I was in my mid 20’s, so it must have been the mid 80’s, when I had my first paint-ball experience.
Salt Lake City was still a small city then, most of the southern (especially the west) end of the valley was undeveloped, or at least sparsely. I was working at Free Wheeler Pizza and a couple employees scheduled a paint-ball outing. It was new to me, and sounded like it could be a lot of fun, so I decided to take them up on the invite.
Another employee and I went to the Army-Navy Surplus store to get equipped for the games. Army-green paratrooper pants, the real ones, and a heavy green shirt. Didn’t matter that it was going to be hot out there, those things sting when they hit so you want the protection.
We drove out to the very west side of the valley, about right in the middle by Butterfield Canyon, to some private property out there. There was a small camp set up, with a very rustic pavilion and a couple picnic tables out by a fire pit.
There were probably 30 guys out there, all dressed in Army green or camouflage, carrying probably 30 different paintball guns resembling rifles with weird baubles sticking out the top. Sitting and standing around the tables, waiting for the head guy to come out and tell us the rules of the game. I already felt like I fell into a WWII movie, and when the commander showed up I’d swore I was having a flashback to a battle I’d never been in.
For 30 minutes we stood quietly listening to this huge presence, pacing back and forth on his peg-leg, telling what was and what wasn’t allowed.
We were split up into two groups, opposing teams, and sent off to play a game of “capture the flag” in a heavily wooded gully covering several acres. Heavily wooded in Utah means a lot of short, dry, bushy evergreen trees that scratch the hell out of you as you try to get through them. I don’t remember if my team won or not, I don’t remember how long I lasted, except that it wasn’t too long. As a rookie, I was real good at getting in the way of someone else’s paintball.
I think we played a couple games there and then moved on to the “Urban” area. This was a flat, field area with a half dozen makeshift structures placed around it and some old vehicles, trash bins and other large urban type things cluttering up the area. I can’t even remember the goal of the game, but I do remember my friend and I holed up in one of those structures.
We were firing over the wall, out the door and around the side. I remember paintballs whizzing past my ear as I took quick aim and shot of a couple rounds at the “enemy”. We lasted longer than a lot of our team, but it ended up being our downfall. We were cornered in the building and eventually got captured.
Even though I was raised by pacifists, never allowed to own even a toy gun (except water guns) as a child and personally despise war in general, it was an exhilarating experience.
The place closed down a few years ago, I found out when I went out there to get more paintballs for the rifle I still have. I had no idea what happened, but was sad to see it go.