MATEWAN, W.Va. — Keith Gibson is working tirelessly to make the Tug Fork River tireless.
The former coal miner is now in his third year of operating Hatfield McCoy Airboat Tours, giving visitors breezy, 40-minute jaunts up and down the picturesque waterway separating West Virginia and Kentucky.
While on the job, Gibson points out key sites from the notorious cross-border feud — his business’ namesake — for those who are interested, and shuts up and drives for those who are not, cranking music through his swamp boat’s headphone system while slaloming through the stream’s riffles and channels at 35 miles an hour.
While Gibson can control the quality of his presentations and his 550-horsepower boat’s comfort, safety and speed, controlling unsightly riverbank trash and debris is a bit more difficult.
“Tires are everywhere in this stretch of river,” he said from a boat mooring at the base of the Matewan floodwall, with a beaver visible, swimming over nearly a dozen submerged tires. “I counted 100 tires here in downtown Matewan the other day in the [100-yard] stretch from where we are here to the bridge.
“It looks bad to the tourists…