Jaws was Fast


            Pine wood derby races have changed since I was a kid.  In 1991, my son was seven, in cub scouts, and time for the races.  He brought home the box that contained the rectangular box of wood to be designed and carved into a car in order to race down a track.  I don’t know the exact dimensions but I guess the wood was about 2 and half inches wide, 2 and a half inches high, and approximately 7 inches long.  I immediately flashed back to 1964 when my scout master handed me the same thing.

            At the time I was 10 years old and was looking forward to putting it together.  I had just seen Viva Las Vegas with Elvis Presley.  I do not remember what color his car was in the movie but I choose to do a silver race car.  It may have been the only color I could find after I went down into the basement.  I found my dad’s toolbox and went to work.  I used the wood shaver to round the corners and then figured out how to put the wheels on.  I glued them on.  That afternoon I was proud of myself that the wheels spun.  After painting it silver I put a big 8 on the hood.  It did not look anything like Elvis’ car, more like a 1910 boxey race car.  The next week was race night. 

             I could not believe how real some of the cars looked.  They were shiny, smooth and sleek.  Mine looked uneven, rough and dull.  I watched as the other cars sped down the ramp.  I had raced mine across the kitchen floor but it didn’t seem to fly like their’s.  My concern was not unfounded.  Sure enough, when my silver car was pitted against the shiny red car of a 7 year old, his was finished while mine slowly crawled to the finish.  I had noticed the room got a little quite.  It was pitiful to say the least.  I think they were worried I would be upset losing to a younger kid, but I wasn’t.  I knew the dad had helped and that was OK.  I also knew the car had weights, which was legal.  I just didn’t know how to melt the lead to add weight.  I was fine.  I had done it myself and still liked my silver car.  I remember some of the parents trying to encourage me asking if I had put the pine wood derby together by myself.  “Yes,” I responded, thinking to myself, “ wasn’t I supposed to.”

            Now that my son was seven I wanted to help him.  He was into sharks and dinosaurs at the time so I suggested we make it look like a shark.  We used a lathe to sand it down and added some fins.  I meticulously put the wheels on and then added weight.  The next day I went to the post office and had it checked to make sure we were not over the weight limit.  We named the race car, “Jaws.”  On the night of the races I was hopeful we would win at least one race before being eliminated.        

            On the first race my heart sank as jaws just seemed to sit still at the start.  But then, yes, oh yes, he sped down the track for the win.  If we didn’t win again I would have been fine, but he kept winning race after race finally losing to the eventual winner by a whisker.  Jaws turned out to be fast.  I still recall my son gleefully showing mom later that evening his second place trophy in addition to his first place ribbon in the category for most unique design.  At that age he used to hop up and down when he was excited.  My wife and I cherished seeing “hoppy.”

            I could tell all the seven year olds had perfect cars while those of the older kids looked more like they had done the work.  That is the way it should be, the kids doing most of the work, not the dads.  Jaws rested on our mantel for several years.  He’s banged up a bit now, tucked away in a box, the trophy gone, but I hope my son has some treasured memories.  I know I do.

Fossil Jackpot


            Most kids I know are fascinated by dinosaurs, especially boys.  I know I was as a child.  I recall watching a movie in the 1950’s called The Lost Continent where some explorers climbed to the top of an escarpment only to find strange creatures, including dinosaurs.  A fight ensued between one dinosaur with three horns, my favorite, goring another dinosaur with a huge mouth.  The names Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus were not part of my vocabulary at that time.

            During the late 1980’s my oldest son for years liked dinosaurs.  He started a collection of well made painted solid figures.  It seems there are many more dinosaur names today than a few decades ago.  It was about that time I took my family to visit a park in north central Texas called Glen Rose Dinosaur Valley State Park.  You can follow the dinosaur footprints embedded in the rock of a shallow creek bed.  In the early 1990’s the movie Jurassic Park came out.  My son and I went to see it four times.  I think he will always remember it as one of his favorite childhood movies.  That is the way I remember the 1963 movie Jason and the Argonauts that I saw as a kid.

dinosaur tracks

Glen Rose Dinosaur Valley State Park

dinosaur foot prints

       These thoughts of dinosaurs came back to me recently when I read about some boys discovering an unusual bone in a creek bed north of Sherman, Texas near the Red River.  The bone turned out to be that of a mammoth.  The area which used to be a shallow sea bed millions of years ago is now being searched by archaeologists from nearby Southern Methodist University in Dallas.  They have so far discovered the bones of a plesiosaur estimated at 90 million years old.  The article I read in a local newspaper reprinted from the Associated Press in March 2011 referred to it as a, “fossil jackpot.”

                   This leads me to some discussion about creating a board game for my family in the late 1980’s.  It was designed to be for kids and adults to play together, about age seven and up.  Players travel the world collecting treasure, that is, treasure pieces on the board.  In the process of game play their adventure includes castles, strange animals, archaeology, pirate treasure and so forth.  I was trying to find something interesting to put in the area of northern Russia, so I chose to place on the game board a place called Dinosaur Valley.  It did not really exist ,but it sounded cool.  This was before the Internet.  Years later I did some research on the Internet and found there is actually an area hundreds of miles east of Moscow where residents have discovered dinosaur bones, often while tilling their gardens.  The area used to be a shallow sea at the time of dinosaurs and they have found fossil remains of several plesiosaurus.  I enjoyed the coincidence of there actually being an area of dinosaur discovery close to where I had placed Dinosaur Valley on the game board.  I had heard there had been some mammoth remains found in the frozen landscape of northern Russia and I think that is what prompted me to place a Dinosaur Valley on the game board.

plesiosaurus skeleton


 This is part of the game board of TreasureTrove that shows Dinosaur Valley. 



To learn more about the game please visit our website at www. TreasureTrovegame.com