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Klane Murphy
El Dorado Hills, CA
"Most Unique Car"

As a kid growing up, I had always looked forward to the Pinewood Derby. When I became a Cub Scout and my chance to compete finally arrived, I was filled with the highest expectations. Although I was really excited for the big event, for some reason my dad and I ended up procrastinating until the night before the big race before starting work on my car. That night we spent hours painstakingly cutting my car to the ultimate aerodynamic shape and sanding it smooth to perfection. All that was left was the perfect paint job to make my car the winner. We found just the right can of high-gloss red paint in our basement supplies and, following the instructions on the can, painted the car from top to bottom with the first of the two recommended coats. We then attached our only set of plastic wheels to the car in order to allow the underside to dry without sticking to the newspaper that we had used to keep the floor clean. At this point, it was around 10pm, which was far past my bedtime as an 8 year old. Since we had a big day ahead of us, my dad sent me to bed promising to put on a final coat of paint after the first coat had sufficiently dried. After I was in bed for a while, my dad noticed that the paint was not drying as quickly as he had hoped. Feeling tired after a long week of work, he got a bit restless and decided to expedite the drying process. He figured that 20 minutes on low heat in the kitchen oven would do the trick. While he waited, he sat down on the family couch for a couple of minutes of much needed rest. Well, my dad had the tendency to fall asleep easily...and you can probably guess what happened next. Around midnight, he was awakened by the strong smell of smoke. He immediately realized what was happening and ran to the oven. There he saw my little wooden Derby car engulfed in flames and burning out of control. With the use of some oven mitts, the house fire extinguisher, and his boot, he was able to put out the fire, but not before the car had suffered serious damage.

The next morning my dad sheepishly shared the bad news and led me out to our back porch. There on a cookie sheet on the ground was the charred body of my car, sitting on wheels that had melted and were now completely squared off on the bottom. It was a horrible sight for a kid who expected to win the Best in Show Award that day. Being that the Derby was scheduled to start about an hour from then, I resorted to the only thing I could think of. With tears in my eyes, I dug into my sticker collection and completely covered the car's blackened body with the likenesses of Scooby Doo, Underdog, Batman, and my favorite Charlie's Angels characters.

My little car was not very speedy that day (there is something about square wheels that really slows cars down). However, my disappointment was to some degree overcome by being given the award for a special, new category that year: The Most Unique Car.