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Meet the Member: Jack Schaller
story by Siri Stevens
Jack Schaller from Jasper, Mo., has been the president of the ACRA for the past eight years or so. “The ACRA has rodeos in four different states and for me, it’s pretty centrally located. Most of the rodeos are within a couple hours, so it’s easy doing the weekend rodeo circuits; I can go and still spend time with my family. The competition is great. In the time frame that I’ve been in, Speed Williams, Chad Masters, Travis Graves, Coleman Proctor, Jake Long and many others have come through. Whenever you compete and win, you are winning against some of the best. It’s a great place to test your metal and see if you’re good enough to hang.”
The ACRA has around 600 members and Jack has seen the added money at the Finals grow from $1,500 to $4,000. “We work with IPRA and the CRRA to co-sanction and make the rodeos stronger. Between the three, in this area, we take care of most of the rodeos.” From now until Labor Day, contestants in the ACRA can rodeo at around 100 rodeos. “That’s the beauty of it – if you’re too young to be in the PRCA, you can sharpen your skills, or if you’re older like I am and have a family and a fulltime job, you can quench your thirst for competition and still be back and do your job and spend time with your family.”
Jack got his start in rodeo through a neighbor. “My parents didn’t rodeo; they had a farm (in Monett, Missouri), and in one corner of that farm there was a little house on ten acres that they let a lady live on. One day her house had a small fire and the neighbor across the road came to help put that fire out and he roped and rodeoed a lot. My brother, Skip, and I learned from him how to rope. We spent most of our summers over there roping and riding horses.” Jack went to college at the University of Missouri and got a degree in civil engineering. He went to school and during the summers, he would get up early in the morning and ride horses before going to work at a produce company. Then he would hit the ropings and the rodeos on the weekends. “That helped pay my way through college.”
He worked for the Kansas Department of Transportation, as a project engineer, out of Marion, Kansas. He came back home to work for an engineering company and eventually wound up working for the city of Joplin (35 miles from where he grew up) as the assistant public works director. He met his wife, Tamra, through work. “She is the assistant human resources director for the city of Joplin.” On May 22, 2011, the city of Joplin was impacted by an EF-5 tornado. There were 162 deaths and more than a thousand injured. At its peak, it was up to a mile wide with winds in excess of 200 miles per hour. The tornado was on the ground for 22.1 miles and lasted 38 minutes, destroying 7,000 homes, businesses, and public buildings.
“I was in charge of the tornado clean up – I remember going in there Sunday evening; I didn’t sleep until Thursday afternoon – I laid down at City Hall for about an hour and got back up and went after it again. It was a full week before I got home to even change clothes. From that point on I was in charge of the recovery. The Lord directs you and I was smart enough to follow His lead. Some of the things we did helped the city recover quicker than anybody ever imagined. AJ, our youngest son, was born March 28 of 2011, so he was barely a couple months old when the tornado hit. I worked seven days a week for well over a year. To me, he went from newborn to two years old just overnight.”
The demands of the recovery and what little time he had left for his family put Jack’s roping and riding on the back burner. He has taken a new position at Olsson Associates, with offices throughout the Midwest. “We are helping Joplin with infrastructure work for sidewalks, and a total rebuild. So even though I’m not working at the city I’m still working for the city, I’m still helping with the recovery and that’s very gratifying.” Things are smoothing out and he plans to get back in the arena and compete. He lives north of town in a little town called Alba. AJ keeps him busy. “He keeps us all young. I don’t think he’s ever walked a day in his life, he’s run everywhere he’s gone since he could walk.” Jack has an older stepson, Jake, 22 as well as Tamra’s two older boys, Grant and Cody (19, 16). Even though Jack is practicing with the goal of competing again, his ultimate goal is to do what’s best for the ACRA.
“It’s built on three aspects, the contestants, the stock contractors, and the rodeo committees. You have to do what’s best for all three because they all depend on each other.”