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Cub Scouts race speedsters for gold and glory

by: David F. Ashton, There are no spinning tires – but, still, plenty of excitement – as this Pine Box Derby’s gatemaster, Bryan Bolster, releases the racers to run another heat.

As the 2008 Pine Box Derby got underway on March 15th in Eastmoreland, there was no smell of burning rubber or racing fuel in the Holy Family Catholic Church's social hall.

But there was excitement in the air, as Cub Scout Pack 64's members 'raced for the gold' on Saturday, the Ides of March.

At the top of a long, steeply-inclined track, racemaster Bryan Bolster carefully centered each of four hand-made racers - each a carved, painted block of wood with wheels - on the track. 'This track was made by Rob Freund,' explained Bolster; 'He owns Father and Sons Hardwood Floors on S.E. 13th Avenue in Sellwood. I store it where I work.'

Anticipation increased each time Bolster reaches for the large lever that releases the cars and triggers a precise, electronic timing system.

Everyone clapped and cheered as the cars zipped down the track, picking up incredible speed before they passed under the timing gate near the bottom, and plunged into a huge soft pillow at the end of the run.

'This event goes way back,' Tom Armstrong, Scoutmaster of Pack 64, told THE BEE. 'It's one of the traditional annual events done by Cub Scouts.'

The kids don't just go to a store and buy a race car, we learned. 'They're all made it home,' Armstrong explained. 'The kids all start with the same kit: Basically, a block of wood, and the wheels. They craft their own shapes, and come up with their own designs.'

The only restriction, he added, is that the racecar must meet certain weight requirements.

'The best thing about the event,' he said, 'is that the boys get to work with their hands. They learn basic shop skills - how to work with tools. Then, they get to see how well their car does, when they run the race.'

Heat after heat, the cars with the fastest runs were pitted against one another, until there was a winner. This year, Matthew Young took the First Place trophy.

Even after the derby was over, kids continued to run their cars down the track - simply for the love of the race, not from any further hope of winning it.