By Andy Ostmeyer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Rain has helped John Tinsley keep his conscience clean this year.
“I used to have to lie to people and tell them it was all right to float,” Tinsley joked Tuesday. He is the owner of Big Elk Camp & Canoe in Pineville.
With 140 canoes at the headwaters of Elk River, Tinsley depends on rainfall to keep his business afloat.
During the past two years, hot, dry conditions nearly sank his business. There were spots where the bed of Big Sugar Creek — the main tributary of Elk River — went dry.
“Last year, I would have been better off if I would have closed up,” Tinsley said.
This time, he wasn’t joking.
Rainfall in Southwest Missouri totaled about 38 inches in 2011 and again in 2012, well below the average of about 46 inches annually.
Not so in 2013.
This year, Joplin and much of the surrounding region already have pushed above 30 inches. Springfield has had more rain to date this year than it had in all of 2012, said Steve Lindenberg, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service station in Springfield.
“We got an inch down here,” Tinsley said Tuesday from Pineville. “It’s just wonderful, just a miracle, that we have water this late in the year.
“I actually have made money (this year).”
“It’s a big improvement in the river,” said John Poynor, owner of River Ranch Resort near Noel. He is president of the McDonald County Canoe Floaters Association.
“Last year, we had to cut our eight-mile float off at mid-June,” he said. “There’s no doubt we will be able to continue it (through the season.)”
Canoe operators aren’t the only ones rejoicing with the rain.
It has been good for area crops, too.
Matt Davis, who farms with his brother and father in Barton County, said spring rains were a setback at first because they kept the corn crop from being planted in time.
The Davises planted only 250 acres of corn this year, which is down from the 900 they wanted to plant.
They did get 800 acres of soybeans planted.
“They will perk up with this,” Davis said of the rain. “The beans were starting to show some stress.”
He said it’s too early to know for sure how the yield from the corn crop will be because if corn gets planted too late, it’s putting on ears in the hottest, driest part of the summer.
“The corn, we’ll see how it pollinated,” he said. “I wouldn’t even venture a guess. The beans are looking good.
“But a lot can happen. You don’t count your bushels until they are in the bin.”
Adam Wolf, another Barton County farmer, said he, too, is waiting to see how the corn crop fares. He was about six weeks late getting his corn in the ground because of the spring rains.
Last year, the hot, dry weather cut his yield to about 40 bushels per acre, compared with the 180 to 190 bushels per acre he can get in a good year. He’s waiting to see what this year will bring, but he said he is optimistic.
“The rain came for most people at just about the right time,” said Jill Scheidt, Barton County Extension agent.
‘A good year’
When the temperature is right and there’s enough moisture, grass will grow 24 hours a day. With the rains of late, it’s been doing just that.
“It’s been a good year,” said Rick Baker, with Reliable Lawn Service, of Joplin. “The grass burnt up at the first of the month, but everything is coming back better now. It’s a way better year than the last two years.”
Grass that is too wet because of too much rain can prevent mowers from operating at their optimum level.
“But you’d be surprised how fast the ground soaks the water up. It’s surprisingly fast,” Baker said. “Sometimes, you can get out there pretty fast after it rains.”
Baker said it takes both heat and moisture to grow grass.
“The rain can drop the temperature, and that can slow it down,” he said. “You have got to have the water and heat, too. When conditions are right, grass can easily grow more than an inch a week.”
STAFF WRITER WALLY KENNEDY contributed to this report.