Study Guide

Where the Red Fern Grows Chapter 8

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Chapter 8

  • Hunting season is here! Let's go kill us some coons!
  • The thing about (ra)coon hunting is that you have to hunt at night. Billy's mom isn't too happy about this, but he says he'll be careful.
  • She doesn't seem too convinced, but, seriously, if any kid can handle it, we're pretty sure it's Billy.
  • Before they go out for their first hunt, Billy has a talk with his dogs. He does this a lot, so get used to it.
  • After some more pleas from his mother to be safe, Billy heads off into the woods for his first coon hunt.
  • He has another brief conversation with his pups about the difference between training and real hunting (see, we said he would do this a lot).
  • And then he sets them loose.
  • While Billy waits to hear the telltale bark of his hounds that they found something, he wanders around the woods taking in the sounds and scents of wildlife.
  • Old Dan barking soon interrupts his peaceful thoughts, and it looks like Billy will finally get his first coon.
  • He runs after them, but he can tell the coon has pulled its first wily trick and headed across the river. The hounds, being novice hunters, are confused. Billy waits to see if they remember their training and can figure out where the coon went.
  • Exciting stuff, right?
  • Okay, remember how Little Ann is the brains of this operation? While Old Dan whines at Billy for some help, Little Ann has a brain flash and takes off swimming across the river, with Old Dan following right behind her.
  • The hounds search for an hour and a half trying to find the trail. Just as it looks like the coon got away, Little Ann gets a good whiff of the coon. She and Old Dan run it up a tree. Success!
  • Let's hit the pause button: the idea of "treeing" a coon is that the dogs chase the raccoon up a tree and then guard the tree till the hunter can get there. Then the hunter either shoots the raccoon out of the tree, or cuts the tree down. Then the dogs take care of the raccoon. Yes, we know it's a bit gruesome. Circle of life and all that.
  • Now back to the story.
  • So, Billy's pups have finally treed a coon. But as nothing in Billy's life is ever easy, the dogs had treed the coon in the biggest tree in the woods: "Like a king in his own domain, it towered far above the smaller trees" (8.86).
  • The tree is too big to climb, and it will take days to chop down. Billy calls to his dogs and decides to try for a different coon.
  • Well, these hounds have made up their mind that they want this coon in this tree. They don't move a muscle and instead just look at Billy with sad puppy dog eyes, literally.
  • Billy grits his teeth, looks up at the tree, and decides he will chop it down even if it takes a year (cue inspirational music).
  • He picks up his ax and starts choppin'. He chops all night and into the next morning. It starts off pretty easy, but by sunup he is stiff, sore, and exhausted.
  • Eventually his father comes looking for him, since Billy sort of didn't go home when he was supposed to. Is it any wonder his mom worries so much about this kid?
  • His dad offers to help him cut down the tree, but Billy is determined to do it on his own. He doesn't want to disappoint his dogs. They are still looking at him with those sad puppy dog eyes.
  • So instead, he tells Billy that he'll send his sisters down with some lunch.
  • Billy keeps on chopping and chopping. His little sister brings him some lunch and hassles him about being crazy for trying to chop down the tree.
  • He yells at her to leave, and when she does guess what Billy does? He keeps on chopping and chopping and chopping….

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