Where the Red Fern Grows Chapter 7
Now that Billy has his pups, he wants a coon skin to train them how to hunt. He goes to Grandpa for advice on how to catch a coon and Grandpa tells him an old trick that he used to do when he was a boy. He used a brace and bit; the coon would stick his hand inside the brace to pick up something shiny (like a piece of a tin can) and then the coon's enclosed fist would be too big to pull it out of the brace. The coon was too stupid to drop the object and then just pull his hand through. Billy thinks Grandpa is joking with him, but finally, Billy sees he is serious. Billy makes fourteen traps just like Grandpa said and sets them all. The next morning, he is almost positive there will be coons caught in the traps, but there aren't. Billy asks Papa why and Papa says that the coons probably smelled Billy. Papa suggests that Billy wait a few more days for his scent to be gone and then to check. Billy does this and still there are no coons. He waits a week, and still, no coons. He is very discouraged. Papa encourages Billy to look at the traps again and sure enough, his first coon is in one of the traps. He is overcome with excitement.
Billy brings his dogs with him to check the traps. When Old Dan sees the coon, he immediately tries to go at it. Little Ann goes towards the coon as well. The coon grabs Old Dan and starts biting and clawing him; Little Ann comes from behind the coon, bites him on his neck, and sets Old Dan free. The dogs are hurt and whimpering. Old Dan's nose is split open and bleeding. Billy picks them both up and they run back to the house. He shouts and causes a ruckus outside. Mama, Papa, and Billy's sisters all come running outside because they think something happened; Mama thinks Billy was bitten by a snake. Everything settles down and Billy explains that he just caught the biggest coon on the river. They all go to get the coon. Papa kills it and the girls and Mama turn away. They go home and Papa skins the coon for Billy. Papa tells Billy that the younger the dogs are, the better they are for training. Billy decides to start training the very next day.
Billy's oldest sister helps him to start training the dogs. They drag the coon skin all over the place and the dogs chase after it, as if it is a real coon. Billy learns that his dogs do not like water; in fact, they are afraid of it. Even though it is difficult, he is determined to teach them how to swim: "I had a time with this part of their training, but my persistence had no bounds." Chapter 7, pg. 67 Soon, the dogs begin to love the water.
Billy continues to train his dogs all through the summer into the fall. He listens to Grandpa and the other coon hunters tell tales about their hunting adventures. Billy listens intently. Hunting season is just a few days away and Billy and his dogs are ready. He lets them rest so they will be ready for opening day. He is so happy with his dogs. He says that they have a way of communicating all on their own, but even so, Billy understands them:
"Although they couldn't talk in my terms, they had a language of their own that was easy to understand. Sometimes I would see the answer in their eyes, and again it would be in the friendly wagging of their tails. Other times I could hear the answer in a low whine or feel it in the soft caress of a warm flicking tongue. In some way, they would always answer." Chapter 7, pg. 68