Tonight, after months of anticipation, it was finally here.
Cub Scout Pinewood Derby.
Actually, two days were shaved off the anticipation when the race was moved ON MONDAY from SATURDAY to THURSDAY!
“YAY!” said the children.
“Um…seriously?” said my beloved, who has been slaving over the NOT building of Pinewood Derby cars for the last three weeks. It’s hard work, you know, standing by as boys sand and tape and spray paint their cars. Clay, he would have had them both built in an hour and a half – two hours tops. But NO, he had to NOT build them, but rather usher Tre and Max through the building of them. It was grueling. It was down to the wire. Last night the final weights were glued in place, the last axle tapped in, and they were ready to go – about two minutes before bedtime.
There are lots of theories about the best way to build a Pinewood Derby car (um, by the way? Not made of pine at all. I’m just saying). Some people feel that the most important thing is to align the wheels perfectly, so they don’t pull in different directions, increasing the drag. Others say no, you should definitely set the wheels at an angle, so that only a part of the wheel is in contact with the track, thereby reducing the friction. Some say you should put weights in the back, others say weights absolutely need to be in the front.
They are all full of it.
The ultimate deciding factor is plain, dumb luck.
That’s the only thing I can imagine, because after watching both cars be built, and inspecting them both closely, I can’t see any reason why Tre’s lost every heat, while Max’s went on to win first place in the entire Pack. Max was called up in front of everyone to get two medals draped around his neck, one for first place in his den, then another for being Grand Champion. He was stunned. He wandered over to my mom and said,
“But…who won first place of ALL of them?”
“YOU!” she said. He gazed at his medals in disbelief, then ran over and leaped into Clay’s arms.
“Dad, THANKS for helping me build it!” Clay hugged him and said,
“Sure thing, bud. Good job!”
Tre marched over to Max and patted him on the shoulder.
“Way to go, Max. Congratulations.” He shot Clay a glance, to see if he was noticing this act of good sportsmanship. Clay reached out and palmed his head, giving him a “well done” nod.
I stood back, fiddling with the camera. Just before the race, Clay had helped the boys add the graphite lubricant to their axles. Then too I had sat back and watched, as they tipped the bottle and squeezed it to blow the tiny fragments of graphite inside the wheels. The excess rained down, sparkling in the light. I thought again, as I had then, how beautiful it was.