Photos by Splatshots
They set the duel for 4:30 PM, behind the Marshal’s office. Two gunfighters stood thirty feet apart, hands behind their backs - on a stool in front of each of them, a pistol holding a single shot. At the end of the count they would grab iron, turn, and blast. Only one gunslinger was walking away – the other earned a quick trip to the bone orchard. (Click here or here for a guide to 1860s American western slang.) In three seconds it was time to shoot, Luke, or give up the gun. What brought these men to this spot? Had one scooped the other in poker? Maybe one got roostered up on the oh-be-joyful and nailed the other to the counter. No, nothing as serious as that – this was the quick drawn competition at Line-of-Fire Paintball’s Wild West Theme Day!
Line-of-Fire is a creative paintball field near Asheville, North Carolina. Every couple of months they host a Theme Day, like a paintball scenario only condensed to 6 hours. They go all out with their props, missions, and prizes, making every theme day a memorable event for everyone who attends.
The Wild West Theme Day, scripted by Arden Gilreath, pitted gunfighters from rival ranches against each other in a gold-stealing, claim-jumping, paint-slinging, train-robbing, day-long crazy shoot out. The sides started the day by staking their claims. As they battled in Line-of-Fire’s awesome city field and the neighboring woods, they collected small flags that they used to mark the boundaries of their land claims on the speedball field. Later the teams picked up livestock (stuffed animals and sawhorse cows) to build a herd and vegetables to plant in their fields. And what would a wild west game be without some high stakes poker? The reffing staff peppered the fields with giant playing cards, which the teams had to collect to make the best possible poker hands to earn serious points in the down time between missions. Of course, the highest cards could only be found in the most contested areas, ensuring some intense gun battles.
One mission in particular stood out to me – the Great Train Robbery. When the teams returned to the city field after the lunch break, they saw a wooden train with an engine and one car laden with gold bricks, silver ore, and coal. The field had also been divided by spray-painted railroad tracks on the ground, and players weren’t able to cross the tracks, which meant all eyes would be focused on the gold in the train. But nothing is that simple at a Line-of-Fire theme day. What do bandits need to rob a train? Six shooters. Hoglegs. Wheelers. You know, pistols. Each side had four pistols hidden around the field. As long as they had at least three of them, they could rob the train. But any self-respecting train robber kept his identity hidden – with a wild rag (a bandana). After collecting pistols, tying on bandanas, and grabbing buckets, players made mad dashes through a hailstorm of paintballs to pick up the loot from the train. Later, between missions, the sides weighed their hauls on the scales in the staging area, and racked up their points. Of course, not all trades were fair in the old west, so the field’s staff used a spinner to determine the exchange rate of each item.
The day ended with a shootout on the speedball field. The game’s outcome actually came down to this final mission, and both teams had to stick to the ground they had claimed at the game’s beginning. The red team, Ramrod Ranch, had maintained a lead all day, but some lucky spins for gold exchange rate pulled the blue team, Ethan’s Acres Ranch, within striking distance, and after a couple of intense rounds on the speedball field, the blue team pulled out a come-from-behind victory to win 3870 to 3710. Charlie Pratt took home a magfed pistol for winning the quick draw competition, and Robert “Milkshake” McEntyre got a case of paint for being the best-dressed cowpoke on the field. Line-of-Fire’s next theme day will be Star Wars on May 24th.
Foolybear is on a mission – a mission to play a lot of paintball! If you see him at a game, be sure to say hello, and he’ll probably give you a free sticker. You can follow his exploits on this blog, on Twitter (@foolybear) and at the same name on Instagram. Check his game calendar to see where he’s playing next!