Thursday, September 20, 2012

Where the Red Fern Grows

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

My kids want a puppy so bad. Every time I take my boys to the pet store for reptile supplies (tasty mice to feed Nick’s assortment of snakes and crunchy crickets for his geckos), I head to the puppy cages. I gaze adoringly at their squirmy bodies and cute faces . . . then reality sets in. The $600 price tag. The poop matted into the fur. The chewed-up bedding. Those would-it-be-practical-for-vacations type questions. So, we do snakes instead, because puppies are for window shopping.

My first reason for liking Where the Red Fern Grows was because it brought to mind some other wonderful books. To me it has the comfortable pace, charm, and extraordinary detail of animal and farm life like All Creatures Great and Small and Charlotte’s Web. The author’s voice is folksy and likeable.

The main character, Billy, narrates his story as he reminisces about his boyhood adventures with his beloved hounds—Little Ann and Old Dan. He begins his story at age 10, describing his passion for hunting and desperation to own two hounds. Billy lives with his caring parents and three younger sisters, and the family barely survives on their modest farm in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma. Despite his family’s poverty, Billy works odd jobs for three years until he finally earns enough to purchase his dogs. The remarkable relationship the dogs have to each other and to Billy is tender and beautiful, and their many (sometimes dangerous) adventures together—night hunting wily, ring-tailed racoons, a violent evening with two vicious neighbor boys, visiting his grandpa’s store in town, and entering a hunting competition create such an enjoyable story.

Another reason I appreciate this book is that I love Billy’s displays of humble gratitude for his blessings. He prays often and attributes his blessings to God. It ends tragically, but the family shows faith that God has had a hand in their lives. Anyway, what a beautiful story.

The setting—Billy and his family’s old-timey, hillbilly existence in the Ozarks—helped me appreciate technology, modern comforts, and my education. But part of me has always longed for a simpler time and pace, and I wonder if we’re not doing our kids an injustice by not getting them a doggie.


  1. You always write so beautifully! I had to comment on this one....yes, your kids should have a dog! Don't buy one at the pet store, but from a breeder. You could come check our puppy with the kids, but she is a cutie and it will mean more begging! Jk!

  2. Thanks Christy!! :) Yeah, I go back and forth a lot with this. My kids would faint with joy. I'm sure the benefits outweigh everything else, but I don't know . . . so don't tease my kids with your cute puppy!!