Where The Red Fern Grows: Chapter 18
Summary – Chapter Eighteen
The storm blows itself out before dawn. Billy cannot hear the dogs but thinks he can hear someone whooping. The judge says he thinks it is the men from the camp searching for them. They whoop in return and the searchers answer them.
The searchers arrive and tell them that 25 men have been looking for them since around midnight. They are also told that the walker hounds caught three coons before the storm and they need to catch this last one.
Mr. Benson appears and says he has seen Billy’s hounds and at first he thought they were ghosts as they were white and covered in ice from their noses to their tails. Billy screams, runs to his father and faints. When he comes round, Mr Benson apologizes and says he did not mean to imply they were dead.
The men cut two poles to make a stretcher for Grandpa and when it is ready they place him on it. Billy’s father and some of the other men take him off and the rest go with Billy to where Mr. Benson last saw the dogs.
They find them trotting round and round the tree in which they have trapped the coon and are as white as was reported earlier. Billy thinks they are this white because they must have followed the coon into the river. One of the men says the dogs know that if they stop moving they will freeze to death.
They build a large fire for the dogs and little by little the hunters help to gently remove the ice. Mr. Benson says he has never seen hounds stay with a tree under such conditions and Mr. Kyle, whose dog came second in the best-looking dog competition, says he thinks it is love.
Once the dogs warm up, Billy says they are ready and someone shoots his father’s gun to run the coon out of the tree. When it jumps out, Old Dan makes a lunge and the coon springs on his head and bites his ear. Old Dan slips and Little Ann jumps in and closes her jaws on the coon’s neck. Billy knows the fight is now over.
They return to camp and he sees their tent is the only one still standing as everyone wanted to leave before another blizzard sets in. There is still a crowd, though, and the man holding the jackpot gives it to Billy (and it is over 300 dollars). Billy whispers his thanks and is presented with the cup and everyone cheers. He cries a little and the judge tells him he will take the cup to an engraver’s in Oklahoma City and this has already been paid for by the association. He thinks of his sister waiting for him and he says he would rather take it home. The judge laughs and says he will give him the address to send it to.
Grandpa is taken to town in the doctor’s car and after packing, Billy and his father pack and leave. They reach Grandpa’s store by the middle of the afternoon.
When they reach home, his sisters come running out and he gives the gold cup to the youngest one as he promised and the silver one to the other sisters. His father gives his mother the box of money and says it is a present from Old Dan and Little Ann. She is moved and Billy hears her thank God and say her prayers have been answered.
They celebrate that night as though it is Christmas and as Billy gets ready for bed he notices a light outside. He looks out and sees his mother carrying two plates heaped high with food for the dogs. While they are eating, he sees his mother kneel down and pray. He also sees her dab her eyes and he wonders later why she has been so moved. He later hears his parents talk and presumes they want him to work in the store to help Grandpa.
Analysis – Chapter Eighteen
Billy’s success in the championships is made all the more remarkable by the obstacles he overcomes. His grandfather is injured, the blizzard makes the evening more perilous, and against the odds his relatively small dogs stay with a ‘treed’ coon even though they are freezing.
The win also means that his parents now have the 300 dollars from the collected jackpot and some mystery is given over to the conversation his parents have. Billy also notices his mother pray, and sees how moved she is, and this suggests that the money has come at a vital time.