"As far as I know," Gibson said, "it's the only golf course in the country where you can hit a ball from a tee in one state to a green in another state."
Not far from the golf course bridge, sandy Burnwell Beach appears on the Kentucky shore, a short distance from the site of the home of Roseanna McCoy's Aunt Betty. "It's where Roseanna went [in 1881] to have Johnse Hatfield's baby," Gibson said.
It's also the site where, much more recently, a character in "Hatfields & McCoys: White Lightning" series had vehicle trouble and required the services of a tow truck, Gibson said.
Heading upstream, Gibson brought his boat to a stop near the Kentucky side of the river across from Matewan, and pointed to a grove of trees on a shoreline slope.
It was here, in 1882, that Tolbert, Pharmer and Randolph McCoy Jr. were tied to paw-paw trees and executed by a gun-wielding group of Hatfields. The shooting deaths were in retaliation for the three McCoys' roles in the stabbing death of Ellison Hatfield, brother of feud family patriarch William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield.
A short distance upstream, on the West Virginia side of the river, a woman and the baby she was holding waved from a front porch as the airboat passed by.
"The mom told me the baby loves to see the boat, and crawls to the door when she hears the boat coming," Gibson said.
The airboat zips through grassy shoals and mild rapids as it makes its way up and down the Tug Fork between the steep, wooded hillsides that encompass it.
"I love this river -- except for when it's running through my house," joked Gibson, who now lives out of the floodplain of the flood-prone stream. "We see wildlife every time we go out, and it's the state's best-kept secret for bass fishing."
"It was a great ride -- very scenic," said Lynn Maier, after exiting the boat at the end of the tour. "It was better than the airboat rides we've been on in Florida and Louisiana."
Based out of the Matewan Depot, near the bridge in downtown Matewan, Gibson offers rides on a regular basis Tuesdays through Saturdays, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tours also can be arranged by appointment on Sunday afternoons and Mondays. Groups of three or more are encouraged. The boat carries a maximum of six passengers per tour. For 20-minute tours, the cost is $20 per person, or $40 for 40-minute tours.
For reservations and more information, call 304-928-7702, or visit the Hatfield McCoy Airboat Tours' Facebook page.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.