On a Friday in one of the later months of grade five, a classmate told several boys in the class about a battle. An epic toy gun battle that would take place after school. If you are a guy, you automatically know how cool this would have been in school. If you're a woman, you're probably cocking your head and wondering what the hell is wrong with boys.
The battle was going to be truly amazing. There were at least thirty confirmed guys that were going to be there, myself included. The battle was set to take place on a large man-made hill just outside of the school grounds (the hill was made from dirt removed from construction sites to make house foundations several years prior). It was, in hindsight, a very dangerous place. Some parts of the hill had pieces dug out of the sides, leaving huge vertical drops that you may not see coming. In another spot I remember finding what can only be described as a camp, with a small mattress, fire pit, and garbage all around. There were rebars jutting out of the ground here and there as well as a minefield of tripping gopher holes that were hidden by the long waving grass strands that covered the hill.
The hill was given a name by children, though rest assured that despite Airdrie's racist undertones, it was not an accepted name by adults. The hill was dimed "Nigger Hill." Yes, I called it that. And that is because I had no idea what "nigger" meant back then. I recall telling my dad that I was going over to "Nigger Hill" to play and he told me that was not a good name to use. But never explained why. Anyway, there was nothing about the hill that gave the name meaning...it was just a name created by some kids trying to be funny. From this point forward, I will call it "N-Word Hill" because even when using "nigger" in this reference it still feels wrong.
I was really excited about the toy gun fight. No projectiles. Just a steady aim and the ability to make "pewpew" noises was all that was required. The last class of the day was tough to get through. I remember my leg was bouncing as I was so impatient for the school day to end and my weekend to begin. When the bell rang, I was a ghost! I ran home as fast as my legs would take me. Some kids were aware of the gunfight before that day and had brought their toy guns to school, so they were already beginning the game.
At home, I threw my backpack in my room and began tearing through my toys to try and find one of my guns. I destroyed my room looking. I destroyed the storage crawlspace looking for one. I destroyed my room a second time. But I couldn't find a single toy gun! It's not that I didn't have any. I had at least a couple. But WHERE WERE THEY? I must have wasted an hour looking but came up short. I didn't want to miss the game so I improvised...
I marched boldly toward N-Word Hill, ready to fight. Ready to win. As I got to the hill, I could see other kids racing over the top. I was on the steep side, so there were few people playing where I was. I saw in the corner of my eye someone coming around the hill on my side. I darted in behind a large rock and ducked...waiting. Did he see me? I doubt it...he was looking back at someone he was shooting. He ran past the rock and I jumped out!
I swiped him on the back with my plastic Halloween ninja sword. First blood!
The kid looked at me and said "are you retarded? Why did you bring a sword? We're using guns!" I explained that I couldn't find a gun so I decided to fight with a sword. He laughed at me but I'm sure inside he was embarrassed. In a game of imaginary projectiles that could be fired with perfect aim from any distance in which line-of-sight was not broken, he was defeated by a dork with a sword.
The problem with "playing guns" is that almost every kid, including me, would cheat. "NO! You didn't hit me! I hit YOU!" Arguments would ensue because no one wanted to lose. I took that to a new level that day because of my sword...close-range-only meant I was at a severe handicap. So other dudes would shoot at me and I would duck and scream they missed. They would then get close and CHOP! I win!
Everyone stopped after a short while and decided to make teams. After all, everyone was getting shot by everyone else and no one was having fun because they were all "dying" after two seconds of being "revived." Strangely enough, I wasn't picked last. I suppose me and my sword were an asset...or maybe my friends didn't want to pick an even bigger loser over me. I tell you this, dear reader...as a team player, I was amazing. My teammates would lure the enemy past me while I hid in an inlet on the side of the hill. Then once they passed me I would jump out and strike! I was amazing and a subject of ire for the enemy. It wasn't that big a hill but I managed to bushwack so many players...many of them multiple times!
However, the game took a negative turn after a couple of hours of play. Some guys from a grade or two above us decided to crash the fun. Sure, I'm sure a few were there for sincere fun with toy guns but others were after a less wholesome type of fun. These older guys began to set trip wires and brought along big rocks to throw (though there were many rocks strewn about the hill so that didn't make much sense). I'm not sure what they were thinking...was it simply a bunch of people decided to cause mischief and were listening to a person's ideas when that person was dangerous and unstable? Probably, yes. At any rate, the game became much too real. We found out about the trip wires when a friend biffed over one and ended up with a bloody nose (which we later found out was broken). The rocks whizzing over our heads were enough to know that it was time to stop playing. And that decision was most wise.
You see, one of the older kids decided to up the stakes. He brought a real gun. It was a handgun...not very big...maybe a .22 caliber or something (I abhor guns so I wouldn't really know). He showed us the gun as several of us were leaving and showed us a clip as well. I'm unsure if he would have used it if the game continued or not. He did say that if we stayed he would shoot us. And I will admit that he was a very troubled kid...he pretty much displayed the typical conduct disorder symptoms. He was a bully, a thief, and a truant. And now he had a gun.
Almost all of the kids originally set to play left at that time and the older kids remained. I went home as I didn't really want to risk a bullet to the face even by watching from a distance. After that day, I never really played with guns again. There was something so unsettling about that situation that it completely tainted my enjoyment of pretending to shoot someone in the spine.
Am I afraid of guns? No, unless I'm looking down the barrel of one. But I do hate them. And I know for sure that my hatred began when Travis brought his gun to N-Word Hill.
It's all fun and games until someone ruins things by bringing a loaded pistol. Remember that next time you're at the DMV.