Before the book starts there is a page explaining to you an old Indian Legend, something about a red fern. The red fern was sacred to Indians, and they said that only an angel could plant the seeds of a red fern, and that a red fern never died. Wherever a red fern grew, that spot was forever sacred. Keep the legend of the red fern in the back of your mind throughout the story.
The first chapter of the book starts out when Billy is a grown man, and he is walking on his way home from work. He hears sounds of a dog fight, and looks into the alley to investigate. When he goes in the alley, he sees a bunch of dogs ganging up on just one old Redbone hound. The Redbone is fighting every last dog, and winning. However, Billy cannot just stand there and watch the dogs fighting, so he goes into the brawl of dogs swinging his coat, and yelling his head off. All of the dogs take off except for the hound, which Billy coaxes out from under some bushes by talking gently to him. When Billy finally sees the old Redbone hound up close, it brings back many great memories from his childhood.
When Billy was ten years old, he lived in northeaster Oklahoma, in the beautiful, rugged Ozarks. Billy was set on getting a coon hound, not just one actually, but two. His father was a farmer, and did not make enough money to buy hounds, but figured he would get him a collie dog. Billy was not an ungrateful boy, but a collie would not do. He needed a coon hound. Billy knew that he lived in the best hunting land around, and he wanted to hunt it. Most of all, he wanted to catch a ring tailed raccoon. It was all he could think, talk, and dream about. His mother and father were getting worried about Billy. He would not eat or sleep, and ran around with blood shot eyes. Finally, Billy's dad decided to do something about it. He bought Billy three small foot hold traps. When he gave them to him, Billy was so happy. He could finally catch a raccoon! He did put the two coonhounds in the back of his mind for awhile, but soon enough, he was thinking about them more than ever.
Billy knew that his parents would never be able to afford the two dogs he wanted, and one day when he was down by the river, he ran across an old fishermen's camp, and got a good idea. At the campsite, he found an old K.C. baking powder can, and he decided to save money in it, until he could afford the dogs. He also found an old hunting magazine, and in the classifieds, there were Redbone hounds for sale for twenty five dollars a piece. He needed fifty dollars to get both of the dogs that he so badly wanted. Over the next two years, Billy sold minnows, crawfish, fresh vegetables, and roasting ears to all the passing fishermen. Finally, one day, Billy had enough. He was so excited that he cried while counting his money over and over. He never told his mom or dad, or even his grandpa what he was planning. Billy did not want to tell his dad about the money, so he traveled to his grandpa's store, and told him his plan. His grandpa was so proud that his young grandson had worked so tirelessly for two years straight, he actually almost cried. He told Billy that since the ad was two to three years old, he would have to write the outfit to see if they were still in business. He told Billy not to mention anything to his parents, since Billy's father really needed a mule at the time. Billy was so excited for the next two weeks while he was waiting for a reply that he traveled to his grandpa's store every day. On the day that grandpa got a letter from the outfit, he told Billy that Redbone's actually went down in cost, and only cost twenty dollars per dog, so Billy would have ten extra dollars to spend, and his two dogs would be arriving in town within the next two weeks. Town was about thirty miles away, and he would have to try and catch a ride into town with another country guy to get his dogs.
When his dogs finally arrived in town, Billy could not wait for a ride, and decided to go on foot. He did not tell his parents where he was going, and his parents did not even know anything about the dogs at that point. Billy had never been in a town before, and saw a lot of things that he never had before. He saw a sheriff, which he had heard terrible stories about, but ended up becoming friends with him. The sheriff bought Billy his first soda pop ever. Billy decided to spend his ten dollars on his family and bought his mom and sisters yards of cloth for new dresses, and he bought his dad a new set of overalls. He finally went to the train station and picked up his new puppies. He fell in love at first sight.
By the time he was on his way home, he stopped in the fishermen's camp, and saw the names Ann and Dan carved in a tree. He knew that he would name his dogs that as soon as he saw it. His whole dream had started in that camp and the fishermen had made it come true. If it was not for the fishermen leaving the magazine behind, he never would have known where to buy his pups, and if they had not bought what Billy was selling, he never would have had the money to buy Ann and Dan. So, he knew it was fate when he saw the names carved in the large tree.
When Billy got home, he mother was crying with worry, and his dad was very proud of him for taking matters into his own hands, and raising the money for himself. His sisters were happy that Billy had bought them a bag of candy, and his mother and father were grateful for the new cloth and bibs. Billy's father knew that Billy was turning into a man. He decided to give Billy the farming season off so that he could train his new pups to start hunting. Billy spent every day until hunting season training his dogs to hunt the big raccoons that ran wild in the woods.
On the first day of hunting season, Billy wandered around all day until it was almost time to go hunting. He was so excited that he could not even eat dinner. His mother told him to be careful, and that she would worry until he came home. His father told her that he was getting to be a man now, and he would be fine. Billy went out hunting, and that night, him and his two dogs treed their first raccoon!
You will have to read the book to find out what exciting adventures Billy and his two hunting dogs go on. You will also find out what the old Indian legend of the red fern has to do with the story. This book is well written, and is suitable for a child or an adult to read. It is truly a great book.