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The Dutchman's Gift

Richard Baran

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Richard Baran holds a doctorate and two masters’ degrees besides his bachelor’s in business. A Navy veteran, he taught and coached for forty years at the secondary school and collegiate levels. His first three novels, The Jacket (published in 2013 by Total Recall Publishers), Where Have All the Go-Go’s Gone? Book 1 and When Will They Ever Learn? (Where Have All the Go-Go’s Gone?) Book 2 were published in 2015 by Total Recall. Other publishing credits include, Coaching Football’s Polypotent Offense, a coaching text, a short story, “That Ain’t No Walleye” and several dozen articles in professional business, education and coaching journals. He and his grammar school sweetheart, Carol Ann have eighteen grandchildren and they divide their year between Franklin Park, Illinois; Phoenix, Arizona, and Minocqua, Wisconsin.

Book Description (Synopsis)

A twelve year old boy finds a magical Apache arrowhead while hiking with his grandfather in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona. The arrowhead transports the boy from a Disney World rollercoaster ride back over one hundred and fifty years to the Superstitions where he meets “The Lost Dutchman.”

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Author's Book Dedication

To: Carol, the love of my life, girl of my dreams and toughest copy editor ever.

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A twelve year old boy finds a magical Apache arrowhead while hiking with his grandfather in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona. The arrowhead transports the boy from a Disney World rollercoaster ride back over one hundred and fifty year

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Chapter 1

“K
ind of looks like an arrowhead to me, Rocky,” his grandfather said to Riley, as they stood face to face on the pebble strewn trail that barely resembled a faint path. If someone looked hard and long enough and used their imagination there was a path.
Rocky was Riley’s nickname. His grandfather had dubbed him with the name because Riley preferred crawling on the ground from the moment his mother first took him outside and set him down. “You think so, Grandpa,” said Riley holding up the triangular shaped, jagged thin rock in the palm of his hand and glancing up at his grandfather. He couldn’t see his eyes. They were hidden behind the aviator style sunglasses he always wore. All of his grandfather’s glasses made him look like the pilot of some jumbo jet liner. He couldn’t see much of his grandfather’s face either, the top half protected from the broiling sun by a black, genuine Stetson hat that resembled something worn by a weather-beaten, battered cowboy. “You think, Grandpa?” he asked politely. He was always in awe when he talked to his grandfather even though conversations didn’t come that often.
“Could be Apache,” his grandfather said. “They’ve roamed these Superstition Mountains for a couple hundred or so years.”
“You think?” the young grandson asked again.

“I think, Riley,” his grandfather, Warren said, sensing it was time to head back to the main trail. The trail was marked by small piles or short stacks of rocks called cairns; the markers spread out and spaced generally where there was evidence of a trail splitting off in two directions. His grandfather had hiked for almost fifteen years after retiring to Arizona. He had sold his meat packing business in Chicago and took to the mountains and foothills as if he were a native Arizonan or, at the very least, a member of one of many Native American tribes indigenous to the southwest.
Warren “Rocky” Stone, Senior loved the Arizona mountains; loved being on a trail surrounded by nature that was one hundred and eighty degrees different than his beloved Wisconsin and the Northwoods where he had spend most of his life fishing Walleye and Musky. In the mountains, the elder Stone could purge his mind of loading docks, slaughtered animals turned into ethnic sausage products and unmerciful Chicago weather trying to dress itself as the four seasons. He learned to respect the Sonoran Desert trails and the mountains from day one. Staying alert to time, mentally marking his location and keeping hydrated were keys to getting off a mountain trail in one piece. The cairns would guide them back to Riley’s grandmother, parents and his sister, Elsa. “Time we start down the mountain to the trail head,” he said nonchalantly. “We don’t want to be stuck up here at night, not with bobcats, coyotes, a hungry cougar, diamondback rattlers and a pack or two of wild donkeys.”
“Really,” said Riley, his eyes bigger than the arrowhead still clutched in his hand.
His grandfather gave a nod and said, “Lead the way, Rocky.” He preferred using his grandson’s nickname that was the same as his, the name tagged on him when he played football at Weber High School in Chicago as a bruising fullback.

