- When adding lead plates to the underside of a car for weight, leave enough clearance between the car and the track to avoid drag;
- Have fun and cheer for others, especially when your car lacks swiftness; and, finally
- In the Derby, as in life, you don't always have to be the fastest. Sometimes just being the best looking is enough.
Or the second or third fastest. Or maybe even the twentieth fastest. Of the seven heats The Tiny Mailman raced in, his car was a consistent third of four cars.
Apparently (see bullet point one), I should have consulted with my brother-in-law Dan Spaulding, a long-time professional civil engineer, about the flawed mechanics of Jack's car.
Of course, that would have meant attaching the plates days before the race instead of the morning of.
It took one heat for us to realize it would be a long race day. And despite a desire to remove the plates, Derby rules and my own sense of fair competition kept my pliers safely in my pocket.
We would see the day through, plates and all, as Jack's soccer field car scraped to the finish line again and again.
He finished the day strong, with two second-place showings against similarly speed-challenged buggies, but we both knew where his car would end up in the final roll call of winners.
For a group of young boys from different towns and schools, thrown together by their mutual interest in Scouting, it was a great bonding moment.
As a parent well acquainted with the negative aspects of competition in sports and other venues, it was tremendously satisfying to watch.
And, at the end of the day, (see bullet point three), Jack's car was one of three chosen for best/most creative design.
He left the Derby with a small trophy and the knowledge his car was the first one former Scoutmaster Chuck Mahaleris had ever seen with turf in his 20+-year association with Scouting.
After some needed structural repairs, Jack's car will go on to the regional competition in North Anson in early April.
He may not return home from North Anson with a prize, but he knows his hard work at least gives him a chance to be there.
And that is the most important lesson of all.