McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local News

July 19, 2010

Bob Wallace and his vision of the herd

McALESTER — Bob Wallace is looking to build the herd.

The McAlester resident and retired businessman, in an effort to show support and build community pride, has gathered life-sized buffalo statues and placed them on campus at McAlester Public Schools. Now, Wallace is aiming to open what has turned into a project of pride to include the whole town.

“I owe all my blessings and good fortunes to God. He has given everything to me, and I know that,” Wallace said. “Part of that blessing is that I was able to travel extensively for several years, throughout North, Central and South America, and some countries in Europe.”

As he and wife, Grace, traveled, he began to notice things, he explained.

“I made a lot of mental observations,” he continued. “I wondered what made some communities so busy and vibrant, and others so blasé. What was the difference?”

Obviously geography often plays a role, he noted, but still, the couple came across many of those out-of-the-way, middle-of-nowhere towns and communities that were bustling and active – full of life and community spirit.

It struck him, he said, that those communities that were so alive and thriving all had that little extra something – that spark that showed connection and pride.

“It’s time to give back to the community that has supported the businesses of me and my family,” he said. “To enhance the beauty and vitality of so much that we already have.”

While Wallace has many plans to do just that, his current focus is on the expansion of the buffalo project, which includes the vision of more statues, both in and around town, and at entrance and exit points, as well. It’s a vision well on its way to becoming reality.

Wallace recalled seeing buffaloes, ponies, even penguin statues in other cities around the state and thinking they enhanced the landscape.

“Part of it came to life when we were going to the pep assemblies at the football field,” Grace Wallace recalled.

“We are the Buffaloes,” Bob Wallace interjected with a grin. “So I had the idea that we should put buffaloes in front of the schools.”

He approached school administrators, who were on board with the project immediately.

“I came to the conclusion of putting them not only in the high school, but in all the schools,” he added.

From there, the idea snowballed to include the entire city, taking on a life of its own. What better way to strengthen the connection between a town and its schools, and illustrate school pride and support?

“We’ve talked to the city manager about two buffalo statues to be placed in the Carl Albert (Parkway) median,” he continued, adding that project has been approved, the statues are ordered, and the parks department is on standby to install them upon arrival.

Now, Wallace is challenging local merchants to join the cause.

“I’m thinking, ‘Let’s get the merchants involved.’ They can place the statues at their businesses, or in different parks if they don’t have the room,” he said with excitement.

“I just want to ignite the fuse, letting other merchants join in with their resources and ideas to enhance our community,” he said, adding the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has also agreed to help with the buffalo project, coordinating a team to call on area businesses to order the statues.

“The cost is to be no more than $2,000,” Wallace said. “There’s no profit there, that cost goes to pay for the building, shipping, painting, platform and installation of a statue.”

Wallace anticipates 36 buffalo statues when all is said and done, illustrating McAlester pride all over town and beyond.

A buffalo and buffalo calf also stand majestically in front of the McAlester home of Mike and Michelle Williams, Wallace’s daughter and son-in-law, demonstrating the whole family’s desire to make a difference.

“It’s a family endeavor, not just me. It’s the kids and grandkids,” Wallace added quietly. “It’s time to give back.”

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