unsimulated, the best natural forest environment. There is plenty of space but it is still small enough to have reasonable time between matches. With you own personal field you have less restriction and if you have any kind of paintball gun that is safe we will let you use it. You can also use afield like this to practice with your friends. You do not have to worry about combating others of higher skill if you do not invite them to the field. Honestly, I do not see how you could go wrong with a place like this. If you have never paint balled before you could go to any sports good store and buy a starter package to get you situated. Get a few friends together on a weekend and you will have more than then you can imagine.

I know someday I will look back and remember that some of the best times I have had were in this field. Paint balling is just like any other sport, with the exception that anyone can play. I believe this sport has also inspired two of my friends to join the military. One of my friends even believes that paint balling at our field is better combat training than what he receives in the military. But as for myself it is just a way to have fun every now and then. It went from having fun every weekend in high school, to having this privilege a few times a year. Most people have jobs or college and our time is little. Being not from Texas I find it hard to find places I truly enjoy and this field is the home that I long for. I have found a place where I can escape from worldly troubles and replace them with a good game of competition.




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