David and Dad at the Derby

    “David and Dad at the Derby,” Friend, Nov. 2013, 4–5

    David and Dad at the Derby

    I’m very glad that he’s my dad, and I know he loves me too (Children’s Songbook, 211).

    David imagined his car zooming across the finish line, first every time.

    David and Dad at the Derby

    Illustration by Bryan Beach

    David looked at the rectangular block of wood from every angle, trying to imagine it finished and painted for his very first pinewood derby race.

    “Does it matter what shape I make it?” he asked Dad.

    “No,” Dad said. “The only limits are your imagination.”

    After some careful thought, David drew lines on the wood in the shape of a racecar.

    They both put on safety glasses and Dad turned on the saw. David loved the smell of fresh-cut pine as Dad’s saw buzzed through the wood.

    “Do you think this design will win?” David asked.

    “Well, I don’t really know,” Dad said. “I was never a Cub Scout. But I don’t think winning is what’s most important …”

    “I know,” David said. “It’s being a good sport.”

    “You got it,” Dad said, patting him on the back. “It’s just for fun.”

    David knew being a good sport was important, but deep inside he really wanted the fastest car on the track.

    The next day he painted his car bright red and used a special paint marker to draw pinstripes down the sides. He imagined his car zooming down the track, first every time.

    “I think it looks great,” Dad said when the car was finished. “Are you excited for tomorrow?”

    David nodded. “Oh, yeah! Thanks for your help, Dad.”

    “It was fun working on it with you,” Dad said. He grinned. “It’s almost like we’ll be in the driver’s seat together on the race track.”

    David laughed as he imagined squeezing into the small car with Dad.

    But on the night of the big race, David felt sick when he saw the other cars. Many of them looked like real racecars.

    Suddenly his own car seemed a lot less impressive. Did he even stand a chance?

    Two boys placed their cars against pegs at the top of the track. David watched excitedly as the Cubmaster pulled a handle and the wooden pegs dropped away so that both cars started at exactly the same time.

    The crowd cheered and clapped as the two cars barreled down the track. After the winner was declared, two more cars lined up.

    Several races later, it was David’s turn. The sick feeling in his stomach came back. The other boy’s car looked so much faster.

    The pegs dropped. Sure enough, the other car zoomed to the finish line while his seemed to crawl down the track.

    After 9 out of 15 races, David hadn’t won even once.

    He glanced over and noticed a disappointed look on Dad’s face. David had never thought this might be hard for him too. He walked over and squeezed Dad’s hand.

    “There are more important things than winning,” David whispered.

    “That’s right, David,” Dad said with a sudden smile. Dad squeezed his hand back.

    It didn’t bother David anymore when his car didn’t win. He and Dad had had a lot of fun together making his car. That was more important than winning any day.