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A River Runs Through It

It’s great to see the Hiawatha back on the water. Now for one of those things that you lose track of in life that is going to make a lot of you out there feel old. The majestic replica of an old-time river paddleboat has been cruising up and back down the Susquehanna for nearly four decades. Boy time sails by when you’re having fun!

The Red, White, and Blue all-American ship has become a summertime postcard for our area. Any time you travel over the Arch Street Bridge this time of year, your eyes just look for the Hiawatha. The gentle wake behind the boat as it navigates its way up the waters of the West Branch, nestled against the endless appearing rolling green of the Appalachian Mountains, makes for an amazing picture. A true Norman Rockwell type image of America. It also seems like something Mark Twain would have written about when you witness the boat effortlessly glide across the water.

A tip of my Seattle Mariners hat to veteran Hiawatha Captain Mike Strunk. For all you baseball fans out there, no I’m not a fan of the ball club. However, I was a huge Ken Griffey Jr. watcher back in the day. A throwback to that feeling old thing, I also watched his father play. A little MLB Trivia for you — Ken Griffey and “Junior” actually took the field together for the Mariners in 1990. They became the first father-son duo to ever appear on the same lineup card and actually play together. Yes, I guess you could say I’m missing America’s summer pastime. Those Korean Baseball Organization — KBO — games just ain’t cutting it. If you haven’t seen them, it’s probably because they air at 5:00 in the morning.

I apologize for getting off-topic, you know I get easily sidetracked. Back to Captain Mike at the helm of the Hiawatha. I’ve known Mike for years — talk about the right man for the job. He is the Susquehanna Valley’s equivalent of Captain Steubing from the “Love Boat.” For those younger people out there, you may have to Google it; it was a 1980’s hit TV sitcom. Mike has that Captain look, personality, and demeanor. I could see him greeting you at the Captain’s table of a Royal Caribbean Cruise or in a Captain Morgan commercial.

All joking aside, Mike is truly one of the good guys in our area. He has worked alongside Gary Chrisman for years producing and airing local high school sporting events. He is employed by and uses his audio-visual talents at Williamsport High School and for his own company, Strunk Digital Video Productions. Mike definitely enhances the Hiawatha experience. Please make sure you pull his leg a little bit and then thank the Captain at the end of a great voyage — provided he doesn’t run aground or hit an iceberg.

A tip of my Pittsburgh Pirate cap to the good people at River Valley Transit for keeping the Hiawatha ship shape. Skip Cochran and the gang do a great job promoting and making the grand old riverboat a tourist destination. If you’re looking for something to do, get out and enjoy a cruise right here at home on the Susquehanna. I guarantee you the view of the West Branch Valley from the deck side is amazing.

In talking about our river that runs through it, I would be remiss if I did not talk about a couple of the monsters that had been landed from its waters. Incidentally, “A River Runs Through It” is one of my all-time favorite movies. It’s a great family story starring Brad Pitt that was directed by Robert Redford. It’s a must-see for fathers, sons, and brothers.

I remember the West Branch of the Susquehanna River when it was hard to find a fish in it. Now I am amazed by the quantity and size of fish being caught. It has become a fishing destination for many different species.

Recently Liam Breasettes was able to reel to shore a 49” muskellunge. The battle between man and fish took over 1/2 an hour. Liam’s dad William joined the fight, and the father-son duo managed to land the trophy musky. Wow, that’s a big fish.

My good friend Joe Worth last week told me about a morphed catfish he recently caught. It had features of both the bull and channel species. The whiskered, scaleless prehistoric-looking creature was 25 plus inches long and weighed in a nearly 6.5 pounds. Congrats, Joe.

My son Jimmy on New Year’s Eve a few years back landed a walleye right near the Market Street Bridge. Like Joe, Jimmy is a catch-and-release, gets them back in the water as quickly as you can, fisherman. My Uncle Ron Maietta was still alive at the time and looked at a picture and commented, “that had to be darn near a state record.” Uncle Ron was a lifetime fisherman that spent much time in Canada fishing for walleye. Obviously, we will never truly know the tale of the tape.

So, as you’re traveling up-and-down, the Susquehanna on the Hiawatha take a look over the side to see what may be lurking just beneath the water surface. If you’re a fisherman and happen to have a great catch of the day, please get the measurements, a good picture, and practice catch-and-release. I would love to tell your fish story within the pages of the Webb Weekly.

God Bless America.

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Jim Webb

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  • Robert Worth
    July 8, 2020, 10:42 am

    Hi Jim, I just wanted to say I love reading your column. I miss your dad’s column, but you have filled his shoes with honor.