NATCHEZ — When Dale and Renee Henderson moved to their Horseshoe Drive house nearly 20 years ago, they never thought it would eventually be a war zone.
But when The Dart landed at the Henderson’s house, a quick tour of the backyard revealed a permanent protection wall, wood pallets used to construct temporary fortifications and bullets scattered across the lawn.
The Henderson aren’t alarmed though. The forts were their idea and the bullets are pellets from their son Dustin’s Airsoft gun.
Dustin, 13, and many of the neighborhood boys have taken over the Henderson’s backyard as their Airsoft battle field.
“On Saturdays there are at least five boys here, and they stage Airsoft wars every weekend,” Renee said. “They really get into it.”
With faces protected by safety goggles and paint ball masks and arms covered in long-sleeves and coats, the boys take sides and take aim against each other. Each Airsoft soldier gets three lives, and more if they can convince the opposing side they weren’t actually hit, Dustin said.
The guns fire up to 1,200 round, plastic pellets per minute, Dustin said. Those pellets can fly as far as 400 feet.
“It isn’t cheap,” Renee said. “The guns can cost as much as $120 when you order them, and we probably buy the bb's once a week.
“We do it because when the boys are here, we know what they are doing. They are having good fun.”
The guns sound remarkably real, but Dustin ensures that the only injuries he has sustained are small scrapes and maybe a bruise or two.
“It doesn’t hurt when you get hit, that bad,” he said. “Well, you get used to it.”
Dustin, a seventh-grader at Adams County Christian School, said he likes the excitement the airsoft games offer. He said standing behind the green and brown fort in his backyard, aiming at the enemy with his electric rifle gets his heart pumping.
“We just have fun,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter who wins. We just like doing it.”
For Renee, she just stands back, watches her son and his friends and worries just a bit.
“It sounds bad,” she said. “For Dustin, nothing too safe is fun. I stay inside and watch them.”
But standing back and observing isn’t for her husband, Renee said.
She said, if Dustin is into something, Dale does what he can to help.
“When Dustin was into skateboarding, they built a ramp,” Renee said. “When Dustin got into the Airsoft, Dale and Dustin built that fort.
“Dale does whatever he can to be involved with Dustin.”
Even if that means dodging flying projectiles, Renee said.
“He’s pretty much our world,” she said. “He’s a good kid, and has good friends. We love having them all here.”