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Willa Cather Foundation - Red Cloud Nebraska (NE)

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The Island in the Republican River

The Island in the Republican River

The island appears in a number of Cather stories. In Lucy Gayheart winter prevails on the island, with black willows, twisted scrub oaks, and the bronze light of a winter sunset. In "The Enchanted Bluff," it is summertime with its yellow-green willows, new sand, and skeletons of turtles and fish. The island marks both the beginning and the fulfillment of a dream in "The Treasure of the Far Island."

An island like this was a playground for the Cather and Miner children; they came southwest from Red Cloud over open fields to the river, where they used an old boat to reach the island. A number of major floods on the Republican River have changed the location of the islands and even the river's course, but we imagine that the islands we see today are similar to the ones Cather described.