Each week, this meme invites you to cast your mind back across those books you’ve read that left a lasting impression.
For those of you haven’t read Red Fern, it’s the story of Billy, a young boy growing up in the Ozarks who only wants one thing — two coon hounds. Billy spends two years earning money and saving it up to purchase his two hounds, who he christens Old Dan and Little Anne. The book focuses on Billy’s training and bonding with his animals as well as their treeing and bringing down a legendary wily raccoon.
And then, as all books about dogs must, things take a tragic turn when you reach the final chapters.
If you’ve read the book, you know what I’m talking about.
While out hunting one night, Billy is threatened by a mountain lion. Dan and Anne battle the mountain lion, but Dan is mortally wounded and passes away. Then Little Anne dies of sadness at missing her brother and Billy find her on his grave. And this is where the red fern of grows.
It’s interesting that the last two weeks for WBW have focused on dogs. And while they’re very different, they have a lot of similarities. Both Cujo and Red Fern start off with beloved pets who meet a tragic end. The difference is that Ol’ Dan and Little Anne never become rabid dogs on a killing rampage as Cujo does. But they still meet a tragic end.
I’m not sure how many times I read this one growing up. I think a teacher read this book to us in school first and I sought it out afterward. I checked it out of the library often growing up and each time I read it, I felt a growing sense of dread as we got toward that monumental chapter with the mountain lion.
I have memories of another book or two by Rawls sitting on the library shelf but I never picked them up. I wasn’t sure if his other book or books would follow a similar path as Red Fern and I honestly wasn’t really sure I wanted to find out.
I know there was a movie version (and there’s been another one since) and I think I saw it at one point. Of course, it was no where nearly as poignant or as moving as the book. And it didn’t make quite the same impression either.