Our regular feature writer, Scott Hays, is taking a much, much-deserved break from writing, so in lieu of our regular column this week, we present an end-of-the-year interview with Mr. Hays as part of our continuing “Great River Writers” series.
Interviewer: First of all, we’d like to say thanks for taking time from your busy holiday schedule to interview with us.
SH: You’re certainly welcome! Just glad to have a much, much deserved break from writing. And I’d like to say that I’m honored to be part of this “Great River Writers” series. Nobody’s ever referred to me as a “great” writer about rivers before. Right up there with Twain, I imagine?
Interviewer: Actually our series is about any old writer who happens to write about “Great Rivers.” But hey, lots of writers make that mistake. But let’s move on: As a writer, how did you settle on the Sangamon?
SH: So, first we found some property with a nice house on the river, then we rented a U-Haul and loaded up all of our stuff and set out on the long trek from Philo to the Sangamon River. And then we unloaded…
Interviewer: No, no, hold on, we meant, ‘how did you settle on the Sangamon as a subject of writing?’
SH: Oh, that was a fairly easy choice after my family and I had settled on the Sangamon. Not long after, I realized that there weren’t any column writers in the Citizen writing about the Sangamon, so I quickly rose to prominence as the best writer writing a column on the Sangamon River for the Mahomet Citizen.
Int: You sound very pleased with yourself, as well you should be, beating out all that stiff competition.
SH: Yes, it’s been a tough struggle, but I felt somebody had to do it.
Int: So, looking back at 2015, it seems that you passed the 100th column mark this year. Pretty impressive!
SH: Oh did I? I can’t say I’ve been keeping count. I don’t really like to brag and I’m far too humble to promote my own accomplishments. But sure, since you brought it up, I’d agree that it is quite an achievement.
Int: And every one about the Sangamon River–how is it that you keep coming up with new ideas about the same river?
SH: Well to be honest, even with such an inspiring river right in my backyard, I can get hung up with writer’s block now and then.
Int: No! Say it ain’t so!
SH: Yes, sad but true. So I’m occasionally tempted to resort to cheap tricks like pretending to interview myself. Y’know, just to get a column in under the deadline.
Int: Really, that’s quite interesting. Have you ever actually done such a thing? Y’know, tried to pull one over on your readers?
SH: Nah. I mean I’d say that all of my loyal readers (Hi, Mom!) are far too savvy to fall for such a cheap trick like that. They’d never buy it.
Int: You can’t fool your Mom, I suppose. So at the end of 2015, what was your high point for the past year?
SH: I assume you realize that this is the flatlands, but there is this nice tall bluff I was on that overlooks the river just downstream a bit. I’d say it’s about 35 feet over the river or so…
Int: No, no, I meant what was your favorite thing about 2015?
SH: Oh, I see. In that case, I’d have to say that the fact that I had the pleasure of spending 2015 in, on, around, and writing about the Sangamon River was probably my favorite thing about 2015.
Int: So just like most years then. And looking ahead to 2016, what do you see?
SH: I’d say I see spending 2016 in, on, around, and writing about the Sangamon River. I’d say more fresh-water mussels will be found in the river in mid-summer and then we’ll see an influx of rubber ducks around August and yes, I see trash being picked up along Highway 47 and I see us pulling a ton of garbage out of the river in September.
Int: Hey, nice use of hyperbole there!
SH: Hyperbole? That was optimism. A ton would actually be a half-ton less than we got out in 2015.
Int: We can only hope. So SH, any predictions about current events? The upcoming election?
SH: Well Int, I predict that we’ll have a new president by the end of the year, unless of course we decide our president using the ‘Illinois method’ of decision-making.
Int: That’s interesting. I wasn’t aware there was such a thing.
SH: My point exactly. But I do predict that in 2016 the State of Illinois will pass a budget. For 2015.
Int: You’re certainly going out on a limb with that one. And what of the Sangamon River?
SH: I’d say the Sangamon would probably just keeping on flowing like it always does, budget or no budget.
Int: And yourself?
SH: Me? As long as I have two hands and a laptop, I’m sure I’ll just keep writing stories about our Great River; some factual, some newsworthy, some historical, and for some, I’ll just make stuff up.
Int: That sounds good. But I’m sure inquiring readers want to know: what kind of stuff would you make up?
SH: Oh gee, do look at the time. It seems I must be off now. So I’ll only add this in response to your last question: thanks for the interview!
Appeared as Notes from the River, Mahomet Citizen, Dec. 31, 2015 by Scott Hays