The arrowhead stayed clutched in Riley’s hand during the long ride home from the hike as the rented van carrying the family sped west on the 101 Loop to Peoria where his grandparents lived in a retirement community. On the last day of their vacation, the arrowhead never left Riley’s hand. He had awaked to find the arrowhead poking him in his nose. During the ride to Sky Harbor and the flight home to O’Hare, Riley and the arrowhead were one. They stayed that way as the family was being driven home, courtesy of his Uncle Joey, his dad’s brother, to the octagon brick bungalow where the Stone family lived across the street from ShabbonaPark on Chicago’s north-west side.
“It’s an honest to God Apache arrowhead,” he said, to his older cousin, William, after his mother had finished talking to her sister, his Aunt Kit on the phone. “Grandpa Warren swore on a stack of Bibles that it was,” he said into the phone. “Did you ever hear of Geronimo and Cochise?”
“Yeah, I head of ‘em,” said William, his voice sounding as if he didn’t care while trying to hide his envy from his younger cousin. “So what’s the big deal?”
“The big deal, Mister Hot-shot High School Freshie is that our grandfather said it could have belonged to them,” said Riley, his head seeming to bounce up and down with excitement as if he were a toy bobble head doll. “That’s what he said, William. It’s an Apache arrowhead and I found the thing under some dumb rock I kicked over.” He laughed, “I almost broke my stupid neck when I tripped and landed on my hands and knees. That dumb arrowhead almost got shoved up my nose. “ He couldn’t contain his excitement and finally said, “I’ll show it to you and Emma when you guys come over with your mom and dad to see the pictures of Grandma and Grandpa’s retirement house in Arizona.”
There was no way Riley could sleep that first night back home after the family vacation to Arizona. “Time for bed,” his mother had said to Riley and his sister, Elsa.
“Ah, Ma, do I have to?” moaned Riley. His moan didn’t have a chance to go any further.
“Get your butt in bed,” ordered his father.
Riley kicked at the covers all night. Then there were times when he thought his heart was going to explode. He tossed. He turned. Then he tossed and turned some more until his bed covers were wrapped around his neck and he thought he was being choked to death by a giant Blue Snake, one of many species of snakes his grandfather had told him about. Finally, he reached over and turned on the Bears helmet lamp that was on his night stand. For the first time since he and his family returned from Arizona he had a chance to examine the arrowhead. He spit on the stone, rubbed the moisture around the rough surface and then dried and polished it with the corner of his bed sheet. He put it under his lamp, examined it hoping to find some mysterious secret. He didn’t. At least that side didn’t have a message from some ancient warrior or Apache chief directing him to the famous Lost Dutchman mine his grandfather had told him about as they walked down the mountain.

