The thrill of the hunt is a powerful thing. The desire to prove yourself superior or to see where you rank amongst your peers has a strong pull. Whether you are carrying a rifle in search of the 12 point buck or you are carrying that Me 109 into the contest room, the rush is eerily similar.
For those of you reading this that have been out on a pheasant hunt with your dog on a crisp fall afternoon, you can relate. Your dog goes on point or flushes (unfortunately sometimes both) and that bird kicks up in front of you as big as life. You freeze momentarily and then pull the shotgun up to your shoulder with your heart beating hard in your chest and wait for the bird to line up and just at the right moment you squeeze the trigger. With a blast the bird falls and your dog is off to retrieve it for you. You start to relax as your very proud pup starts back to you with the bird in his mouth. You take the bird from your dog and put it in your vest. You give your dog a bit of water, a pat on the head and off you go to start the hunt for your next bird.
On many levels models shows can be looked at in the same way. You spend a great deal of time preparing, researching and building a model. You strategize and in some cases even look at the categories that aren't particularly populated in order to have the best chance of winning or at least placing at a show. You seek out a special paint scheme that is particularly striking and will definitely catch the judge's eye.
So you spend a bunch of time working on your project alone. You hit some websites to glean a bit of info on the kit that you are doing. You find that the kit isn't really as accurate as you'd like. But if you buy $100 worth of extra crap for it, somehow it will magically transform into the award winner that you have planned and hoped for.
You find those special decals that are made by monks in a town in South Africa . You feel good about the fact that the money they raise from these decals is being used to feed the homeless in South Africa . You take the big step and order the decals (giving your credit card to someone over the internet in a foreign country, risky, but worthwhile you think). Six weeks later the decals arrive and they are everything you'd hoped that they would be.
You decal your now nearly completed model and go to bed for the night. In the morning you stop by the workbench before going to work and find that the decals went on perfectly. This may be the best model you have ever done; in fact you are sure of it.
The evening arrives after a very long day at work and you move down to your hobby room to settle in and complete your masterpiece. With the spray of your airbrush, the gloss and flat coats go on without a hitch. After a light touch of weathering, your nearly perfect model is complete.
You quickly inventory what you have done like a Mastercard commercial. Model $30, cockpit set/new wheel wells/new control surfaces/new engine/new wheels $85, carrier deck display base $25, award winning validation – priceless!!!
The day of the contest comes along and you confidently stride into the room. You know that no-one suspects what you have in the box because you've guarded it's secret like the government guards Area 51.
You register and walk confidently in the room to place your model on the table of validation, only to find that there were at least three other modelers that had the same idea of the perfect scheme that you did. You are still confident however that you can win because no-one has put the same effort into the kit that you have. That is until another guy shows up an hour later with almost the exact kit and spare parts. Your heart sinks.
The time for awards comes and goes and you lose to another “perfect model”. The part that really angers you is that it was one that was built “out of the box”. While it was nice, you are still despondent over the fact that they didn't do all the work that you did. You walk away from the show depressed and questioning if all this stuff is worth it. You even begin to question whether modeling is something you want to continue.
Remember the dog story earlier in this column. Well, my time training dogs and hunting pheasants last fall taught me a great deal about my modeling. What I came to realize while I was walking all those miles following my dog (who walked about eight times the miles I did) was that the part I really enjoyed about hunting wasn't necessarily the rush I got from shooting. It was the time I spent with my dog out in the woods, away from work and phones. Whether I got anything that day reflected little on how I felt about the days hunt.
The same can be said for my modeling these days. I used to be the guy that got upset when I lost or didn't place at a contest. I was angry or upset when I left, even though when I looked really close at my own work, I realized I didn't deserve to win or even place for that matter. In fact when I won, many times, I still knew I didn't deserve it.
What I have come to realize is that at least for me, it's about the people and the joy that the hobby brings, not the number of plaques and awards that I have hanging on my wall. It's about the friendships that have been forged and the pre-game meal on meeting day, not the contest at the meetings. After all, the awards I did win throughout the years are all sitting in the bottom of a drawer, but the people and experiences of the last ten years of modeling are with me everyday.
So, for now, shut up and build and this time take a little bit of time to enjoy the experience and share it with someone else.