Unlike many of Morrison’s interviewees, Mary Hays retained some bitter feelings about her and her family’s treatment at the hands of the government. Born in Paynetown in 1901, Hays was a widow by the time Lake Monroe’s construction forced her off their land in 1963. Her husband, Harry, had been a schoolteacher, and later a school superintendent in Bloomington, and together they farmed around 300 acres in the Paynetown area.
By the time the Army Corps of Engineers forced Hays off her land, she had already purchased another home outside of the flood zone. Morrison expressed a little surprise at this, but Hays stoically replied, “Well, you had to organize.”
Hays was given around $10,000 dollars less than what her 300 acres were valued at by non-government appraisers, but her distress seemed to stem more from emotional ties to her land rather than financial loss. The land that her family had homesteaded for decades was taken, their deeds worthless pieces of paper. Though many of the residents shared that they had been told the land would not be used primarily for recreation, they were upset when locals made major tourism pushes. Hays herself had tried to negotiate with the government for just a little piece of land, “even a campsite,” but was refused. This made it especially difficult when former Salt Creek Valley residents saw their former lands resold for resorts or expensive lake houses.