In Search Of...Captain Ike

Paddle Wheel Captain is Mississippi King

Published On: Sep 16 2011 08:15:41 AM CDT

LA CROSSE, Wis.  --  Every day, thousands of boats travel up and down the historic waters of the Mighty Mississippi.  But I challenge you to find a captain quite as colorful as 87 year old Ike Hastings. 

Ike is the very definition of a free spirit. "All my life I've been on the water and I like that." 

He hails from Freeport, Illinois, at least he owns a home there - but the majority of his days are spent, barefoot here on the water traveling the Mississippi and beyond.  "I used to lose wives that way because I'd be gone four months and I'd come back and no wife.   Which was alright with me. But this one won't go. She's about 25-30 years younger than I am and she's decided she's going to stick it out.  How many wives have you had? We're not going to go into that. Let's get back to the water. "

With his silver hair pulled back and gold earring dangling, Ike mans the wheel of his latest hand built boat the Pickett Hastings, named after his great grandfather.  "This is boat number 47 that I built. I built the first one 80 years ago when I was 7.  If I can live 'til it rusts I've got it made."

Ike is a true vagabond at heart, never dropping anchor in one place too long. "Be where you want to be....do what you want to do.  Nobody's bothering me here.  It's a beautiful place to be and I can do what the hell...heck I want."   

This retired art teacher and world war two veteran is literally a man of many traits.  Master boat builder, woodworker, he's even built and can fly an experimental plane.  "This is big enough if I get rid of all the junk, I can put my airplane up here."

The life of a boat captain can sometimes be lonely ....but not so for Ike.  He is in the constant company of his two best companions. This is my labradoodle, Belle. Sit Belle.  And this is Harry. Can you say something, Harry?  Can't you say something nice? Give me a kiss.  He's 65 or 66 years old and he'll go over 100. So he's going to outlive me. I'm going to have to put him in my will!"

He's truly one of the rivers greatest characters as if out of a Mark Twain novel.  "I wouldn't trade my life for anybody.  I feel like I've got a lot of life left. Lots of plans. I'm not looking for the end. I'm looking for more things I want to do.  Another 20 years. I figure about 107 I'll be ready to hang it up." 

Which means you still have time to meet one of life's true gems.  So if you find yourself on a river shore and you happen upon the Pickett Hastings, do yourself a favor and say hello to Captain Ike.