We're taking a break from nailing again today. This week, Gaby has challenged us to write about a book, any book, read at any time. As a fairly voracious reader, this was a difficult one for me because there are so many to choose from. Ultimately I keep thinking back to one of the books that profoundly affected me as a kid. I'm going to basically tell the entire plot of the story, not because I'm a fan of spoilers, but because you have to know how the book ends to understand why it affected me so. Consider this fair warning.
Published in 1961, Where the Red Fern Grows was written by Wilson Rawls and tells the story of young Billy Coleman and his life growing up in the Ozarks with two redbone coonhounds.
The book opens with an adult Billy leaving work and stumbling across a redbone defending itself in a dog fight and losing. He scares off the other dogs and rescues the poor hound, nurturing it back to health, and releasing it to find its way home again. The hound reminds him of his childhood and the two redbones he had as a child, and he begins to reminisce.
Growing up poor in a poor area of the country, Billy was a child of typical country adventure. He spends his days exploring the countryside and hunting raccoons, but decides that he needs a pair of hunting dogs. He yearns for a pair of redbones, but his family can't afford them, so he takes on a series of odd jobs and saves his money to buy two pups. When finally makes the purchase, he has to walk several miles by himself to a larger town with a postal depot to collect the puppies, a boy and a girl. On the way back, he finds a tree carved with the names Dan and Ann, and decides to name his new partners Old Dan and Little Ann. He then sets about training them to hunt for raccoons, and they begin making good money selling raccoon hides to Billy's grandfather.
Eventually, after the trio become locally famous as coon hunters, they enter a championship hunt, winning not only the "Best Looking Dog" competition by Little Ann, but of course the entire hunt and all prize monies associated, which of course helps the family tremendously.
***Spoiler Alert*** (highlight over the paragraph to read the end of the synopsis)
They continue hunting together until one night, the hounds tree a mountain lion and in a devastating battle, Old Dan is mortally wounded. Little Ann, distraught, pines away and Billy finds her a few days later on Old Dan's grave, passed away herself. Of course Billy is inconsolable, but his family is planning to move into town with the money he and the dogs earned. On the day of the move, he visits the dogs' graves and finds a red fern has grown between them. Billy recalls the old Indian legend of the red fern, and how a little boy and girl were lost in a blizzard, but when their bodies were found in the spring, a red fern had grown between them. According to the legend, the red ferns are sacred and can only be planted by an angel. Billy takes comfort in this, and is finally able to move on with his life.
***End Spoiler Alert***
In essence, this is the classic American boy-and-dog story. It's full of adventures, excitement, love, compassion, loyalty, and most of all it highlights a child's love for canine companionship. I've always been a dog lover and we had several growing up. I had already known the pain of losing a dog when I read this book, so Billy's story touched me deeply because I, too, had fallen in love with the antics of his loveable hounds. The story is beautifully written and there are so many times I've thought back to that book as I've matured. It's been made into a movie and a sequel, but I don't recommend them because they cannot possibly hope to capture the raw emotion that Rawls put to paper.
I think about this book every time I am faced with a "survivalist" question - could I survive in x scenario? Wilson Rawls taught me how to make an effective raccoon trap, so long as I can find a log, some nails, and some tin scraps or other shiny things. I figure that'll be pretty handy in the zombie apocalypse.
Have you read Where the Red Fern Grows? I would love to hear if it resonated with you the way it did me. Let me know in the comments.
If you're interested in the books that inspired the other #2014BloggerChallenge participants, Gaby has a linkup on her entry, Looking for Alaska. I hope today finds you all well!