Where the Red Fern Grows

By Wilson Rawls

Novel Summary

Billy lives on a farm. He wants two good coon hounds very badly, but his Papa cannot afford any. Billy works hard, selling fruit and bait to fishermen, so eventually he has enough money for the dogs. He gives the money to his grandfather, who orders the dogs for him. Billy sneaks off in the middle of the night to go to town and pick them up. While in town, other children pick on him, but he stands up for himself and is helped by the marshal. On his way home, he and his two pups sleep in a cave. Outside, they hear a mountain lion, and the pups bravely howl back. He decides to name them Old Dan and Little Ann. He can see that Old Dan is very brave, and that Little Ann is very smart. Billy and his dogs experience a variety of adventures. To prove their abilities, Billy's grandfather enters them in a coon hunting championship.
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Novel Setting

The book mainly takes place at Billy's farm in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma. Throughout the book Billy spends his time in the woods surrounding his farm and at his grandpa's store. After Billy purchases his dogs, he travels to Tahlequah to pick them up. Towards the end of the story Billy's grandfather enters him in a coon hunting contest. Billy, his father, and grandfather travel by buggy up north to participate in the contest.

Author Information

Wilson Rawls was born on September 24, 1913 in Scraper, Oklahoma to Minzy and Winnie Rawls. He grew up on a farm in the Ozark Mountains, the setting he described in his novel. There were no formal schools in the area, and Rawls's mother taught Wilson and his sisters to read and write. The Rawls children's education was supplemented with books Rawls's grandmother purchased. The books tended to be what Rawls described as "girl books" Such as Little Red Riding Hood and Chicken Little, which did not interest him.

His grandmother eventually gave Rawls a book more to his liking: Jack London's The Call of the Wild. Rawls later remarked that the book changed his life. He carried it with him wherever he went, and when he was about ten years old, Rawls decided he wanted to write a story similar to it. After sharing this desire with his family, Rawls's father told him he would need an education to become a writer. Rawls used reading as a way to educate himself, reading a large number of books, and developed an appreciation and passion for different writing styles and genres.

Rawls started writing by describing the places and surroundings of his home, scribbling on dusty country roads and sand banks along the river where he lived.