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Where the Red Fern Grows

Wilson Rawls

Chapters 10-11

Chapters 7-9

Chapters 12-13

Billy's mama makes him a coonskin cap out of his first hide. He goes coon hunting almost every night. His coons become smarter and smarter. His grandfather says that coonskin prices are going up, because there is a fad for coonskin coats in the New England states. Meanwhile, Billy's papa relieves him of his chores, so Billy can hunt all he wants. Billy goes to his grandfather's store and sells his skins and gives the money to his father.

Sometimes, coons try to trick his dogs and Old Dan gets into trouble. One night, as they are hunting, Billy loses track of his dogs. Finally, Little Ann comes to him, looking worried. She whines, and sniffs at an embankment. Billy is bewildered, until he realizes that she is sniffing at a small muskrat hole. He bends down, and can hear Old Dan inside. He has to run home to get a shovel to dig the muddy dog out.

Another night, Billy finds Old Dan has climbed a tree. The skunk is higher up in the ground, and Little Ann is barking down below. Billy sees that his dog climbed up through a hollow in the trunk. He climbs up and pushes the dog down, but Old Dan immediately climbs back up. Billy again has to force him to go down and then jump down and hold him.

One night, Little Ann gets into trouble. The first snow has come, and Billy knows that coons sometimes play deadly tricks on hounds in snow and ice. When he no longer hears the bark of Little Ann, his blood freezes. He finds her way out on the river. She has fallen through the ice and is barely hanging on to some ice. Billy thinks it is hopeless. He sits down and prays for a miracle. Then his lantern, which he pushed out onto the ice with a stick, makes a noise. Its handle has fallen down. Billy realizes he can curve the lantern handle into a hook and fish Little Ann out of the river with a long stick. He saves her. When he goes home, he thinks about the lantern handle that fell as he prayed. He asks his mother if all prayers are answered. She thinks it is very sweet that he has asked such a question.

Commentary

This section of the novel establishes Billy's coon hunting routine. Although only exceptional hunts where one of the hounds is almost hurt are discussed, we learn about how the process usually works. We see how Billy learns to follow the chase with his ears, understanding what is happening even if he can't see it. We see how his dogs have become more experienced. When we learn that he is in the habit of going to the store and swapping stories with other coon-hunters, we are not surprised. When we learn that his hounds are getting reputations for being skilled hunting dogs, we are not surprised. We have seen evidence of their skill in action.

The theme of religion continues. Billy said a prayer when he wanted dogs, and he got them. He said a prayer when he got blisters on his hands and thought he could never chop down the big sycamore tree, but then the wind blew it over. And when Little Ann was about to freeze to death, the lantern handle clanged down while he was praying for a miracle, giving him the idea to make a hook. Later he lets the lantern sit in his room, handle up, but the handle never falls down as it did when he was praying. The little boy becomes convinced that his prayers are being answered.

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