Rural Missouri - May 2013 - (Page 14)
The family that drills together
Quality water has
been the goal of
Drilling for 60 years
by Jim McCarty
tanding on a metal platform
behind a massive drilling
rig, Diane Schroepfer-Kline
deftly works the controls the
way others might play a ﬁne musical
instrument. Hundreds of feet below
her, a drill bit grinds its way through
layers of rock unseen from above.
But some sixth sense tells her
exactly what it is encountering and
how much farther it needs to go.
Looking over her shoulder is the reason Diane knows just what to do.
At age 77, her father, Orville Schroepfer, could be taking it easy. Instead,
he spends his days overseeing the
family drilling operation, just as his
own father did when he started the
business 60 years ago.
Now in its fourth generation,
Schroepfer Well Drilling is a family
operation devoted to bringing quality
water to homes and businesses in 16
east-central Missouri counties.
Orville is a walking encyclopedia
of well-drilling knowledge. He can tell
you how far below the ground one
would encounter deposits of Gasconade limestone or where in Missouri
salt water is likely to spoil a well. His
knowledge comes from a lifetime in
Orville was 17 when he went to
work with his father, Lawrence, drilling wells and installing pumps.
“He worked for a well driller for
just about a year,” Orville says of his
dad. “The guy wasn’t that old, but he
got a heart attack and passed away.
That business was sold. Dad decided
that’s what he wanted to do, so he
bought a cable rig.”
Lawrence and Orville worked with
the cable-operated drilling rig mounted on a 1928 GMC truck. “It was ugly
as sin,” Orville recalls. “It had a Buick
motor in it and a Dodge rear end
under it. So it was a coat of many colors. I told dad we ought to put some
kind of truck under that, but he said,
‘No, we got to pay for the drill ﬁrst.’”
In those days, if a driller got 5 feet
dug in an hour, he was
doing good. “A person
might say that’s not very
much,” Orville says. “Well,
if you got into hard rock
you might only get 3 feet an
hour. Now, if we only drill 63
feet an hour, we would stop
our rig and ﬁx it. It’s changed
In 1960, Orville and his wife,
Marilyn, took over operation of the
business. They moved it to the family
farm south of Beaufort and purchased
one of the ﬁrst rotary drills.
The rig Diane operates today is
Above: All ﬁve of Orville and Marilyn Schroepfer’s children have worked for the family-owned well drilling business. Standing
behind their parents are, from left, Anita, Diane, Darrell and Linda. The ﬁfth child, Darren, was killed in 2004 while working on a
pressure tank. Below: Diane and Dillon Schroepfer wait for Ray Wilson to attach another section of casing to the cable while drilling a well for a home near Sullivan. Dillon, Darrell’s son, is the fourth generation of the Schroepfer family to work at the business.
a far cry from those early
drilling rigs. It’s mounted
on a Peterbuilt road tractor
and has a host of pneumatic
and hydraulic controls. Its
air hammer can pierce the
The family has drilled
wells as deep as 1,000 feet,
though most average 250 to
300 feet deep.
“I think this business
would be hard to get into if
we hadn’t been born into it,”
says Orville’s daughter Linda
Schroepfer-Busch, sales manager and customer service
coordinator for the business.
“I would hate to come up
with the seed money for this. And
to not have the knowledge that we
have been able to gain. I mean, we all
worked with our grandpa, too.”
All ﬁve of Orville and Marilyn’s
children joined the family business.
Linda, the oldest, was the ﬁrst to help
out pulling pumps alongside her dad.
Diane soon followed, learning to
operate the drilling rig in just six
months. Darrell is in charge of
the geothermal operation.
Anita Hoener keeps the
books. A ﬁfth child, Darren, also worked for the
business but was killed
in 2004 when a pressure
tank burst. Today, Darrell’s
son, Dillon, works on the drilling rig.
Over the years, Schroepfer Well
Drilling, which is served by Crawford
Electric Cooperative, gained a reputation for doing a good job at a fair
price. One satisﬁed customer is former
state Rep. Charlie Schlottach, who
owns White Mule Winery and Bed
and Breakfast near Owensville.
“With their experience, they can
tell you before they drill how deep
you are going to have to go and where
the good water veins are,” he says.
“They are a good family business that
people have learned to trust.”
In 1972, the business took a new
direction when the Schroepfers got a
job in nearby Port Hudson. The owner
wanted two wells drilled.
“I asked him what in the world he
was going to do with that other well,”
Orville recalls. “Then he told me it
was geothermal. At that point in time,
I didn’t know what he was talking
The job was the family’s ﬁrst introduction to ground-source heat pumps,
which use the constant temperature
of the earth (around 56-58 degrees)
to efﬁciently heat and cool a home or
business. For a while, they
drilled geothermal wells for
“I told the kids one day
we were working the wrong
end,” Orville says. “It was
like drilling water wells and
not putting in the pumps.
That’s when we went into
the geothermal business.”
A homeowner can hire
Schroepfer Well Drilling to
drill their water well, install
the complete heating and
cooling system down to the
thermostat and also provide
the water heater and water
“We give them the complete package,” says Darrell. “The only
thing we don’t do is septic tanks.”
Their jobs have included geothermal wells for Missouri Boys and Girls
Town in St. James. They’ve gone as far
north as Milan drilling ground-source
wells. They drilled the wells for the
heating and cooling system at the
Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives in Jefferson City and were a
big part of the mobile-home makeover
done by Crawford Electric to demonstrate how to slash electric bills.
With 60 years of experience, there
isn’t much Orville hasn’t seen in
his quest for water. “We can do it so
much faster,” he says of well drilling.
“That’s the only difference.”
You can contact Schroepfer Well Drilling by calling 573-484-3214 or visiting
www.schroepfers.com. To ﬁnd a groundsource heat pump dealer in your area, see
the ads on pages 7, 15 and 19.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - May 2013
Rural Missouri - May 2013
Table of Contents
Chronicle of the corncob pipe
Missouri Snapshots contest
The family that drills together
Out of the Way Eats
Where bluegrass grows
Hearth and Home
Veggies and vision
Rural Missouri - May 2013