Riley let loose with another drop of spit and started up his polishing and buffing routine on the arrowhead’s other side and that’s when he saw it. The scratched outline didn’t make sense. “Apache,” he muttered not knowing what to make of the unintelligible design looking back at him. He wasn’t the smartest kid in school, but he knew what a circle was from his math class and very brief introduction to basic geometry. His grandfather had explained concentric circles to him, calling them rings; even adjacent circles were mentioned when describing the series of crude figures etched in a rock face that they had discovered while hiking. The circles and stick figures looked like something he would have drawn on his Big Chief tablet with a number two lead pencil when he was in kindergarten. His grandfather had enhanced his grandson’s knowledge of the ancient circles and figures drawn by Native American people. “Rocky,” his grandfather started to explain, “that’s the way people communicated way back when. Their picture engravings tell us about their history. Those rock carvings were the way they wrote.”
“Cool, Grandpa,” replied Riley ready to soak up every word his grandfather said to him. “And, simple things like some circles say things?”
“Yep,” said his grandfather. “There can be one to four rings, Rocky,” he said, sounding as if he had Native American blood in his veins. “They describe life from birth to death. Depending on the ring or hoops, they can mean things like bless, heal and protect.”
Strange sensations tingled through him. It was as if his cousin William was shaking his hand with a hidden joy buzzer, the vibration shooting through his hand and up his arm, scaring the daylights out of him. He sat up and kicked is legs over the side of his bed. Bending forward he leaned toward the light and held the arrowhead under the shade. Nothing showed up. Then he realized he hadn’t checked the side he had just cleaned. He turned the arrowhead over and held it close to the light. That’s when he saw it. The reflection of what looked like a circle bounced off the shinny Bears helmet. The navy blue helmet didn’t’ make the markings on the arrowhead very clear, but it did show Riley that the circles he saw could be an ancient Apache symbol; maybe more. He had a magnifying glass somewhere in his room. He used it mainly to turn the sun’s rays into hot pinpoints trying to start a piece of scrap paper or cardboard on fire. “I don’t know Apache,” he muttered, his frustration level growing, “But, I’m going to find out.” He was out of bed and opened his closet door to be greeted by a mound of his clothes, athletic gear, scattered school books and several Oreo cookie wrappers. Most important there was a book he got a year ago at Christmas about Native Americans and their symbols, carvings and petroglyphs. Magnifying glass in one hand and the arrowhead in the other, he held it up to the closet light. There was a large circle with two smaller circles underneath and attached to the larger one. “What the heck is that?” he asked his closet.
He turned the arrowhead over until the two smaller circles were on top of the larger one. Then he turned the arrowhead back to where the two smaller circles were under the larger one. His grandfather’s explanations of circles and figures were vivid. One in particular stood out and he wondered asking silently, “Am I looking at the top or the bottom?” He could hear his grandfather explain to him: “Rocky, if the Indians drew a figure upside down, it meant death.”
Riley’s next glance at the arrowhead had him wondering. “Death,” he thought, as his cherished arrowhead was quickly losing his interest. “Why would some Indian want me dead?” he asked his bedroom. “I wasn’t even born back then. What did I do to hurt them?” Riley thought for a moment then began feeling more secure. “Heck,” he muttered, “that was then and this is now. There aren’t no bows and arrows around for some warrior to use on me.” He felt better and rotated the arrowhead so the two smaller circles were now on top of the larger circle. That’s when Riley “Rocky” Stone’s knees almost gave way.

Chapter 2

R
iley knew all about being scared. So he thought. His cousins would sneak up on him unsuspecting, grab his arms or pinch his butt and shout, “Boo!” or some other unintelligible screaming yell designed to make a person jump. William was the best, but his friends from St. Priscilla’s were a close second. This time, however, scared took on a whole new dimension. He couldn’t go back to bed because sleeping was out of the question; not with what he saw or thought he saw after he accidentally dropped the arrowhead that felt on fire. The arrowhead sat looking up at him from the mound of his belongings on the closet floor challenging him, saying, “Okay, Rocky, just how brave are you? Brave enough to be an Apache warrior. Brave enough to find the Lost Dutchman? Brave enough to take on the Superstition Mountains?”

