Did you ever, as a kid, re-enact pivotal moments from the Star Wars trilogy? I know I did. Hell, I'd have done it as a teenager playing X-Wing if I'd had an orange jumpsuit lying around.
You probably never did something this cool though: a complete re-enactment of the Battle of Hoth, complete with AT-AT walkers and "snowspeeders" with "tow cables". And hilarious/tragic results.
The following account comes from Deadspin reader Deryck:
When I was in high school, for grades 10-12 I was a summer camp counselor. This was Young Life Skate Camp, a week and a half of kids bombing around on skateboards, lighting farts on fire, and pissing out the window because the only bathrooms in the camp were a ten minute walk away. It was held at a giant Mennonite camp in Hope (which meant no meat with the meals, but everyone smuggled in beef jerky). There were two huge indoor parks, a pool, an outdoor street course, a volleyball court, and about a million square kilometres of forest.
The second year I was there, we planned the best (and arguably the most dangerous) game that camp has ever seen. We wanted to do our best to re-create the Battle of Hoth, in The Empire Strikes Back. We built plywood AT-AT shells with handles on the inside and a slot cut in the front, that two guys could get in. We tied ropes to bicycles and milk crates to the ropes to make snowspeeders with the tether cannons, just like in the movie. We even got stilts to re-create the AT-STs.
The idea was that the Empire guys (the guys in the wooden AT-AT's and the stilt AT-ST's) had to make across a soccer field into the Rebel base, basically a big spray painted circle. The Rebels had to defend this area, using their bicycle snowspeeders and water balloons filled with flour. They could use the ropes to trip up the walkers. Well, before we even started we ran into trouble. Turns out no-one knows how to walk on stilts. So, instead of abandoning the idea, someone came up with the brilliant idea of duct-taping the stilts to the kid's legs. It worked, but it also means that if they did fall over, they were falling from about three feet higher than they normally would.
The kids started out slow, especially the four legged AT-AT's. Turns out, the slot we cut in the shell was way too high and way too narrow to see out of. They were wandering around blind, risking getting hit with flour bomb to lift up the shell and get their bearings.
Turns out the flour bombs were a little more to be reckoned with than we thought. None of the balloons were filled up enough to break when they hit a person. Instead, they just became rock hard projectiles that left welts when thrown hard enough.
The biggest problem, however, were the tethers. What we didn't realize (at least not until the first screams of pain and surprise) was that a) the guys in the AT-AT's couldn't see what was coming and hence didn't know when they were going to be tripped and b) even if they knew they were going down, because they were holding the shells, there was nothing they could do except hit the ground. The "snowspeeders" didn't have it any better. In the movie, the tether detaches from the speeder after felling the walker; in real life, as soon as the slack on the rope was taken up, the bike would stop and the kid on it would go right over the handle bars.
It was a fucking disaster. It was like Lord of the Flies with robots and stilts. Kids were bleeding, staggering around like footage of shell-shocked war victims. The guys on bikes soon learned it was easier (and less painful) to just abandon the bikes and walk around pushing over the AT-AT's. The ones with stilts taped to their legs started kicking at the other kids to avoid being toppled. Turns out if you fall over while strapped to your stilts, it's impossible to get up without help, and on this day it was pretty much every man for himself. I tried to wade, to pull out the wounded. I got hit with two flour balloons and tripped by a bike before I decided it wasn't worth it. Fuck these kids. I'm going swimming.
I have never, until now, wished there had been mobile phone cameras in the 1980s.