As 2014 draws to a close and winter sets in, we here at Notes from the River recall the immortal words of Jimmy Buffett from Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes: “I took off for a weekend last month, just to try and recall the whole year.” So we did. This week, Notes from the River takes a look back at what happened in, on and around the Sangamon River during 2014.
We started off 2014 on a positive note, feeling good about the prospects and promise of a new season on the beautiful Sangamon River. As a matter of fact, Notes from the River author Scott Hays feels so good, he feels like he could be walking on water.
And then he realizes he is: the Sangamon River under his feet is frozen solid.
In sporting news, area river rats, suffering from extreme bouts of ‘SAD’ (Sangamon Affective Disorder), take up the sport of ‘downhill snow kayaking’. However, after several brief and largely unsuccessful attempts at finding any actual hills, participants come to the painful realization that Central Illinois is pretty darn flat. Kayaks are returned to garages and Sangamon Affective Disorder sets in again. But good news arrives in…
In environmental news, road crews cleaning up a local highway are both bewildered and excited when, after scouring two miles of IL 47 looking for any signs of trash, they return to the parking lot at the Museum of the Grand Prairie with empty trash collection bags. Proclaiming the dawn of a new era of environmental consciousness among Village residents, organizers decree that highway cleanups will no longer be necessary. Wow!
In development news, a local real estate developer has visions of San Antonio after hearing about a proposed new “Riverwalk” along the Sangamon River. Sensing an increase in local demand for the hot new trend among sophisticated twenty-somethings for “oxygen bars”, he proposes a trendy new hangout along the banks of the river, complete with oxygen bar. And then, during…
…the Sangamon reaches the height of flood stage, putting the entire area underwater. The developer abandons the project, throwing up his hands and commenting wryly, “anyone wanting an oxygen bar on that part of the Sangamon better have gills.”
In sports, the thrill sport of “skayaking” enjoys a burst in local popularity after a local demonstration featuring a “skayaker”, strapped down to a kayak with paddle in hand and a parachute strapped to his back, is pushed out the back of a passing airplane. He ‘skayaks’ through the air with the greatest of ease, thrusting and parrying with his paddle, opens his chute and makes a perfect water landing on Lake of the Woods, then kayaks to shore. The crowd goes wild! But then in…
…area skayaking enthusiasts, looking to heighten the challenge, attempt waterborne kayak landings on the tree-shrouded Sangamon River. Popularity rapidly declines when one enthusiast ‘thrusts’ when he should have ‘parried’ during decent and accidentally becomes entangled in the top of a Sycamore and is hospitalized in critical condition after being pecked to near death by angry nesting Great Blue Herons.
In racing news, the fourth annual Sangamon River Duck Race finishes in a climactic 4-way tie for first place. Since first prize this year was a very large boulder from a local landscaper, the winners determine that the best way to divide their prize is with dynamite.
This project ends badly, however, when too great of a charge is used and the boulder is blown to bits. Unfortunately, the four winners each took home only one large bag of driveway gravel. Organizers agree that it’s probably best to stick with cash as first prize (and perhaps the boulder as second, like 2013).
In environmental news, river crews cleaning up the Sangamon River during “It’s Our River Day” are both bewildered and excited when, after scouring three miles of the Sangamon River looking for any signs of trash, they return to their large dumpster at Lake of the Woods with empty canoes. Proclaiming the dawn of a new era of environmental consciousness among Village residents, organizers decree that river cleanups will no longer be necessary. Wow!
In brewing news, a local microbrewery develops a new rich, malty, cappuccino-infused milk stout they metaphorically name “Sangamon River Mud.” With a light-brown color and thick, rich mouth feel, the new brew is advertised to be evocative of “the Sangamon in July.” Widespread enthusiasm spreads among area river rats upon the brew’s release. But then in…
…despite widespread local enthusiasm upon release, the metaphorically named “Sangamon River Mud” is uniformly panned by local beer connoisseurs as “having a taste that’s just a little too authentic.” The brewery promises a new recipe soon.
As the year closes, like Jimmy Buffett, we take off a weekend just to try to recall the whole year. But we can’t recall that Jimmy Buffett ever actually specified which year we should recall. So we picked one.
And finally, in other news, Notes from the River author Scott Hays comes to the disappointing realization that he was actually daydreaming during March and September of 2014, but he remains nonetheless optimistic that someday his daydreams will come true.
Appeared as Notes from the River, Mahomet Citizen, December 27, 2013, by Scott P. Hays