by Alice E. Gerard
Ricky Hoover, a 15-year-old sophomore at Grand Island High School, said that he loves local history. That is why he chose, as his Eagle Scout project, to research a large stone found in a backyard near Whitehaven Road and to facilitate the donation of the stone to the Grand Island Historical Society.
The stone has been described as both a millstone and as a sharpening stone.
According to Scoutmaster Scott Swagler, an Eagle Scout project offers young people the opportunity to do "project planning" and to get "exposure to the real world." Rick Hoover, the boy's father, said that his son had to start by "convincing people to donate the stone" in the face of competition. Both Grand Island and Williamsville wanted the stone. Then, Ricky had to attend meetings of the Town Board and of various governmental agencies. Once the necessary governmental approvals were obtained, the next step was to get people to dig the stone out of the ground and prepare it to be moved to the Grand Island Historical Society at River Lea. There have also been unanticipated things, Rick said, including insurance issues. According to Rick, Ricky has worked everything out so that the project could proceed.
Swagler added that if a Boy Scout wants to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, he must earn all required merit badges and complete his Eagle Scout project by his 18th birthday. "You're moving along fine," Swagler told Ricky, informing him that he just needs to earn a few more merit badges and complete the Eagle Scout project.
It didn't take long before Ricky realized that he had taken on a very challenging project.
The stone was enormous, weighing somewhere around 650 pounds. Ricky described removing the stone from the ground. "I had friends help dig it out in late May. It was fun. The ground was wet, and a tree was growing over the stone."
"We didn't want to wreck the yard or the tree," Ricky said. "That was the challenge." Because of the wetness of the soil, a tractor could not be used without potential damage to the soil. "We dug the stone, we removed it, and we transported it to River Lea. Then we discovered that we needed to build a base." It took five people to remove the stone from the ground.
The stone was too large to be kept at River Lea without a base.
At this point, Erik Carlson, owner of Russ Industries, volunteered to help with the project, Ricky explained. Carlson donated the steel needed to make a base for the stone, and he helped Ricky with the design.
"I came up with a couple of designs. We figured out which would work and last the longest," Ricky said.
In the process of building the base, Ricky learned how to design a metal object. He also learned how to use auto CAD, or computer assisted design, and he learned how to operate a saw drill welder.
All of the materials for the base were donated, including the wood and the paint, Ricky said.
"I learned a lot about design and actual machinery being used and about working with an instructor. I feel that it was a great experience. I like building it (the base) with Mr. Carlson."
The base had to be carefully built to fit the stone. According to Ricky, the stone is oblong. "We measured it to make sure that it would fit with modifications," Ricky said. He explained that it took two to three months, under Carlson's supervision, to build the base.
"Welding was fun," Ricky said. "It is hard because you can't see with that big, black mask on. All you see is this glowing light." He suggested that people could put on a black blindfold and stare at the sun to simulate the welding experience. Since staring at the sun can damage the eyes, the simulation should be very brief.
Ricky said that he is still working on research for interpretive signage that will give historical information about the stone. The stone will be placed behind a garden at River Lea. The location is to prevent children from playing on the stone and to ensure that no weed whacking is done around the stone. Since the stone will be in a garden area, it will be necessary to place paving stones underneath the steel to keep it from rotting out, Swagler said.
When Ricky is not welding, designing metal bases, or speculating on what kind of stone it was that he helped to unearth, he enjoys music. He plays saxophone with several school ensembles. He is also a guitarist. As an unusual gimmick, he is able to play two guitars at the same time. He plays regularly at the Chapel at Crosspoint and at a variety of benefits. On Oct. 5, he did an ALS benefit in Pendleton and on Nov. 9, he will play at a fundraiser for Lisa Sorri at the Knights of Columbus hall on Whitehaven Road.
The stone will be unveiled at the Grand Island Historical Society's next open house, 2 to 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 19, at River Lea in Beaver Island State Park.