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Battle for the Alamo comes to life in paintball scenario

Betsy Ross, peeks out of the make-shift Alamo to fire during a paintball scenario on Dog Bar road in Grass Valley.
Mira Earles/submitted photo |

Dave Nelson holds paintball parties at his home and often implements scenarios in which competitors reenact historical battles. The following is an account of one such battle.

The sun was hot and high in a cloudless sky.

“Fort Alamo” sat below, baking in the midday blue heat on a non descript tract of land along Dog Bar Road. It was the last line of defense to save the Republic of Texas from the swarming horde of Santa Ana’s ruthless, well trained army.



Three souls raggedly remained to hold the fort. They were called, “old dawgs,” because they were more than 50 years of age.

Gary Ball was a retired F18 driver, Dave Nelson was an English major, and Cal Grant, well, he played guitar. Inside the Alamo, they crouched down, checked their remaining ammo supplies, knowing that in a few minutes, they would be surrounded by a determined, relentless force. All they had to do, they told themselves, was to hold out for General Houston’s army and the rest of the Old Dawg regiment to save them.




The Alamo was just a frame of a fort, chest high, with pieces of weathered plywood sheets covering the outside. This was their only defense…but it was adequate…for the moment.

The front of the Alamo had sight holes, but the sides were solid, so to shoot north and south, the dawgs had to pop up and fire ammo over the wall. The rear was wide open and essentially defenseless. Still, these seasoned souls were committed to fight for freedom, for all that was nice and good, and for low fat foods. They were inside, ready to do their best, and, if necessary, give their all for TEXAS!

Grant guarded the rear of the fort with his game face on, knowing that if he were to succumb, so went the Alamo. Ball, the only one with military combat experience, guarded the front, where an attack on the fort was expected. Nelson guarded the middle, backing up Gary and Cal.

The sun was not their friend, and they readied themselves the best they could. They could already feel the 100 degree heat draining their energy. Somewhere overhead a hawk screamed. Ol’ Sol baked the horizon into wavy lines of blue, straw and verdant hues, like a Van Gogh canvas. As they made their final preparations, they uttered sentences in panted breaths, trying not to think of the impending battle.

“Where are the other Old Dawgs? Is it just us three? Do they know about this?” Ball asked, wiping the sweat dripping down the side of his face inside his mask.

“They know where we are. I told them. I emailed them. I facebooked them. Maybe they’ll come with General Houston’s army. Once they get here, we are good. Safe.” Nelson replied, staring vacantly at the short, old plywood walls.

Grant, looking west, squinted and said, “I got the rear covered. They’ll come from the right side. I can see their defensive position.”

“Ok. Just keep them pinned down. We’ll deal with the other sides.” Nelson said.

The game bell rang in the distance to start the scenario.

“Here they come” Ball yelled.

The first attack was minimal, with most of the shots flying overhead or hitting the fort sides with load splats. The Dawgs were initially relieved, as they hoped it would be no worse. But this was just one guy, Andrew Hennan, firing paint at us. This diversion forced us to keep our heads down and distract us from the main thrust of the looming attack. Ball answered back.

The sound of his paint ball gun rang out, “pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.”

Grant was still not busy at the rear, and Nelson fired a few shots into the quiet hillside forest, just for good measure. He knew a team would soon take up tactical positions on the hill overlooking the Alamo and begin firing down on the fort. Once that happened, it would be a real “game changer.”

The frontal attack continued, and Ball held off Hennan well. Suddenly, Grant opened up his Tippman 98 out of the back. Nelson looked around the corner and added support with his Carver. He saw two of the Santa Ana’s soldiers, Kate Grogan and Kevin Ross, hunkered down behind a solid defense. They hammered away at the fort with abandon. Grant answered with force.

“I got one!” he yelled, his mask muffling his victory cry.

The hillside task force found their positions, and suddenly the forest branches burst forth with flying paint ammo. The fort received each shot with a booming echo, SPLAT! SPLAT! SPLAT! SPLAT!

The .68 caliber ammo zipped around the heads of the Old Dawgs like a swarm of angry wasps.

“I’m HIT!” Grant said breathlessly, sitting back to rest for a moment.

“You still got one more hit…you good?” Nelson asked.

Grant nodded anxiously, turned back to work, and continued to fire away.

The battle seemed to go on for hours, but it was only minutes. The Old Dawgs were outnumbered by Santa Ana’s army, three to one, yet they continued to fight, silently hoping for the other Old Dawgs to relieve them.

“The grass is too tall. I can’t see anything!” Nelson said.

Grant was hit the second time. “I’m hit! I’m out!”

Then there were just two in the fort.

The onslaught continued. In the middle of the firefight, Nelson took a hit to his helmet, hardly feeling it. But it took its toll. He was only vaguely aware of Ball holding the thin line up front.

It was not looking good for the Old Dawgs. Then both men reached deep into their Asian roots and felt the way of the Samurai rise within them as they fought back with renewed strength.

But it was not enough. Suddenly, Ball yelled, “My gun isn’t firing!! My gun isn’t firing!!”

Nelson quickly exchanged paintball markers with Ball and examined the Tippman. Being unfamiliar with it, he shook it. It worked! Satisfied he continued to return fire with the revived marker.

The rapid onslaught of the .68 caliber paint grew in intensity. Nelson didn’t dare pop his head up over the wall because the hillside was erupting with paint blasting through the branches….all raining down holy heck on the fort. At this point, Nelson could only manage to fire out of the back of the fort to hold off the same attacker that brought down Grant.

Suddenly, amidst all the confusion and ammo fire, Josh Nelson sprung up out of nowhere, like a camouflage clad, ninja warrior, and opened fire toward the rear of the Alamo with his Spyder marker set on “hyperdrive.”

Everything went to slow motion. The grass waved while this faceless soldier relentlessly poured paint into the Alamo, his shoulders and body reacting in undulating waves with the recoil of each shot.

“Booda…booda…booda…booda…” went his marker, with expended shell casings flying out the side, and his unhooked chin strap swinging, like the final scenes of a bad, R-rated Vietnam War flick.

Nelson realized this was “his moment,” so he rose up on his knees and returned fire. His only reward was getting hammered in the hand, leg and chest in quick succession.

Blam, blam, blam! In split seconds he was hit, succumbing, and firing back.

Suddenly, the ninja went down.

In the paint conflagration, Gary was hit from the behind and shuddered.

The kamikaze did his job, finishing off the Alamo defenders in a hail of ammo fire, and the two Old Dawgs slowly fell to the broken straw, tired and quiet.

The game bell rang to end the scenario. And no one asked for whom the bell tolled… they all knew it tolled for the Old Dawgs.


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