THAYER -- Gary Schroeder spent a week in Thayer recently, but it was not enjoying the sights of Oregon County.
Schroeder took matters into his own hands early afternoon Sept. 2 when he took a chainsaw and cut his pickup truck and camper free from the awning of the Tally Ho Motel. "I'm a fair guy. I feel like I had run out of options. I felt like everyone was passing the buck," he said.
What began as an otherwise uneventful trip halfway across the country turned into a mess in more ways than one for the California man.
Schroeder said he lost his wife in July. He made the decision to join friends who were moving to Arkansas in search of a new beginning. The plan was for Schroeder to get the friends settled near the Hardy area, take his wife's ashes to the East Coast (New Jersey) as she had requested, and then come back to northern Arkansas or southern Missouri and settle himself.
Schroeder and his 1978 Chevrolet pickup, towing a 25-foot travel trailer, along with his friends' truck and car, pulled into the Talley Ho Motel located on Business U.S. 63 in Thayer Aug. 23.
The five adults and two babies had packed everything they owned and their assorted dogs and cats into the three vehicles. They were road weary and looking for a night's rest before they traveled the rest of the journey into Arkansas. They decided the women and babies would stay in a room at the Tally Ho that night and Schroeder would camp near the vehicles and keep watch over their property and care for the animals. Schroeder said this was approved by motel owner Bob Crase. While his friends were inside the motel office securing a room, Schroeder said, Crase advised him to pull around to the other side of the motel. It was then that his travel trailer air conditioning unit came into contact with Crase's awning roof, causing it to fall on his truck and travel trailer.
Schroeder said he called his insurance company and was told it would pay $10,000. Schroeder said Crase told him this was not enough and he could not move his belongings until he paid for the damages done to Crase's property.
Crase said, "I can't let him move his truck and trailer. If I do, it will cause damage to more of my building."
Schroeder spent the next three nights on the lawn at the United Methodist Church across the street from the motel so he could keep an eye on his belongings.
Schroeder said on Aug. 31 Crase told him he had received an estimate for the repairs. Schroeder, accompanied by Thayer Mayor Allen Deckard, Thayer Police Chief Gene Hatman and officer Frank Bernard, went across the street to the motel to request a copy of the estimate.
The bid from Bob Ellison amounted to over $24,000. Schroeder told Crase the bid was ridiculous and that the awning was free standing, not even cemented into the ground. The officers and the mayor tried to get Crase to release the man's property. Crase told the mayor he was dumb and the incident was none of his business. Chief Hatman and officer Bernard stood between the two men as Crase continually verbally attacked the mayor. The business owner said when the officers and the mayor came across the street Chief Hatman told him they were going to cut Schroeder's vehicle out of the awning with a city chainsaw. Crase said he told them they were not.
Hatman said a few days later that his department's hands were tied as far as helping the man remove his property from the motel. "Our city attorney (Ray Lee Caskey) said this is a civil matter and to stay out of it until we receive legal papers telling us to interfere," Hatman said.
Crase and Thayer attorney Bill Perkins filed a petition Sept. 1 to keep the property in lieu of damages.
Schroeder also filed a motion asking the court not to allow Crase's request.
Both were filed in the Oregon County Circuit Clerk and Recorder's Office at the courthouse at Alton.
Schroeder waited all evening Sept. 1 and most of the day Sept. 2 for Judge Heller of Shannon County to make a judgment in the case.
"There is a right way to do things, a wrong way to do things and my way to do things," Schroeder said. When asked if the use of the chainsaw was planned Schroeder said, "No. It was spur of the moment. I'm a fair guy and I feel like my options had run out. I was holding up my friends who were trying to move because part of their property was in my trailer. I appreciate all the support shown and given me by the people in this community. This is not a bad place and I will be back. (Crase) is not going to run me out of this town. This is not over, just for now."
Crase said after five days of Schroeder living in his camper he had the police remove Schroeder from his property. Thursday afternoon after Schroeder cut his truck and camper free from the motel Crase said he called the Thayer Police to make an incident report and they would not come because they said it was on private property and was a civil matter.
The business owner said an insurance adjuster did show up at the motel Sept. 4 but he has never heard how muchm, if any, insurance settlement he is entitled to.
Crase said Labor Day Weekend was to be the Tally Ho's last big business event of the year. "It did not happen. We saw people pull in and when they saw the mess, the collapsed awning and all, they all left."