Where the Red Fern Grows Chapter 15
Grandpa, Papa, and Billy make their way to the campgrounds. They stop at night and set up a place to eat and sleep. Grandpa prepares dinner and Billy and Papa set up places for them to sleep, including beds for the dogs. Grandpa insists on feeding the dogs good food to keep them healthy for the big hunt. He makes them corned-beef hash. Old Dan waits for Little Ann to get her share before he eats his. Grandpa is astonished at how the dogs do everything together. Papa tells the story of how one time he saw the girls throw two biscuits out to Old Dan; Old Dan picked them both up and took them to the doghouse where Little Ann was so she could have one as well.
They all eat dinner and Billy drinks coffee like a man. He is pleased that Papa and Grandpa let him drink the coffee. That night Billy can't sleep, as he is excited about the hunt. He also hears all the noises of nature around him. At one point, he sits straight up because he thinks he hears two screech owls, which is a superstition that says bad luck is coming. He wakes Grandpa up, but he assures Billy that there will be no bad luck. Billy feels better once he convinces himself that it was probably just one owl that flew over to another tree.
The next morning, they pack up and leave. They drive farther along, looking for the flag. The flag signals that they should turn off the main road. Billy sees the flag first. Driving off the main road, they see smoke rising and know it is the campgrounds, where the hunt is to start. After setting up the tent, Billy goes for a walk around the grounds to look around. He can't get over how many people, cars, and hounds are there. All the dogs are good-looking, clean hounds and Billy is impressed. He hears someone mention that he must be the boy with the red hounds. He is swollen with pride. Grandpa informs Billy of the beauty contest in the morning and asks him which dog he is going to enter. Billy doesn't think he will enter either dog because compared to everyone else's dogs, his are small. Also, Billy's dogs don't look like the other dogs in that they all have nice, leather collars and have the finest combs and oils for their fur. He says he will think it over and decide in the morning.
In the morning, he decides to enter Little Ann into the beauty contest. Old Dan has too many scars and bruises from always getting into fights. Billy goes to find Grandpa and Papa to tell them he will enter Little Ann, but they aren't around. Billy looks down and sees Grandpa's combs sitting out. He takes them and along with some butter, combs and smoothes Little Ann's fur; until she looks perfect. Billy walks over to the long table where all the contestants are with their dogs. Judges start eliminating dogs, and after a while, there is only Little Ann and one other dog left. Billy is overjoyed and his heart is pounding. He can't believe she made it this far. The judges can't decide, so Billy and Mr. Kyle, the owner of the other dog, both go to one end of the table and call their dogs over to them. This is 'the walk', and the judges will decide on a winner depending on which dog walks more gracefully. Mr. Kyle's dog starts to walk down the table, but then jumps off. Billy is worried that Little Ann will do the same, but instead she stuns the crowd:
"As graceful as any queen, with her head high in the air, and her long red tail arched in a perfect rainbow, my little dog walked down the table. With her warm gray eyes staring straight at me, on she came. Walking up to me, she laid her head on my shoulder. As I put my arms around her, the crowd exploded." Chapter 15, pg. 178
Little Ann wins a small silver cup. Billy is so proud of his dog, he cries.
That evening, the rules are given for the hunt. The hunt will start tonight. Each night, five sets of hounds will go out, each with a judge. Whichever set of hounds catches the most coon skins by morning will be declared the winner of that particular night, and will go on to the final runoff in a few days. Each person is allowed to bring an ax, a lantern, and a gun. There will be five nights of hunting and each hunter will draw a card to see which night he will go. Billy draws and sees he is to go on the fourth night.
That night, the hunters not in the contest for that night sit around and drink coffee and tell stories while they listen to the hounds hunting. Billy feels a bit out of place in his old shoes and clothes, but the hunters treat him just like any other man. By morning, two blue tick hounds came out ahead with treeing three coons. The next morning, no one beat those blue ticks, so all five sets were eliminated. And by the third morning, two black and tan hounds were tied with the blue tick hounds. On that morning, Billy sees Grandpa take his comb out of his bag. Just as Grandpa is about to say something about the hair and grease, Billy slips out of the tent. He knows Grandpa isn't mad at him, but he doesn't want to be around him at the moment. Billy feeds Old Dan and Little Ann. One hunter comes up to him and asks him if it is true that his dogs have really treed six coons in one night. Billy knows this is not true, because his dogs have only treed three coons in one night. He knows that it is just Grandpa bragging and exaggerating a little bit.