Derby car

Saturday was a new experience for me. I attended my first Pinewood Derby.

Colin’s pack had a Saturday that the kids got together to carve their cars down in preparation for the races about a month ago. We just happened to be out of town that weekend.

With about 10 days left until the race, I realized that we still needed to cut Colin’s car down from a solid chunk of wood to something more aerodynamic.

Jason took a look at it, but he didn’t have the proper tools to do it — and it was just before the arctic blast, so he really wasn’t too enthused about spending a lot of time in the garage trying to figure something out.

He took the kit to work with him to try to find somebody that might be able to help. No one out there that he spoke with had the proper tools, either.

Just when I was starting to think I might need to make an emergency run to the hardware store, one of Colin’s Scout leaders got us in touch with another leader. He was willing to work with us on getting Colin’s car carved and sanded down.

So Colin and I found ourselves out at his workshop in 0 degree weather — the start of the Polar Vortex — on a Tuesday evening. Colin drew a shape on the wood for his car and stood nearby in safety goggles as his car was shaped with a bandsaw. When the shape was right, they moved over to the sander to get everything smooth.

Colin decided he wanted his car to be green. No problem. But then I looked at what Colin was wearing, and I got an idea.

As he didn’t have school the day, he was still in his pajamas, styled like a creeper from Minecraft. So I whispered in his ear, “Since you want green, how about we make it a Creeper Car?” He liked that idea.

On the way home, we stopped and picked up three shades of green spray paint, primer and a stencil to help us spray paint the squares and rectangles onto the car.

We set to work. That night, while dinner was on the stove, we went to the basement and sprayed primer on the car. The next day, we did another coat of primer and the base shade of green.

Thursday, the third day in a row home from school, came the details. We started by painting on a handful of dark green squares and rectangles, mimicking Colin’s pajamas. When I got home from work, we did the same with the light green.

Friday was crunch time. It was time to paint black blocks on the front of the car to make the creeper’s face. Once that had sufficient time to dry, Jason hammered in the wheels. Colin’s car was finally ready to race.

When race time hit Saturday, Colin and I went to check in his car. The gentleman that helped us carve it looked at it and said to Colin, “That looks the same as you were dressed the other night!”

“That was the idea,” I said.

Colin’s car ran some good races. While he received a medal for one group of races, he was disappointed he didn’t get a trophy. I told him it’s OK to be disappointed but that the important thing was doing his best and having fun. I reminded him his car did really well, and it was only our first try.

Next year we’ll have some practice under our belt. This year, I was just glad to get the car ready to race.

Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

Recommended for you