On my version of Throwback Thursdays, I review a book that’s been around for awhile and tell you why you should read (or reread) it.
Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, was published in 1961, and introduced me to a world I had no idea existed.
I grew up in a fairly rural area in Pennsylvania. My home was an old farmhouse without any kind of central heating system. My bedroom had an electric light, but no electrical outlets. We had a large yard that butted up to a forest. I had heard that someone owned the land the forest sat on, but no one seemed to know who it was, so I spent my childhood roaming that woods. I went to a regular school and had to walk a block to the bus stop in an area without sidewalks; I pretty much walked on the road to get there.
Where the Red Fern Grows is set in the Ozark Mountains, and Billy is a young boy who wants a pair of Redbone hunting hounds more than anything else in the world. Billy and I had some similarities growing up; we both roamed the woods and spent much of our time barefoot. However, while I went barefoot because I liked it, Billy did it because he had no shoes. He doesn’t go to school, and when he happens to see a school “in town,” his mother gets weepy eyed because it’s her dream to send her children to a real school.
Billy’s world enthralled me as a child, and I’ve re-read this story countless times. Although this is ultimately a sad story, it’s also life-affirming. Billy wanted those dogs more than anything else, so he worked and saved to get them. He lived a lifetime with those dogs, doing things he hadn’t dreamed of doing before. It’s a story about ultimate friendship and sacrifice, about love and loss.
If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. I suppose it’s meant to be a kids’ book; after all, the main character is 10-12. I don’t care how old you are though; this book will touch something deep inside you. If you have read it, it may be time to read it again, or share it with a child. Even though it’s set in a time and place many of us aren’t familiar with, there’s something timeless about the book. I believe this is a book that should be placed proudly on your bookshelf and re-read every few years. Pick a rainy day, curl up on your couch with a mug of tea and a box of tissues, and get reacquainted with this wonderful book.