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Scouting for some hard lessons
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Forsyth County News
Filing a story about Cub Scout roundups last week brought to mind memories of my own blue-uniformed childhood exploits.

My Uncle Bill was Cub Scout Master of Pack 221, which consisted of four dozen boisterous second- and third-graders out to change the world one animal badge at a time.

Getting the Bobcat badge was a cinch — just had to read the first 15 pages of the Scout manual and then get Mom and Dad’s signature to prove there was no cheating.

That Wolf badge was a little bit tougher to come by. They made me pick up litter, play checkers with old people and memorize Bible verses. They made me work for it.

But Uncle Bill was there to keep me honest and guide me through it all, along with my cousin, Billy, who said joining Scouts was an important step in proving one’s self.

Billy was right. My first opportunity came within weeks of the first den meeting.

They called it the Pinewood Derby, and it was essential in order to obtain a Wolf badge.

Uncle Bill said we were supposed to build our own race cars out of 8-inch blocks of raw wood.

That wooden chunk was like a lump of clay. Bill said we could shave it, paint it and even adorn it with stickers.
“Careful not to make it too lightweight,” Bill cautioned. “It’s got to have enough force behind it to carry it to the end.”

It was a point of obsession and this piece of good advice became the very creed of my little car.

Now, this is where paying attention to the scout manual might have come in handy. Particularly, the section about Pinewood Derby weight regulations.

But studies suffered at the expense of  the perfect pinewood car dreams. I would paint it gold.

Dad helped cut the wood in our basement. “Just a little off the top,” I told him. “Don’t take much weight off the Golden Arrow.”

When he was finished, he said it didn’t really look like a car. But I wanted this derby racer to be able to pull a team of horses and, as far as I was concerned, the heavier the better.

Days passed like weeks as the competition drew near.

When the fateful night finally arrived, I was all adrenaline and puffed up entering the Pinewood Derby qualifying event.

But to my utter horror, there was a scale hanging next to the derby track. The kind of scale they use in the produce section.

Something was wrong here.

As my fellow Scouts approached the track, their cars were placed on the scale. If a car weighed too much, it was mutilated by a big skill saw.

Helpless, I whirled around to face my dad.

“Can’t we go home and fix it?” I asked.

He said it was too late and urged me onward for the moment of reckoning. Judges took one look at the car and shook their heads.

Before I could blink the Golden Arrow was no more. When they handed it back, it looked like a walnut.

Dad did a better job of restraining laughter than the rest of the pack.

But I was ready to race, and doggone if I wasn’t going to watch my car blow away the field with blinding speed and spectacular grace.

I came in dead last in all three qualifiers.

My cousin Billy took home second or third place, and I was jealous at first.

But I wised up and figured he’d make for a good mentor the next time around.

So after a couple more community service projects and an extremely close reading of the Pinewood Derby section of the Scout manual, I was awarded the Wolf badge.

It felt good to be making progress, even if I had to occasionally learn things the hard way.