Sitting on bleachers at the Jason Peterson Memorial Ice Rink, downing can after can of Mountain Dew and scarfing down pieces of pizza loaded with Parmesan cheese, five boys kid one another threatening that they each better watch out because it's "go-time."
They might be anywhere on this drizzly summer afternoon, but these members of Soldotna's Boy Scouts of America Troop No. 672 have spent the better part of their Wednesdays for the past few months scraping, sanding and painting the inner boards of the rink.
Pock marked with black skid marks from numerous board shots and pucks gone wild, the once white boards were in serious need of some attention. So, when Stephen Noble approached Karen Kester, director of the Nikiski Recreation Service Area, in search of a project to fulfill his Eagle Scout community service requirement, she knew exactly what direction to point him.
"I've had kids volunteer and get half way through and forget about the other half. Every Eagle Scout that has come here has followed through. They have a respect for quality, for a job well done," said Kester. "If it'd been some other group, I might have given it a second thought."
Knowing Kester, through their relationship as supervisor and employee also worked in Noble's favor. He started working for Kester last year as a dispatcher at the Nikiski pool and this summer was promoted to a position as a lifeguard.
It is his part-time job that has made the painting project slow going. Noble's time is limited, so a project that could be completed in an intense week or so has already spanned the majority of the summer and will most likely not be finished until right before school begins Aug. 21.
Still, like his commitment to the organization in general, Noble and his team of painters don't show signs of quitting before their job is completed. This project is the culmination of more than seven years of dedication to scouting. When it is over, and the necessary reports have been filed, Noble will have reached the highest level of achievement in the Boy Scout organization.
Noble admits that there have been moments when he would have liked to call it quits.
"There are times when I'm like, man, I've been doing stuff for so long," Noble said about the commitment demanded by the organization.
His father, James, and his grandparents, Patricia and Donald Noble, agreed that there have definitely been points when it looked like Noble was done.
"He's turned in I don't know how many resignations saying 'I don't want to do Scouts. I'm done.' But, he won't ever quit. It's in his blood," said Patricia Noble, who, along with her husband, played a integral role in keeping scouting alive in Nikiski throughout the 1970s.
So, in what has become a family tradition of scouting, Noble has resisted urges to quit and is now earning the level of Eagle Scout and trying to alter an outsider's perception of his community in one fell swoop.
"Before, there were a lot of puck marks. It didn't look professional," said Noble, who lives in Nikiski and has been skating on the rink for years with the Nikiski Ice Dawgs Hockey Association.
"People think of us as North Roaders -- red neck people -- and the ice rink didn't help," he said.
Not only will the final product give skaters a renewed sense of pride for their facility, but as a result of the way the project is organized, Noble is also learning lessons in organization and leadership.
To get his proposal approved he had to file reams of paperwork outlining what he wanted to do down the smallest detail. For a 15-year-old, that alone might be a daunting enough of a task. But, along with the assistance of the two adult supervisors who must be on site at all times, he also is responsible for coordinating efforts and ensuring that the supplies are at the rink each work day.
Still, the other boys working with Noble are his peers, friends who make up the home schooled student's entire social network. Watching them interact, it is obvious that Noble isn't abusing his power.
He doesn't take himself too seriously.
"It's better when you're older than all the rest, ' cause then you can pick on them," he said with a smile peeking out from underneath a tilted baseball cap.
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