RISING SUN — Taylor House was putting the finishing touches on his Eagle Scout project in Veterans Memorial Park when a couple of kids crossed the bridge from the playground and asked if they could be first in the brand new Gaga Pit.
“We were over here on the last day sweeping out leaves and the kids asked, “Is that finished? Can we play?” said Joelle House, Taylor’s mother, who led the project to build the regulation octagonal wooden pit. “They had a ball. My kids jumped in with them.”
For the uninitiated, Gaga is a form of dodgeball with the target area being below the waist. The ball is hit with the hands. Players avoid being hit by the ball, which can come at players by being hit or by bouncing off the pit wall. House made sure to post the official rules on the pit wall.
Taylor’s brothers finished their projects over the summer. Aiden built a large section of the wooden walkway in Triangle Dog Park off Walnut Street. That followed Rylan’s walkway that completed the trail in the Veterans Memorial Park off Wilson Avenue.
The House triplets recently became official Eagle Scouts from Troop 92, based at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Colora, with a shared Court of Honor Ceremony held at American Legion Mason-Dixon Post 194 in Rising Sun.
Taylor was satisfied with his project, which needed more than 200 man hours to complete. Joelle gives Rising Sun Commissioner David Warnick a lot of the credit.
“He really came through for him,” she said, crediting Warnick with making contacts on Taylor’s behalf with the Rising Sun Chamber of Commerce and business leaders. “He could not have been better.”
House raised $3,500 for the project, but only needed $2,300. After purchasing a bench in memory of their friend Ryan Casteel, the Colora boy who died from cancer three years ago when he was 5 years old, the remaining funds have been donated to the town. Warnick said those funds will held to complete final trail touches in both town parks. The bench was installed near the pit.
The Colora teen will tell you, however, that the Gaga Pit was not the only project he considered. It was his first choice until other suggestions came along.
“I was going to put a pergola at Rising Sun Middle School for the outdoor classroom,” he said, noting he then considered a prayer garden at Janes United Methodist Church. “What the church required was out of my skill set.”
He went back to the Gaga Pit idea.
“This just fell into place,” he said, including obtaining the funds, materials and other support. “And I said, ‘Why didn’t I do this in the first place?’”
After helping Rylan and Aiden with their wooden trail projects, Taylor said cutting the wood for the Gaga pit was simple. The hardest part of his project was the flooring. After his experience with the pit at one Boy Scout camp, which was described as a “muddy mess,” he knew he had to find a way for his pit to drain and stay mud free.
“This floor was made for, like, garages,” House said of the heavyweight plastic mesh flooring. “It’s all squares. You snap it together.”
Forget about putting a square peg in a round hole. House’s challenge was laying a series of square tiles inside an octagonal hole.
“If the corner is not big enough you have to cut them,” he explained.
Snapping into the corners often meant lifting up pieces already into place. Joelle said it made for some tense moments.
But it’s been worth it seeing kids having fun playing in it, she said.
With scouting’s highest honor behind him, Taylor said he will remain in Troop 92 until he graduates from Rising Sun High School in 2021.
“I’ll probably continue on as a leader,” he said, adding that his plans also include a degree in computer science. “On your 18th birthday, you’re done as a youth.”