Study Guide

Where the Red Fern Grows Chapter 9

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Chapter 9

  • New chapter, same story. Billy is still chopping away at his giant tree. He's tired, in pain, and doesn't think he can go on. But just then, who comes to his rescue? Why, it's his lovable old grandpa come in a buggy with a plan.
  • His grandpa tells him he just needs some rest and food and he'll be able to keep going right along. Together they build a scarecrow that will trick the raccoon into staying in the tree, so Billy can go home and get some rest.
  • Billy and his grandpa hop into the buggy to head for home. Only Little Ann follows, and reluctantly at that. Old Dan flat out refuses to leave the tree. Billy's grandpa has to carry him up into the buggy, with Billy hanging onto his collar to keep him from jumping out.
  • During dinner, Billy's grandpa explains what a smart pair of dogs Billy has (well, specifically Little Ann) for being able to figure out that coon's tricks.
  • He also mentions that the price of coonskins might be jumping due the popularity of coonskin coats, and Billy might just be able to make some money with all this hunting.
  • Gross, but true: raccoon-skin coats were popular with college boys back in the 1920s.
  • Exhausted, Billy collapses into bed and sleeps straight on till breakfast.
  • At breakfast, Billy's mom worries that Billy is too sore, but his dad figures a few good swings of the ax will limber him right up.
  • His dad also mentions that he heard a dog bawling all night and it sounded suspiciously like Old Dan. Hmmm.…
  • Billy runs straight for the doghouse, but can only find Little Ann. He figures Old Dan must have gone back to guard the coon.
  • When he gets to the tree, he sees that not only has Old Dan been guarding it all night, but there is also a second bed where Little Ann stood guard. She had gone back to the house in the morning to get Billy.
  • Now there is nothing in the world that can stop Billy from getting that raccoon for his dogs.
  • And so the chopping begins again.
  • And continues all day.
  • More chopping.
  • Blisters start forming and popping on Billy's hands, and this just about breaks him. He throws down the ax and declares he can't do it. He drops to his knees and prays for the strength to finish the job.
  • As he prays, he looks up and sees a huge gust of wind at the top of the big tree, but none of the other trees are moving. Suspicious, right?
  • The wind picks up, the tree sways more and more, and…TIMBER! The tree comes crashing to the ground.
  • All that for one little rabies-carrying beast? Yes.
  • Billy turns his dogs loose after the coon. After a brief, but gruesome, battle, the dogs win and the coon is dead.
  • Looking over the fallen sycamore, Billy apologizes to the tree and hopes it understood what he had to do.
  • He collects his prize, and heads home with his hounds.
  • His family greets him on the porch, beaming proudly. His mother, however, is still not sold on all this hunting business.
  • While Billy and his dad skin the coon, Billy tells his dad that he thinks God sent the wind to knock the tree down. 
  • His dad tells him he couldn't say one way or the other. It's up to Billy to decide for himself.

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