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Pinewood Derby season sneaked up on me this year in a big way. I have many good reasons why, three hours before weigh-in began, I was trying to create the perfect shade of green to paint a carved block of wood.

First, Ron and I didn’t realize the Pinewood Derby was coming up until the weekend before race day. Well, I had it on my calendar, but was more intent on dealing with the pressing issue of Ronnie’s birthday party.

While a dozen second-graders ran around our backyard, Ron picked up the information from another parent whose son is in Ronnie’s Cub Scout pack.

Ronnie wanted to paint the car himself, but he and his daddy didn’t finish sawing and sanding it until Thursday.

I came up with a “theme” for the car as I painted. Ronnie has been devoted to puppies and anything related to them since the age of four. Surely, I told myself, I could find enough puppy items in the house to make a canine car.

That was the easiest part of the project. I found oodles of little plastic pups in Ronnie’s room. Within minutes, I chose the driver, a pup to ride “shotgun,” and four tongue-lolling dogs for the back of the car. I ripped up a bandana and fashioned a tiny doo-rag onto a bulldog’s head before securing all six doggies with hot glue. They were bad to the bone.

As a final touch, I used silver paint to write “Pups Gone Wild” across the hood of the car. When Ronnie came in from school, he was delighted.

However, the car still had no wheels. The only family member who knew the correct way to attach the wheels was attending a fishing show in Baltimore.

I attached two wheels on each side, made sure they spun around and gathered up the boys to head over to the weigh-in. Glory even went with us.

The weigh-in was brief, but the news was grim. Ronnie’s car weighed exactly an ounce over the five-ounce weight limit. I started removing the pups one by one until we made the weight limit.

There were no puppies left in the little green car by that time.

We couldn’t enter a puppiless car in the competition! Maybe Ronnie’s car wouldn’t take home the big trophy for speed, but I was determined to restore its personality.

It was easier than I thought, once Jimmy had the brilliant idea of removing an entire chunk of wood from the back of the car, making it light enough to hold a driver and passengers. We didn’t dare glue them in place, however, until we were back in front of the official scales.

One by one, we added the pups to the now underweight car until it hit that magical number 5. Then, it was time to once again secure them properly using a friend’s hot glue gun.

After watching Ronnie’s car coast down the track behind everyone else’s time and again, his den leader asked to take a closer look at the wheels.

“Something about this one, especially, just doesn’t look right,” he commented before showing Ronnie the right way to attach Pinewood Derby wheels and how to make them turn faster.

The “Pups Gone Wild” mobile was indeed faster the following morning when the official races were held. It wasn’t fast enough to win a trophy, but Ronnie walked away with an honorable mention for Best in Show.

The Best in Show award is all about looks, and Ronnie had showed up with one slick ride. By the time we returned Friday night for the final weigh-in, I had added one last touch, a tail, to wave in the breeze as “Pups Gone Wild” cruised to the finish line.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 16 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online at

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