Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Happy Costa Rican Oxcart Day!


If you aren’t familiar with the Costa Rican Oxcart (and why aren’t you?), then you are missing out on a fascinating aspect of the culture of Costa Rica.  You see, they take these oxcarts and they paint them and then they…  Um…  I don’t know.  My son’s school seems to think they’re important, so we had to make one.
They sell oxen in two-packs at Costco.
The guidelines were pretty simple.  The carts had to be less than 3 feet by 3 feet and look oxcart-y (or, at the very least, oxcart-esque).  I, of course, couldn’t let my son do something simple like build it out of cardboard.  Oh, no, we were going to take the note that a “working” oxcart would be worth extra credit to heart.  Ours wasn’t just going to have wheels that turned; it was going to be pulled by robot oxen.
I tried this one, but he untied himself from the cart and went after Sarah Connor.
My father found a kit to make a wooden, covered wagon replica.  I got some precut wooden shapes.  My son and I measured and marked them and I cut the wagon in half.
This may be what happened to the Donner Party.
We sanded.  We glued.  We spray painted.  My wife mentioned it had to have eight pointy things sticking up, so we added those.
What are those pointy things for, anyway?
My son painted decorations.  I nailed the wheels in.
It's festive.
Then came the tricky part.  How does one hitch a wind-up toy to a miniature Costa Rican Oxcart?  There weren’t any oxen toys (although there was a bull, but I didn’t have the heart to make it an ox).  I eventually settled on snails.  The snails had big eyestalks I could tie the cart to.  However, one snail wasn’t strong enough alone and two tended to turn into each other and stop.  After a day’s work, my father and I rigged them up in series and got it to work.
Part of our cunning plan was to cut off its tail and shove a copper wire through its butt.  You can tell its embarassed, can't you?
My son insisted that the cart had to pull coffee beans, so we went to the local store to buy some.  It was late, so we were in a hurry.  When we got in line at the cashier, we had to wait for the guy in front of us to fill out a check (twice, since he did it wrong the first time).  Then they had to send a runner to go do a price check, so we let two people go in front of us.  One of those people had to write a check, and then argue about how much cash back she got.  So much for being in a hurry.  If you get a chance, please spread the word, if you pay for your groceries with a check, I WILL KILL YOU.
"No, take your time.  Take all week.  Nobody else here has anything more important to do."
And it was done.  As it turned out, my son didn’t have the hand strength to wind the toys himself, so he had to have his teacher help, and it still didn’t work out.
Just wind them up and watch 'em...  Er... Sit.
Oh well, as they say: “The best laid plans of ox and men, often snail away.”

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