Despite the fact that all of the clues had verified the location I’d found in Henniker as the site of the world’s first paintball field, I wanted to be absolutely sure that it was in fact THE spot. I didn’t want to have a bunch of paintballers ‘praying to Mecca’ by facing East when in fact it turn out to be in the West.
Accordingly, I’d previously made arrangements with Omere Luneau to visit the site so he could make the final confirmation (if in fact the site was THE SITE).
Omere, my wife Karen and I were able to make that happen this weekend.
Who is Omere Luneau, and why would he know so much about the World’s First Paintball Game? His name isn’t listed amongst the first 12 players and is no where to be found in any of the books or articles that discuss the origins of paintball.
Well, among other things, Omere is the winner and still champion of the first ‘Back Yard Olympics’ (an activity dreamed up by one Charles Gaines several decades ago); he was also hanging around while Gaines was working on the Pumping Iron movie that made a certain California Governor famous.
Omere was one of Charles’ hunting buddies and, back in late 80 or early 81, Omere, a consummate woodsman who has probably trekked every square inch of woods in New Hampshire, was given the task of finding the piece of land that the first game would be played on.
In a sense, Omere Luneau is the world’s first paintball field ‘owner’.
The rules of the game dictated that not a single player could be familiar with the terrain (no walking the fields back then!) and, since Omere wouldn’t be playing in the first game (though he sorely wanted to), the task of finding the land fell to him.
Omere Luneau is, in fact, THE WOODSMAN who we mentioned in my earlier pieces on this subject.
The story goes like this: Gaines & Luneau often went hunting for woodcock and, while searching for a good location for that activity, Omere saw a ‘dome home’ that was available for rent. (At the time Omere was employed as a caretaker of various properties.) He thought the dome home would make an excellent place to stay during the summer – but the rent turned out to be too much for him at the time.
The land surrounding it wasn’t any good for woodcock hunting either, but Omere filed away the location and, several years later when Charles asked him to find a spot for the game, he immediately remembered it as having “interesting” terrain.
As he remarked during our tour of the location “no one knew what we were looking for, but this spot was interesting with lots of rocks and varied terrain. I figured it would make for good ambushes”.
He proposed the site to Charles who visited the location and said “this is it”. Gaines’ review was more of a ‘this looks good’ than a close inspection of terrain features, so we’ll let him slide a tad on the rules here.
Karen and I met Omere at Daniel’s Pub in Henniker, enjoyed a quiet lunch and found out that Omere is quite the guy. Finding the world’s first paintball field is not the only interesting story he has to tell.
We then drove on over to the location ‘past Pat’s Peak’ as Omere remembered it being and walked around the spot. We showed him Paintball Rock and he confirmed its heritage. One the way out Omere himself identified another landmark, doubly confirming the location.
Karen was instrumental in helping us find this spot: here personal memory of the area as it was thirty some odd years ago came in very handy. She was able to point out, for example, that the road running past the location was an unimproved road back then (dirt) – a fact confirmed by Omere.
Omere has signed the petition to have the sign erected and has agreed to sign an affidavit testifying to the location’s authenticity which will be presented to the NH Division of Historical Resources as part of our documentation.
And I can finally breathe a final sigh of relief – someone who was actually there confirmed the location.
Now to get that sign up! Don’t forget to sign a copy of the petition and/or donate something to the fund!