Riley found himself sweating, his hands trembling. The Saturday morning light worked its way through his bedroom window curtains, the ones covered with all kinds of balls from different sporting events. He spied the Oreo wrappers around the arrowhead and felt as if he hadn’t eaten for a week. In an instant he picked up his arrowhead, turned off the closet light and was down the stairs from his converted bedroom in the attic of their house and on his way to the kitchen. When he heard his name he had almost shot straight up as if launched from the mini-tramp in their back yard when he heard his name. The only reflex that mattered to him was that his arrowhead stayed clutched in his hand.
“Riley,” his mother repeated. “Are you feeling okay?”
Even knowing it was his mother talking couldn’t keep him from turning ashen. “I’m fine, Mom,” he stammered.
“You don’t look fine,” she said. Then turning to Riley’s father who sat at the rectangular light pine kitchen table she said, “He doesn’t look fine, does he JR?”
“Ah, he looks okay,” his father said. “Probably suffering from jet lag and worn out from being drug all over the Sonoran Desert by my screwball father, the reincarnation of Grizzly Adams.” His father’s head went slowly from side to side several times. “My father is the ultimate piece of work. I’m still at a loss as to how my mother managed to stay with him all of these years.”
“I sure hope he’s not coming down with that awful Valley Fever,” his mother replied. The palm of her hand went to Riley’s forehead. “Do you have a fever?” she asked, her hand traveling down to one cheek and then the other.
“I’m fine, Mom,” he said.
“Why are you up so early?” his father asked. “Usually we have to dynamite you out of bed.”
“I couldn’t sleep,” he said, taking a half gallon carton of milk from the refrigerator and pulling a chair away from the kitchen table. “Maybe you were right, Mom. Maybe I have that jet lag thing you talked about.” He wanted to tell his parents what he saw etched into one side of his arrowhead, but he feared they wouldn’t believe him. Worse yet, his mother would probably make him throw the arrowhead in the trash or the recycle bin. She was always warning him about his room being filled with clutter. He could feel the arrowhead in his pocket. There was no way he was going toss out the Apache treasure he had found on the trail he had hiked with his grandfather up on the Superstition Mountains.
“Well,” his father started with a big smile, that was uncharacteristic of him. A quick upturn at the corners of his mouth meant uproarious to his father who walked around most times with a bored look on his face. “Guess where this here Stone family is going in little over a month once school gets out?” He didn’t give his son a chance to answer. “Your Grandpa and Grandma Stone in Arizona are treating all of us, your two cousins and your aunt and uncle, to a trip to Disney World.”
The milk carton slipped from Riley’s hand and he caught it just before it had a chance to land in his lap. “Disney World,” he repeated fighting the urge to run back to his room and hide under his bed. He didn’t hear a word of explanation coming from his father; never noticed his mother’s enthusiasm about being told of the trip by her in-laws. It was an early Christmas present. Riley’s grandmother had won the grand prize in a contest that she had entered. His grandmother was always entering contests or trying to be the seventh caller or entering the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes without buying any magazines. Once a month, it seemed, she would call her daughter-in-law, Riley’s mother, telling her the good news about winning dinner for two or a pair of tickets to something. She had won a flat screen television; there were two free golf lessons where she left after one and a half because the golf store wanted to sell her a three hundred dollar driver that would elevate her game to where she could possibly compete on the LPGA tour. His grandmother was lucky she could even hit a golf ball. Hitting it long and straight, even down the middle of the fairway, was impossible.
“Grandma really won a trip like that?” asked Riley, not surprised that she had, but more astonished at her string of luck. At least six to eight times a year his grandmother would call the house, her “hello” starting out with, “Guess what I won?”
Riley’s father could never get over his mother’s luck. “I’ve never won a single thing in my entire life,” he would carp. “That mother of mine must wear a necklace of four leaf clovers and have rabbit feet earrings.” He’d pause after his stock comment, think about what he would say next and then say it, the same comment all the time. “She must have a lucky horseshoe up her backside.”
Riley’s mother would admonish his father, sigh and add. “I guess you’re right. I just wish I had her luck.”
Riley’s father let out a laugh “Why do you need her luck?” he asked. “She just gave you the grand prize. Eight of us are going to Disney World. All we’ve got to do is keep the kids fed and us adults ever mindful of cocktail hour.”

What shook up Riley before he heard about the family vacation to Orlando, Florida was the face engraved on the back of his arrowhead. He was sure it was Mickey Mouse. He would probably had never noticed it if he hadn’t rotated his prize find. At first glance, upside down, all he saw was a big circle with two tiny circles underneath looking like tiny legs supporting the big circle. He blinked thinking he would see two dots and a curving smile representing a Happy Face. There wasn’t a face, happy or sad. He gave his treasure a slow turn until the tiny legs took on a new meaning. “Gee,” he whispered. “I don’t believe it.” He paused, caught his breath and gave the arrowhead a turn into its original position. “Looks like a crystal ball with round feet,” he said. The arrowhead got another slow turn until the feet no longer looked like feet. “It can’t be,” he muttered fighting the urge to run down the stairs to the bathroom. “It can’t be.”

Riley studied the arrowhead and the almost perfect trio of circles. “William’s never gonna believe this. He ain’t never gonna believe it,” he said, with a sigh. “Oh, man, he’s gonna laugh his butt off at me. Laugh his butt off!”
The arrowhead felt warm in Riley’s hand; at the same time it was almost pushing against his palm as if trying to get his attention; to tell him something. That something was what Riley didn’t want to know. “We’re goin’ to Disney World,” he said. His head went from side to side.