Study Guide

Where the Red Fern Grows Chapter 4

By Wilson Rawls

Chapter 4

  • So, Billy is well on his way to fulfilling his lifelong dream of owning two hunting hounds. Sure, he's a kid, so we're not talking a decades-long dream of anything, but still.
  • After checking every day at his grandpa's store for a letter from the kennels, since, you know, he can't exactly track his package online, he finally hears that the pups should arrive in a couple of weeks.
  • The only catch is that the buggy doesn't come all the way out to their tiny little town, so the pups will be delivered to the town of Tahlequah, about 30 miles away.
  • So Billy waits and waits (this kid has some serious patience), until he finally hears that the pups have arrived.
  • But. No one is going into Tahlequah for another week, so he pups just have to sit there until someone will give him a ride in.
  • Well, little Billy has finally had enough waiting. You thought it was never going to happen, right?
  • That night he packs a bag full of food and sneaks out of the house to go get his pups by himself.
  • Tahlequah is 32 miles by road, but only 20 through the woods, so obviously he heads straight into the woods. In the middle of the night.
  • Did we mention this kid was determined? And maybe a little dim-witted?
  • Billy travels all night and into the morning before resting. He was tired, but "had the wind of a deer, the muscles of a country boy, a heart full of dog love, and a strong determination" (4.24). Scared? No way.
  • But you know what is scary? Tahlequah. It's the biggest town he's ever seen. Some of the buildings are two stories high. Seriously! Two whole stories!
  • Plus, there's the town marshal (like a cop). This is super scary, because all Billy has read in stories is that marshals are super dangerous and quick with their guns.
  • But the craziest thing about town is that he can see a reflection of himself in a store window. This is seriously the first time he's ever seen a full reflection of himself.
  • Wait, without a full-length mirror, how does he know if those overalls make him look fat?
  • He decides to buy some gifts for his family to smooth over the fact that he left home in the middle of the night without telling anyone. Even parents in early twentieth-century rural America aren't too okay with that.
  • As he heads toward the depot to pick up his dogs, he sees kids playing on a school playground.
  • One of the boys from the playground makes fun of him for not having shoes and being from the hills.
  • When the bell rings, and Billy is left alone, he tries to play on the playground like the students. But he ends up falling and being laughed at by the gardener.
  • All in all, his trip to town hasn't started off too well.