The only thing sweeter than the smell of fresh sawdust might be fresh pecan pie.  Maybe.  With a cup of tea.  Maybe.  Perhaps.  I’m not sure.  How about the smell of fresh sawdust with a slice of fresh, warm pecan pie sitting on the bench by the 9-inch drill press with a cup of tea, Earl Grey, hot, beside it.  Now that would work.

Tonight I had PineWoodDerbyWorkshop builders in the shop putting together their cars, and the air was laden with eau de pine sawdust.  And the sound of laughing children.  And the hum of grinning parents doing something constructive with their hands and minds and their kids.  And the staccato chatter of 2-ounce hammers driving linoleum nails into seven-inch-long blocks of wood to axle new-sawn race cars.  And the rasping sighs of a couple of dads (Aggie mechanical engineers) working the 400-grit sandpaper over Hershey-Bar-smooth hood lines.  The only ones more focused, not lying, are mom Aggie mechanical engineers.  They are amazing.

And the floor is strewn with sawdust with just a dusting of powdered graphite . . . in different grades, depending on whether it’s overspill from lubing the wheel hub against the body of the car or bedding the axle in the bore of the wheel.  It makes a difference.  Instead of plastic on steel on wood on paint, you wind up with graphite on graphite on graphite on graphite.   We’re building these things to race.  We can satisfy multiple aesthetics here.

This clump was all first graders (and one five-year-old sister), and they had a good time.  But the ones who really rocked it were the parents.  The moms and the dads sitting at the table with the little guy learning about heat in the fingertips that push the sandpaper back and forth and back and forth.  And the tortured pause while the kid argues inside his head whether to get the red paint that Dad’s “suggesting” very forcefully that he wants or the hosta-green that he’d really rather have.  Sometimes Dad is a tad bit frustrated with the hosta-green, but he deals with it with grace.  I’m really proud of him when he does that.

I always tease the buys, shaking the can of Ballet Slipper Pink with a concerned expression on my face, saying, “It’s OK; I’m pretty sure  we have enough pink for everybody who really wants this.”  And then one little guy did paint his car pink.  And I hustled in there to tell him I was just messing with him.  Whereupon Dad explained, “His mom’s in the hospital, and he wants to take his car up to show her.”  Such grandeur of spirit in such a dinky little carcass.  It’s humbling.

And I’d infinitely rather do this than teach school.

Except on the good days.

And Summer’s coming, and WindWalkerCamp with it.  And we’ll all sing a sweeter song.

Good bye, my friends.  Stay sawdusty.

Uncle Pat for dates and rates.

What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.