PUXICO -- Bill Burge and his wife, Nelda, and their son, Scott, opened Burge Irrigation in Puxico in 1994 and they say business has increased every year.
The business employs 10 workers to drill wells and install and service irrigation pumps. With three drilling rigs, they sometimes dig three or four wells per day.
Nelda Burge does bookkeeping and answers phones. Bill Burge primarily manages pump installation, sales and service, and Scott Burge manages drilling and truck and equipment maintenance.
Bill Burge said business has tripled in the past five years.
"Our first year was a little slow, people didn't know about us," Burge said. "We got jobs in the area no one else would do. After the first year we've had all the work we can do."
They initially opened in Puxico and quickly outgrew the lot they were at, and in 1995 they moved to their current location off of J Highway, three miles south of Puxico.
"When we drill a well we develop it. We blow it out with an air compressor, clean it out where it's ready to install a pump," Scott Burge said. "That cleans the sand and dirt out so it doesn't eat a new pump up. We try to do good work and work just keeps coming."
"If a guy calls us in the morning and says he had a well go down, we will be out there that afternoon or in the morning," Bill Burge added.
Out there for the Burges could be 100 miles.
Bill Burge said most of their wells are dug in Stoddard, New Madrid, Dunklin and Pemiscot counties. Well sizes vary from 6 to 16 inches in diameter and well depths average 100 feet and range from 50 to 250 feet. Burge said one irrigation well will generally service 80 acres of farmland.
"We have a farmer in Wardell we do 25 wells a year for," Burge said. He said the farmer just recently decided to irrigate his farmland.
Surprisingly, about 20 percent of their business is installing wells to move water away from the area rather than running it out on ground for crops.
Scott Burge said in that August he drilled 17 relief wells along the Mississippi River near Prairie Durocher, Ill., for a contractor who was working for the Corps of Engineers, and that relief wells are dug along the river to reduce water seepage created when the river level is up.
They also dig several wells each year for farmers to provide water for making duck ponds.
Last fall the Burges purchased a boom truck with a crane that is used to help set irrigation pumps.
This year they used the boom truck to start a crane service at the business.
In February they used the crane to help the Corps of Engineers at Wappapello Lake clean out a large turbine. In April they used the crane to help Duck Creek Church in Puxico tear off part of the old building and set trusses for a new building. In May they used it to set trusses for a new People's Community Bank facility in Puxico.
Bill Burge is carrying on a family tradition. From 1972 to 1984 he worked with his dad, Arlie Burge, drilling house wells.