Rural Missouri - May 2013 - (Page 14)

The family that drills together Quality water has been the goal of Schroepfer Well Drilling for 60 years S 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 the business. 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 that much.” 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 14 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 toughest rock. 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. Leslie 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 about.” 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 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP business. For a while, they drilled geothermal wells for other contractors. “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 softener. “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 To find a groundsource heat pump dealer in your area, see the ads on pages 7, 15 and 19. http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

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
Vertical gardening
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - May 2013