Where the Red Fern Grows Chapter 19
It is three weeks after the contest, and Billy is still hunting. He takes his dogs out for a hunt and Old Dan immediately finds a trail. Billy follows his dogs. When he arrives at the tree, he notices something is different. Old Dan's fur is sticking up and he stops bawling. Billy knows what is in the tree and this frightens him. It isn't a coon - it is a mountain lion. The lion darts out of the tree at Old Dan. Little Ann jumps into the fight. The lion is tearing them up. Billy cries and jumps into the fight with his ax. Just as the lion is about to attack Billy, Old Dan and Little Ann save him. They put themselves in between the lion and Billy. The fight continues all the way down the mountain. It is a hideous sight. The lion has Old Dan by the throat and Little Ann hangs off of the lion in an attempt to get it off Old Dan's throat. Billy jumps in and smashes his ax right into the back of the lion. It releases its grip from Old Dan's neck. At this point, Old Dan and Little Ann are cut up badly, but they still try and suck the life out of the cat. Slowly, the cat loses its life, but Old Dan still will not let go. Billy sits down to pull himself together. He looks at the ax covered in blood and can't help but think of Rubin Pritchard. He says that in all evil there is a little bit of good.
Billy finally pulls Old Dan away from the lion. He inspects both Old Dan and Little Ann's wounds. Little Ann is ok, except for one long cut in her shoulder. Old Dan is bleeding from wounds all over the place. Billy thinks he is bleeding to death. He mixes some of Old Dan's blood with some dirt and patches up his wounds so as to stop the bleeding. Billy finds his lantern and gets his bearings. He thanks his dogs for saving his life:
"I knelt down and put my arms around them. I knew that if it hadn't been for their loyalty and unselfish courage I would have probably been killed by the slashing claws of the devil cat. 'I don't know how I'll ever pay you back for what you've done,' I said, 'but I'll never forget it.'" Chapter 19, pg. 230
They start to make their way home, but along the way Billy hears a cry. It is Old Dan. Billy and Little Ann run back to find him. The sight is too much for Billy to take. Old Dan's entrails are out of his deep wound and they are entangled in the brush. Billy helps him free and wraps him up. He leaves his ax and lantern behind and carries Old Dan home. Mama doctors the dogs' wounds. Billy tells everyone what happened. His sisters are especially upset. When he tells them that the dogs saved his life, Mama can't stand it anymore. She can't stand knowing how close Billy came to death. They are all worried about the dogs and wonder if Old Dan is going to die. Papa says that all they can do is wait.
A short while goes by and Old Dan dies. Papa carries him out onto the porch. Billy is shaken up and Mama is so upset she doesn't even know what to say to him. Papa tells him not to think about it too much because he still has Little Ann.
That night Billy decides to sit up. He can't sleep anyway. He hears a whimpering sound and thinks it is Old Dan. But when he goes out onto the porch to see, he sees Little Ann lying next to Old Dan. She has never slept apart from him. The sight is too much for Billy to bear and he runs down through the fields as far as he can until he falls and hits his face on the river's bank. He cries until he can't cry anymore and when he finally wakes up, it is morning. Billy goes home and prepares a box to bury Old Dan in. Papa offers to help, but Billy wants to do it by himself. He buries Old Dan up on the hillside where beautiful wild mountain flowers will grow in the spring. He also chooses the spot because from this hillside, a view of the whole countryside can be seen. Billy thinks that maybe on moonlit nights, Old Dan will be able to hear the baying of hunting hounds. Billy sits down at his grave and thinks back to all of the memories. He says that it was worth it and in the grave is man's best friend.
Two days later, Mama tells Billy to find Little Ann because she hasn't been eating. He finds her under a blackberry bush and the life is almost drained out of her. Billy tries pouring liquid down her throat but it does no good; she has no will to live without Old Dan. Billy is miserable. He lays Little Ann on the porch where he laid Old Dan. That night, she leaves and goes to Old Dan's grave. Billy runs there and finds her dead with her head on his grave. She used the last ounce of energy to drag herself up the hill. Billy cries. He doesn't understand why this had to happen to his dogs. Mama comes to the grave and consoles Billy. Papa calls them to the house. Supper is ready and Mama tells Billy that they should leave. Billy feels badly about leaving Little Ann, so he makes a bed of leaves for her and will come back to bury her in the morning.
Billy and Mama go back to the house. Papa tries to make Billy understand that he needs to be a man now. He tells him that everything happens for a reason. Papa goes into the bedroom and when he comes out he has Mama's shoe box that she keep her valuables in. Papa opens the box. With the money from the coonskins and the prize money from the contest, the family now has enough money to move to town and for the children to have a better education. The dogs helped answer Mama's prayers. Papa explains to Billy that when they finally had enough money, they decided to move to town, but because they didn't want to separate Billy from his dogs, they were going to leave him to live with and help take care of Grandpa. Papa says that because God doesn't like to see families separated, he took Billy's dogs away, but it is because of the dogs that they are able to move to town. Billy does not like this explanation.
After dinner, Billy goes to bed, but he doesn't fall asleep. Mama tries to console Billy again, but it is no use. He doesn't fall sleep. Instead, he gets up and stares at the lonely, empty doghouse. Mama comes in only to find Billy crying. She wishes she could do something to help him, but he insists that no one can do anything. He feels badly for making her feel bad, but he just can't help it.
The next morning, he makes a box for Little Ann. His sisters start to help him, but they end up running into the house crying. He buries Little Ann next to Old Dan. Billy finds a stone and carves their names in it. He asks Mama if God has a place in heaven for dogs where they can hunt. She assures Billy that they have much more in heaven than they do here on earth. Billy cries again, but tells Mama that he feels a little bit better now. Mama is happy to hear this, as she hates to see her son so sad.