Finding The World’s First Paintball Field, Part 3

Recap: discussions with Bob Gurnsey, Lionel Atwill, reading and looking at the Sports Illustrated article, contacts at the Henniker Historical Society and long-time local players have gotten me into the ball part of the first field’s location, but still far away from finding the actual spot.

Bob provided the name of a local who had helped them find the property to play on and an internet search found (maybe) that individuals wife’s phone number, which I called and left a message at.

The individual in question has been nicknamed the Woodsman in order to protect his personal privacy.

The Woodsman called. Following brief introductions, some getting to know you conversations and inquiries about Bob Gurnsey, we got down to the business of the piece of land he had found.

The clues sounded promising at the beginning. The Woodsman stated that the piece of property had been a bowl-type depression (quite common around here) behind a dome house.

The type of house he was referring to was a geodesic or Fuller dome style, one of those hexagonally shaped buildings with a round roof.

The Woodsman explained that he had found it because he had been thinking of renting the house in question and when asked about a place to play, he immediately thought that the ‘bowl’ would be perfect – natural boundaries, plenty of room, plenty of varied terrain.

No, he couldn’t remember the owner’s name, unfortunately, nor the address, but it was in Henniker.

I figured that there couldn’t be all that many dome homes in New Hampshire, let along in Henniker and that finding it’s location would be a snap. I thanked the Woodsman and hit Google once again, doing a search for “Dome Homes”, “New Hampshire”.

I got an almost immediate hit for one in Henniker. The only one in Henniker. That had to be it.

Or so I thought.

Here’s the location:

and here’s what it looks like:

The wife and I hit the road, drove down to the property, (saw the for sale sign) and saw that “behind” the house there was a “bowl shaped depression”.  With no trespassing signs all around us, we were unable to physically inspect the property, and no one was home to ask.  I took pictures, copied the maps from Google and emailed them off to the Woodsman.

No go.  The house the Woodsman had looked at was a single dome and it wasn’t located off of the road he remembered.  It was in fact directly off of Route 114, otherwise known as ‘Weare Road’.

Now here’s the interesting thing.  Remember the folks from the Henniker Historical Society saying that they thought the game had been held in Weare?

Maybe that was a clue right there.  The game hadn’t been held in Weare, but maybe it had been held “off of Weare road” – which is where the dome home I found was.  The only dome home in Henniker.

How could this not be the location?

At this point I was beginning to become suspicious of everyone’s memories.  Not a single person who had been at that first game could tell me where it had been held.  Getting on in years myself, I know how vague and misleading memory can be; it’s just not as sharp and well-defined as it used to be.  Most of the folks I was talking to were a decade or so older than me and since I have trouble remembering where my socks are, I could certainly understand that the passage of three decades had messed with their memories.  But understanding that wasn’t helping me any.

I sat down with google maps, my notes from the phone conversation with Bob and the Woodsman and started testing out theories.  Bob had said ‘first or second right after the bridge into Henniker’.  The Woodsman had said ‘behind the dome home’.  The HHS had said ‘in Weare’.

I managed to find a 1980s era map of Henniker at the local library and discovered that several right hand turns had been added to 114/Weare road (which is the bridge road that runs through Henniker).

Interestingly enough, Bob’s directions might (being a little liberal with them) take you to a dirt road that is located approximately opposite the dome home.  In other words, if you drove down Weare road and took the third right hand turn, it would be a dirt road across 114 from the dome home property.

Perhaps the owners of the dome home had added a second dome?  And it was entirely possible that the “third right” had actually been the second right back in 1981 – it was very difficult to tell whether one of the right hand turns had been present back then or not from the available information.

If the field was out that dirt road, it kind of answered all of the clues.  It was “in Weare” in the sense that it was off of Weare Road.  It was ‘behind the dome home’ in the sense that if you ignored Weare Road, it was the backyard.  There was a rise in a vaguely crescent shape which one might term a ‘bowl’.

But the woods didn’t quite look right, there weren’t any large boulders and it just didn’t feel right.

I got back in touch with the Woodsman.  Since we’d talked, his wife had been racking her brains for the name of the owner of the dome home and while the Woodsman and I were talking, she remembered it.

It turned out that the home owner had previously been a Principal of local High School and a person who had been very heavily involved with education in the area over the years.

I took to Google once again, plugging in the Principal’s name and “education” as the search parameters.

The search returned very few individuals who were of the right age, name and profession, and I got lucky with my first email.  The Principal answered my email inquiry, admitted that he had once owned a dome home in Henniker, didn’t know if it was there anymore and provided me with the exact address.

That address was close to but not exactly where we had previously been searching.

I was getting closer – much closer.  But it was mud season (the winter melt around here) and most dirt roads are impassable for several weeks.  The new target of our investigation was down a dirt road and we weren’t able to get there for several weeks.

Tomorrow:  Part 4 – The ROCK

Part 1, Part 2

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