“Toad Car! Toad Car! Toad Car!” This was the cheer that greeted MojoFiction as we sat down to watch our son compete in the annual Cub Scout pinewood derby. We don’t know if it was right or if it was wrong. But it happened.
Before we talk about Toad Car, though, let’s explain the pinewood derby for the uninitiated.
Pinewood cars are little wooden models that race down a track via gravity. According to Wikipedia, the pinewood derby originates from the early days of the American frontier, when wild bands of plains-roaming lumberjacks bought the state of Washington from Bill Gates in what is known as the Louisiana Purchase. Mostly they were just thirsty, and Congress had just passed the Starbucks Act of 1832, so Washington seemed like good place to go. Unfortunately, there was no entertainment to go with their coffee, so lumberjack Larry Kilroy invented tree racing, which was way too dangerous and that’s how the pinewood derby was born. Now, Cub Scouts annually descend on the local hobby stores to buy up every single starter kit for their pinewood derby cars so that when you get there with barely a week to go they are all out and you have to look at your son and say, “Good thing your mom is taking care of this one.”
So there you go.
But really, one of the unexpected benefits of divorce is that we here at MojoFiction did not have to help build our son’s pinewood derby car. Trust us, he was better off for it. While we didn’t take shop class in high school, we’re pretty sure we would have failed it, as evidenced by this poorly constructed bird house we once built:
See, it turns out that birds don’t have hands and, therefore, can’t open doors. Our bad. We should have realized that. You know it took two weeks and eight city permits to scrap that thing?
Naturally, we assumed the pinewood derby was a friendly affair, where kids of all ages would race their cars down the derby track while the parents would sit back with a frosty cold beer and some nachos. Well, we had to leave the beer in the car, so already things were looking down. But it turns out these things are pretty competitive, with winners advancing to district championships against other Cub Scout troops. So the competition was fierce.
Our son’s pinewood car, which he designed himself, looked about like this:
The winner’s car looked like this:
Needless to say, our offspring did not advance to district. In fact, he came in last every race except one. He took it like a champ by hanging his head and not talking to anyone for the rest of the day. That’s a MojoFiction classic right there.
But the truth is, no one was going to remember the winners or losers from that day because of the audacious car built by one radical child:
Prior to the official races, the siblings of current Cub Scout members were allowed to race their own pinewood cars. The kids line up and give their car to a guy who places them on the ramp at the top of the track. He then presses a button that releases the cars. The fastest one wins. One youngster presented a car that consisted of a slat of wood, on top of which sat a clear plastic box with holes drilled in the top. The box was partially filled with mossy dirt. On top of that dirt sat one, medium-sized, real-life toad.
Our first thought was to dial up PETA and take care of this travesty, but then we thought, a toad? In a race car? Freakin sweet! And so did the rest of the crowd.
Toad Car lined up against Dragon Car, Minion Car, and Lego Car. The operator pushed the button and the cars released. All the way down the crowd chanted “Toad Car! Toad Car! Toad Car!” And that was just the adults.
Maybe it was the box design, or the weight of the plastic and dirt. Maybe it was the construction. Who knows? Somehow, Toad Car lost every single race. By a lot. It was never even close. But did anyone care? No. And how can you when there’s a toad car on the track?
Up until our son lost all his races he was laughing and having a good time. As he sunk back into his seat in despair, we simply sat next to him and said, “How about that toad car?” And he was quickly laughing again.
And then we told him we video-taped all his losing races on our phone and would be showing them to all of our friends. We’re a good dad like that.