This is a story from J.W. Lawhead of Sheffield, Pennsylvania, found in the book “True Tales of Clarion River,” written in 1933 by George P. Sheffer under the auspices of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Raftsmen’s Association.
My last trip down the Clarion, some twenty-five years later, was somewhat different than the first one.
This trip, during the spring, was on hemlock timber belonging to the Bell Brothers, of Millstone, Pa. We pulled by several rafts and everything went lovely until we got to the mouth. There we coupled up four creek rafts into one river fleet and started down the river. The first day we ran to White’s Eddy, where we landed on the mud beach on the right. I was pulling the right front oar. James Work was pulling the left one, while the other boys who were pulling the middle front oars had gone back to help with the line in landing. Jim and I pulled a clip once in a while to keep the fleet from grounding too hard on the mud beach.
As the fleet came closer to shore, it crowded a big fish. There was not room enough for him to go under the fleet, so he came over the top within a few feet of where I was standing and landed with his head away from me.
On the impulse of the moment I tackeled that fish—and as luck had it I got both of my hands in his gills. I had a good hold. In fact, it was the only hold to get. Then the fun started. That fish was as long as I was and I thought he weighed a ton—but he didn’t. First I was on top, then he was on top, and you could not tell which one the tail belonged to. That fish would throw me right up in the air with his tail. Finally, Jim Work came to my rescue with a short piece of lash pole. He drew back to hit the fish but when he landed I was where he thought the fish was. The next time he landed a dead center on the king fish’s head and that blow put him out of the fight. The balance was easy.
Talk about a mess of fish—our fleet had the shanty on it, with about thirty-five or forty men—and we had all the fish we wanted with lots left over. I mean left in the river. In those days we were not allowed to use a rubber rule nor exaggerate weight, but we were allowed to drink Foxburg whiskey and fight all we wanted to.
None of us knew what kind of a fish it was but a farmer who lived on the bank of the river told us that it was a sturgeon.
For reference as to the truth of this fish story, I recommend J. M. Work, of Sheffield, for I know he is not a bit bigger liar than I am.
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