I remember back when I was in the 4th grade and when my teacher, Mrs. Lyman, read Where the Red Fern Grows to the class… I hung on every word she read.
I have read this book a number of times since then. I consistently get somewhat emotional when I read it because I can personally relate to so many of the experiences Billy had in this story while I was growing up in Monticello, Utah.
In fact, I started reading Where the Red Fern Grows, to my 5th-grade class, but couldn’t get past the first chapter because I got too “choked up” and had to quit and have a parent volunteer finish it. This book is on my “Top 10” favorites book list.
I’ve had a few dogs that I loved over the years, but my favorite was Charlie… I have fond memories of him and the many adventures we shared together in the outdoors; hiking, exploring, and camping.
I also served a LDS mission to the Ozarks, so I am quite familiar with the environment and surroundings that Billy (Wilson Rawls) grew up.
Quotes cited from “Where the Red Fern Grows” follow this format: (Page Number)
That Time in a Boy’s Life
1. I suppose there’s a time in practically every young boy’s life when he’s affected by that wonderful disease of puppy love. I don’t mean the kinda boy has for the pretty girl that lives down the road. I mean the real kind, the kind that has four feet and a wiggly tail, and sharp little teeth that can gnaw on a boy’s finger; the kinda boy can romp and play with, even eat and sleep with. (7)
Comment: I have experienced this kind of love for a dog as a young boy… it is fantastic and very real!
Old Dan and Little Ann
2. Still mumbling names over and over, I glanced up. There, carved in the white bark of a sycamore tree, was a large heart. In the center of the heart were two names, “Dan” and “Ann.” The name Dan was a little larger than Ann. It was wide and bold. The scar stood out more. The name Ann was small, neat, and even. I stared unbelievingly–for there were my names. They were perfect. I walked over and picked up my pups. Looking at him, I said, “Your name is Dan. I’ll call you Old Dan.” Looking at her, I said, “Your name, little girl, is Ann. I’ll call you Little Ann.” (48)
Comment: The things that you need in life almost always appear when you are ready for them and when you look at them.
Nickels and Dimes
3. It was then I realized it was all too perfect. Here in this fisherman’s camp, I had found the magazine and the ad. I looked over at the old sycamore log. There I had asked God to help me get two hound pups. There were the pups, rolling and playing in the warm sand. I thought of the old K. C. Baking Powder can, and the fishermen. How freely they had given their nickels and dimes. I looked up again to the names carved in the tree. Yes, it was all there like a large puzzle. Piece by piece, each fit perfectly until the puzzle was complete. It could not have happened without the help of an unseen power. (48)
Comment: I have learned in life that our desires can become manifest if we give them enough attention and work towards that end.
4. Grandpa stopped talking for a few minutes. I could see a faraway look in his eyes. Once again he was living in those long-ago days. I waited in silence for him to go on with his story. (58)
Comment: At 55, I can relate to that faraway look… I find myself undergoing this condition more and more as I reminisce about my past experiences in life being affected by everyday reminders.
Tears of Happiness
5. This is what I had prayed for, worked and sweated for, my own little hounds bawling on the trail of a river coon. I don’t know why I cried, but I did. While the tears rolled, I whooped again and again. (73)
Comment: I know why he cried… Billy worked hard for something that he really wanted and realized that with effort dreams can come true.
6. If a man’s word isn’t any good, he’s not good himself. (81)
Comment: I’ve grown weary of the stench of lies. They are everywhere and such a drag on life.
7. As our buggy wound its way up through the bottoms, Grandpa started talking. “You know, Billy,” he said, “about this tree-chopping of yours, I think it’s all right. In fact, I think it would be a good thing if all young boys had to cut down a big tree like that once in their life. It does something for them. It gives them determination and willpower. That’s a good thing for a man to have. It goes a long way in his life. The American people have a lot of it. They have proved that all down through history, but they could do with a lot more of it.” (89)
Comment: Self-efficacy… such an important characteristic to have in one’s life!
8. I went to my mother and asked her if God answered prayers every time one was said. She smiled and said, “No, Billy, not every time. He only answers the ones that are said from the heart. You have to be sincere and believe in Him.” (121)
Comment: I believe in prayer… it works. I don’t know how or why, but when you ask God, with a sincere heart, for that which you need you will receive.
Deepest Kind of Love
9. “Men,” said Mr. Kyle, “people have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time. One never knows what they’ll do. You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down his life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don’t. I may be wrong, but I call it love–the deepest kind of love.” “It’s a shame that people all over the world can’t have that kind of love in their hearts,” he said. “There would be no wars, slaughter, or murder; no greed or selfishness. It would be the kind of world that God wants us to have–a wonderful world.” (214)
Comment: This sentiment reflects my highest hopes and dreams. Love is a characteristic that I strive for and try to practice every day. I am not very good at it yet; it is not in my nature, but I am aware of the importance and necessity of love for others in our lives and am working hard to master it.
Time Well Spent
10. I looked at his grave and, with tears in my eyes, I voiced these words: “You were worth it, old friend, and a thousand times over.” In my heart, I knew that there in the grave lay a man’s best friend. (236)
Comment: There are some people in my life that I feel this way about… the time and effort spent on them was well worth it!
Images – Post image: “Ferns?” by pixydust8605 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Quotes – Rawls, W. (1961). Where the Red Fern Grows. New York, N.Y.: Laurel-Leaf an imprint of Random House Children’s Books a division of Random House, Inc.