Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Ask any racer, any real racer. It doesn't matter if you win by an inch or a mile; winning's winning." - Dom, The Fast and the Furious


Finally, the Pinewood Derby is here.

What’s the Pinewood Derby, you ask? The Pinewood Derby is the Superbowl® and World Series™ of Cub Scout-dom all rolled up into one sweaty, sticky, glob of chewy goodness.

Imagine, if you will, that you’re seven. And, you’re a boy (if you’re not, unless if you’re transgendered, then, hell, I have no experience here). And there’s some sort of competition. And that it involves cars. And you get a trophy if you win. Hint: Boys love cars more than they love their mothers. They love them more than they love Santa. That Jesus guy? Heck, he’s just a bit scary.

The Pinewood Derby happens (like a Paris Hilton arrest) every year. Each and every Cub Scout is entitled to put together a car to race in the Pinewood Derby. At the Pack meeting they handed out the Pinewood Derby kits at the end of the meeting. The Boy looked at me in the sickly-green glow of the dashboard lights as I drove him home from the meeting, and made a solemn vow. “I’m going to win first place.”

As far as solemn vows go, I’m not really sure that seven-year-olds do well at making them. I made one at seven, and it involved the girl that lived next door, kissing, and, well, at seven I wasn’t especially imaginative.

But our job was to build a Pinewood Derby car.

Okay, there are several theories about Pinewood Derby cars. The first theory is that the father locks the kid out of the woodshop and then uses the most advance machining tools in the universe to create a car that would rival anything made by a team of scientists and six billion dollars of frothy, frilly government dollars. The second theory is that pop digests yet another beer, points the Cub Scout in the general direction of the wood shop (your house has one, right??) and says, “have at it.”

Since I don’t want to spend all that time myself in a potentially futile attempt to kick the butts of a group of 7-12 year-olds, and I’m not sure that my insurance covers the “Mr. Wilder, did I get that right? You let your seven-year-old child run a band saw?” level incident, I attempted to go for the final theory:

that Pop and Boy work together to create a car that The Boy feels is his. When it crosses the finish line, he’s proud if it wins. And he is proud if it loses. Because it’s his. And, not mine. I’m not sure that I wanted to lose to a bunch of snot-nosed brats. Because then I would have to go and curl up on my bed and cry.

Me? I won’t lie to you. I wanted the damn thing to win.

So, armed with a block of pine, a bandsaw, a drill press, a rotary cutter, a belt sander, and an ample supply of router bits I waited. And, finally, I saw it, the design, the drawing.

Frankly, it looked like the hideous 1980’s Trans-Ams©. When we finished it that way, I was worried it would talk to me, like KITT™.

I asked, “Is this what you want it to look like?”

The Boy responded, “Yes.”

I took the block of wood and put it into the band saw (this is a mistake, by the way, since there are other things you should do first) and cut out the smooth contours of the XT-14. The XT-14 is the name that The Boy had picked a week previously. “Why do you want to call it the XT-14?” I asked innocently.

“Because it’s the XT-14. Duh.”

Okay, I’ll never know why it’s called the XT-14. But, that’s its name.

So, The Boy sanded, and The Mrs. helped The Boy paint, and the XT-14 was born.

It turns out that there are about a bazillion web pages out there that give you tips in order to get the fastest car in the Pinewood Derby. Some will sell you books, powders, crèmes, and other nostrums (including a Pinewood Derby Voodoo Doll) that will ensure your car will win. As I totaled up the dollars, it looked likely to me that you could spend upwards of every dollar that Bill Gates has ever seen to build a completely, totally, ultimately awesome Pinewood Derby car.

So we . . .

(To be continued on Wednesday. Don’t you feel cheated?)
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