Where the Red Fern Grows Chapter 16
The dogs tree their first coon and everyone is excited, especially Grandpa. He runs so fast that he gets caught in the brush, losing his glasses and hat in the process. They skin the coon and move on to their next coon. The next coon leads everyone across the river, where Grandpa falls in. The dogs catch the coon, it is skinned, and a fire is made. Grandpa sits by the fire and dries off. Seconds later, Old Dan darts off with Little Ann. They are on the trail of their third coon. The judge, Billy, Papa, and Grandpa make their way over to where Old Dan is barking "treed," but when they get there, there is no coon. The coon appears to have pulled a trick on the dogs. The judge and Grandpa suggest going somewhere else to hunt, as this coon seems to have fooled the dogs, but Billy insists they stay. He is very confidant in his dogs:
"Regardless of all the discouraging talk, the love and belief I had in my little red hounds never faltered. I could see them now and then, leaping over old logs, tearing through the underbrush, sniffing and searching for the lost trail. My heart swelled with pride. I whooped, urging them on." Chapter 16, pg. 188
Papa and Billy are nervous because daylight is approaching and that means the night of hunting will soon come to an end. Within seconds, they hear the bark of Little Ann. She treed the third coon. Billy says to wait for Old Dan to get to her so the coon won't be tempted to jump out of the tree. They catch and skin their third and final coon of the night. The judge explains how the coon was so tricky. The coon climbed the tree and then swung from branch to branch all the way down through the river bottoms. He says that he has never seen anything like Billy's dogs before and he thinks Billy has a good chance of winning the cup. Billy is so proud of Little Ann, but the words can't even come out because of the lump in his throat.
They all go back to the campground, where they are greeted with cheers from the other hunters. Apparently, they had seen Little Ann and Old Dan chasing the coon all the way through the campground and said it was absolutely beautiful. Billy can barely sleep from Grandpa's snoring, so he leaves the tent to sleep in between Old Dan and Little Ann. The next day, there are only three sets of hounds left in the runoff. Billy's dogs are one of them and the final competition will be tonight. The hunters are taking bets and collecting a jackpot for the winner to give along with the gold cup. A hunter comes up to Billy's family and tells them that all of the hunters are rooting for Billy, but that he has a lot of competition, for he will be going up against four of the best hounds there are. Papa assures the hunter that anything is possible, even for little dogs.
Grandpa and Billy discuss where to hunt for the coons that night. They agree to go to the swamp, as it is directly in between the mountains and the river. Billy, Papa, Grandpa, and the judge arrive at the swamp with the dogs. Billy sets them loose and he can tell that they know how important this hunt is. In minutes, the dogs are barking "treed." Everyone runs over to see and before they know it the coon heads straight for the river. The dogs jump in the river and get into a fight with the coon. Papa goes to shoot his gun, but Billy grabs it for fear that he will accidentally shoot one of his dogs. Finally, after the wrestling match in the water, the coon runs out and Old Dan catches it just as it is about to climb a tree. The coon is skinned. The judge is in awe over Little Ann licking Old Dan's cut on his ears. Billy is not surprised at all; he says they always do that, and when she is finished, he will lick her cuts. The dogs finish cleaning each other and then walk away into the darkness. Everyone follows.