Friday, July 4, 2014

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

I bet I have read this book 100 times. I first read it as young teen and will always recall my mother's answer to my asking for a dog, a real dog...not some small drop-kick thing (oops, sorry to you small-dog lovers) but a real dog to be by my side through thick and thin, a buddy whom I could talk to and dream big with and explore all of the wilderness outside my door. She said, "No." Now I read it about twice a year, and I still disappear into those gorgeous Ozark Mountains, hunting with Billy and his dogs in my head.

After I got my first teaching job, I waited until my fourth day in a new city to get a pup of my own. Ren was a dream dog--wiggly, soft, and all mine. He would do anything for me and yet he did a bunch for himself---chewing up parts of the rental house, running away, peeing smack dab in the center of my bed in the middle of the night, dragging a bird's talon to me after a quick escape from his leash at the beach (let me tell you: that was a disgusting treat!). But I knew Ren was dedicated to me like nothing I had experienced. We were pals through and through, and little could get inbetween us. We explored all sorts of places in the 11 years he and I were together, and while he was no Little Ann or Old Dan, he was all Ren and maybe the most amazing dog I will ever have.

I recently learned something new about Wilson Rawls, the author that I found amazing. Evidently the story in the book is autobiograhical, down to growing up scrap poor, his mama teaching him as best she could, and not having enough money to buy paper and pencil. As a teen, he left home as a teen to find work; he also started writing then, keeping all of his stories in a trunk. Before he married his wife, he took all of the stories out of that trunk and burned them. When she learned of the bonfire of his more that 300 stories, she demanded he write one for her to read. In three weeks, he recreated the bones of the book and gave it to her, leaving the house for several hours in his deep worry of his spelling errors and lack of grammatical knowledge. When he called her a few hours later, she told him to come work on it with her so they could send it in. That was the beginning of what became Where the Red Fern Grows. Here is a link to that little piece of history:

And right after you finish checking out that story on Jim Trelease's website, I know you are gonna want to go get a book and a dog, and not necessarily in that order.

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