Brothers of the Island
By Kerry Hilton
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During a fishing trip on the Mississippi River with his three grandsons, Bob Peterson diverts their excursion to a nearby island to wait out a storm. It’s there that he retells the story of his own life growing up on an island with his two brothers just prior to the brink of WWI. It all began in 1916 on Arrowhead Island, named for its crooked V-shape and the Indians that used to live there. Young brothers, Ron, Arthur and Bob must forage for their food to keep Pops and the family fed as they live the carefree life of three Huckleberry Finns. One day they stumble upon an old pine box that’s been washed ashore filled with Indian bones, a skull, arrowheads and a tomahawk. Inscribed on the lid are the words: Wau-kon-haw-kaw. In town, an Indian by the name of Big Canoe tells the boys that they have found “Snakeskin,” the lost bones of Chief Waukon Decorah. A curse was once placed on those bones and now that they have returned, war with the white man is imminent—as prophesied by Chief White Cloud, the Indian prophet. Big Canoe tells Ron that he will pay him handsomely for those bones the following day with the intent of burying them properly before word gets out to the Indian tribes. But prior to the trade being made, the boys meet up with their old pal, Harmonica Jones, and Ron foolishly exchanges the box of bones for a German Luger. When the hobo is later found dead, and the box of bones nowhere to be found, the boy’s father (Pops) encourages his sons to do whatever possible to find those bones and bury them in the sacred Cave of Chiefs.
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