CANUTE, Okla. (KFOR) – An Oklahoma family was shocked to learn that a piece of their history was found along the banks of the Mississippi River.
“He called me on my phone one day. He says, ‘I got a story for you,'” said Ray Schones.
Schones picked up the line, unaware of the story unfolding on the other end.
“Towards the end of the day, we didn’t really come up with much and that’s when I came across the canteen laying in the sand,” said Andy Hinton, a resident of St. Louis, Missouri.
Hinton was doing something he normally does, looking for different arrowheads and trinkets as he walked along the banks of the Mississippi River.
What he found that day was special.
Hinton got the canteen cleaned up and started reading.
“I instantly knew when I had it in my hands. That once I saw someone’s first and last name on it, I said I got to find the family of who this belongs to,” said Hinton.
It’s a war-time journal of sorts; the author Raphael Schones, carved his name in the bottom.
“I don’t know why I was chosen to find it but I feel like I was put there for a reason,” said Hinton.
Hinton tracked down the Schones family on Facebook. He found them 600 miles away in Canute, Oklahoma.
“We knew nothing about it, never heard a story about it,” said Ray Schones. “When he got done talking to me, I had to raise my shirt up and wipe the tears off of my eyes.”
Rachael Dunlap drove 18-hours round trip to bring her grandfather’s canteen back home.
“You know they say you get visits from heaven, this is one of those. Grandpa is reaching out to us again,” said Dunlap.
“Andy found the needle in the haystack, didn’t he?” said Ray Schones.
Raphael Schones was drafted in his 20’s.
“When he first got into the Army, he was an expert marksmen, and then he ended up being a truck driver with his prisoners because he came from the farm and he knew how to run equipment,” said Rafael’s middle child, Doug Schones.
He served four years traveling the world, documenting his stops, engraving the journey in aluminum.
“You know, he’s thinking about home writing all that on there, putting his love life, hearts,” said Ray Schones.
If you look closely between the geography, you’ll find the first chapter of the Schones’ love story.
His future wife, Ragine.
“He knew my mom when he left and I don’t know how close they were before he left, but they must’ve been pretty close to each other you know,” said Ray Schones.
Raphael and Ragine married after his honorable discharge. They raised 5 kids: Dianne, George, Doug, Lanell, and Ray.
“Everything that is warm and good in life, that was grandpa and you can see it in that canteen,” said Dunlap.
The canteen is not the only record of those years apart; there are love letters as well.
“This one is sweet!” the Schones laughed.
Ragine, saved all of hers.
“The boys went out hunting Sunday,” said Ray as he read a letter.
The full story of the canteen is still a mystery. No one knows how it ended up in Missouri.
“Grandpa, where did you drop it at? What happened to it? How sad were you when you did realize it was missing?” said Dunlap.
What matters most is that this precious memento made it home.
“Golly, just think about that little canteen out there in this big world we live in,” said Ray Schones.