Where The Red Fern Grows: Chapter 10,11,12
Summary – Chapters Ten, Eleven and Twelve
His mother makes him a cap from his first hide and says later that she wishes she had not done so as this seems to make him ‘coon crazy’. He goes out hunting every night unless the weather is terrible.
As his grandfather had predicted, the price of coon skins rises and a good size one is worth between four and 10 dollars. Billy gives the money he earns to his father and he supposes he is saving it as nothing new is being bought. He is only interested in his dogs, so pays little attention to this.
When he takes the skins to his grandfather at the store, he does notice he keeps a record of them but is told to ‘never mind’ when he asks him why. While there, he joins in the conversations with other coon hunters and tells them his hunting tales. He exaggerates like the others do, but if he goes too far his grandfather crams soap into his pocket (as a means to quiete him). Some of the men tease him about the small size of his dogs. He takes this with a smile on his face, but is angry inside.
The narrative shifts to his pride in his dogs and how they ‘tree’ a coon in a birch that hangs over the stream. He hits the coon with a large switch and it falls into the river. The dogs chase it and Old Dan ends up in a muskrat den. Billy fetches a shovel and washes him once he has dug him out. Inevitably, the dogs kill the coon once they catch it.
On another occasion, they ‘tree’ a coon and he finds Old Dan 15 feet up in the tree. He has climbed up inside the dead hollow of the tree and Billy crawls after him. He brings him down and only stops his return by blocking the hole with rocks. He finally scares the coon out of the tree by throwing a rock at it and Old Dan satisfies his lust to kill.
In Chapter Eleven, Billy wonders how Old Dan would react if Little Ann finds herself in a predicament. The chapter then proceeds to relate a time when this has happened.
There is a blizzard and for several days he is trapped indoors. When it stops, they go out hunting and the dogs chase a coon towards the river. He follows them and notices they have stopped barking. Old Dan goes on to give a continuous cry and it sounds like a cry for help. Billy finds him and shouts for Little Ann. He hears her, and realizes she must be in the icy water.
She begs for his help, but parts of the river are frozen and he knows he does not have time to go home for rope or his father’s help. He finds some cane and uses it to stretch the lantern out to see what has happened. He is able then to see that she has her head and front paws out of the water and her paws are on the ice. Her claws are digging into the ice and this is saving her.
He kneels down and sobs out a prayer and asks for a miracle. After this, he thinks he hears a rattling of a chain on a boat. He shouts for help, but only hears Little Ann’s cries in response.
He realizes the sound of metal has come from his lantern and thinks this is the miracle he has been hoping for. With his cane he feels for the bottom of the water and finds it is only 18 inches. He then fishes the lantern back to the bank and takes the handle off it. He straightens it and bends a hook in the end and with a shoelace he ties the wire to the end of the cane pole.
He takes his clothes off and wades out; he breaks the ice with his ax as he moves along. When the water reaches his chin, he is able to reach Little Ann with his pole and tries to hook her collar. He reaches her at last and drags her over the rim of the ice.
At first he thinks she is dead as she is not moving, but Old Dan licks her face and ears and she moves her head. Billy comes out of the water and once on land he lights a fire and wraps her in his coat. He massages her while Old Dan washes her and knows her circulation is improved when she makes a crying sound. He thanks the lantern for the help it has given him and knows she would have died if he had not hooked her out of the water. He also says a prayer and offers his thanks to the sycamore tree that he chopped down earlier.
He decides to not tell his parents about the accident as he does not want to worry his mother. He keeps the lantern in his room and as he has to stay home for the next few days because of a terrible cold he keeps checking the handle. It never falls and makes the same sound he heard outside even when his sister shake the house ‘from roof to the floor’.
Because of this incident, he asks his mother if she thinks God always answers her prayers. She smiles and says ‘not every time’.
Chapter Twelve describes how the fame of his dogs spreads all over the region and his grandfather also used to exaggerate their prowess. We are told that because of this ‘a terrible thing happened’ (which is explained in the rest of the chapter and the following one).
When Billy visits the store one day, he sees the two youngest Pritchard boys arrive. It is explained how this family are not liked in the community and are referred to as ‘bootleggers, thieves, and just all-round “no-accounts”’
Rubin Pritchard is two years older than Billy and he has heard he has cut a boy in a fight. Rainie is the youngest, and is around Billy’s age: ‘He had the meanest disposition of any boy I had ever known.’ Because of this, he is disliked by everyone. He also likes to bet on anything and can never stand still.
The brothers act belligerently in the store and Rainie bets Billy that his hounds are not as good at hunting as their old blue tick hound. The two of them bet him his dogs cannot catch the ‘ghost coon’ in their area and accuse him of being ‘yeller’ when he does not answer. Billy’s grandfather calls the bet (of two dollars) and warns them they had better not be doing this to beat Billy up as otherwise he will have them put in jail.
They agree to the bet and arrange to meet Billy the next night. On the way home, Billy again decides to not tell his parents as his mother would not approve of him having anything to do with these boys.
The next night he arrives early at the meeting place and tells his dogs about the ‘ghost coon’. The Pritchard brothers arrive and by the time they reach the river bottoms it is quite dark.
The dogs pick up a trail and a description of the hunt is given. At one point, he is no longer able to hear Little Ann and is worried. He finds her and discovers she is alright and is on the other side of the bank. She returns after half an hour.
The brothers say the dogs are not going to find the coon, but Billy wants to carry on hunting. Little Ann starts to whine near a fallen tree that is resting in the water. The ‘ghost coon’ comes out of the bank and is the biggest Billy has ever seen. The coon swims off and both dogs set off after it. The coon then comes towards them and on land it runs up river with the dogs chasing it. After a while, it heads for a tree the brothers guessed it would go to. The chapter ends with Old Dan ‘barking treed’.
Analysis – Chapters Ten, Eleven and Twelve
As the hunting season progresses, Billy has more tales to tell. The incident concerning Little Ann on the ice is of particular notes as this highlights the connection between the two dogs as well as Billy’s love for them.
His encounter with the Pritchard brothers and the bet he makes to catch the ‘ghost coon’ is in keeping with one who is so proud of the ability of his dogs. This story also adds to the level of excitement of this adventure as his conflict with the two unlikeable boys becomes a tale of good versus evil on a micro level.