Friday, July 4, 2008

And The Rocket's Red Glare

Over on her blog, Patti Abbott has been hosting Forgotten Book Fridays where she encourages other bloggers to highlight and discuss books that have never found the spotlight they deserve. I've participated a time or two and would do so more often if I had the time. This week, in honor of the Fourth of July, Patti suggested everyone should write about a book that meant a lot to them as a kid.

I can't really recall a time when I didn't read, though if I think hard enough I can remember sitting around a half-moon shaped table in first grade while my teacher, Mrs. Williams taught us to sound out the words, so I can remember learning how to read but not a time when I didn't read. Weird huh?

Anyway it must of have been about third grade when I first read this book.



Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls was the very first time I ever closed the last page and then immediately opened the front again and commenced to rereading. I'm sure most of you have heard of the book so it's not really a forgotten book in the true sense, but it is the most memorable of my childhood. So why did the tale strike such a chord with me?

1) I could relate to, emphasize with, and even admire, Billy the 10 year old protagonist. I grew up hunting and fishing as did Billy. My family didn't have the money to buy me everything I wanted. Billy's dreams was to own a pair of dogs to help him hunt. I admired that when his family couldn't afford the Redbone Coon Hounds hunting so he earned it himself by selling fishing bait and doing other odd jobs. I like to think a kid could take control of his life and go after the things he wanted on his own.

2)The setting. The Ozark mountains are a place I had been to and loved. And a kid allowed to go out alone to chase and tree raccoons, to fish and explore. To learn and experience things firsthand. I wanted to be Billy.

3)The adventure. Hunting in the dark of night. Wagering that your dogs are better than those owned by a couple of rough brothers down the way. A boy competing against grown men in a hunting competition. Blizzards. Dogs fighting with mountain lions.

4) Heartbreak. Okay I'll admit it. I cried when Old Dan and Little Ann died. The mental image of that red fern growing between their grave left me speechless. I reread the book simply because I was not ready to let go and diving back in allowed me to relive the good times. Too bad we don't often get that chance in life.

On this, American Independence Day I'd like to wish every one a happy and safe 4th. When the sizzle of grease from the grill fades, the last watermelon seed has been spit, and the glow from the sparklers has faded ... go inside and curl up with a good book. But before you start reading take a moment to think of all the sacrifices men and women have made over the years of history and continue to do today so that you have the ability to enjoy the freedoms this country offers.

17 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

This was a good book, although I read it much later in life. I bet I would have enjoyed it more if I'd read it at that critical time.

deborah elliott-upton said...

Thanks for another great post. I'm very thankful for many things today, including our freedom in this country. I am thankful for those willing to protect our freedom -- we can never repay them. I am thankful for good-hearted people like Travis.

Travis said...

I wish I had read that book as a young boy. I didn't read it until high school and probably missed a lot of what made it a great book for a younger kid.

Happy 4th!

Anonymous said...

Jenn says:

This book is the true reason for my horrible habit I have when reading books. I will not go into it at this time but it is all because of this book.

Happy 4th. I am thankful as well for the protectors of our freedom.

preTzel said...

I can not recall the titles of all the books I've read in my youth. I wish I could but I have this thing called "youngtimers" where you try to block out your youth to forget bad memories (or bad deeds) so book titles escape me.

Two books that resonated with me, which I can't recall the titles, were about two lives that stuck with me through out the years.

The first was of a girl in a ghetto in Poland during the Hitler regime. She talks about eating moldy potato peels and scrounging for food and her father getting sick with rickets and the final journey to the camp. Very sad book.

The other was of a young girl and her brother who set off to find a family member. (I think it was their grandmother - not sure.) I thought it was a book by Cynthia Voigt called Homecoming but it was not. Anyway, it's setting is the northeastern part of the country and they find mussels to eat, sleep in sand dunes, and do what they can to survive while traveling. I wish I could remember the title to both books and find them.

I cried when I read Where The Red Fern Grows and I cried even more when I watched the movie. :(

Monnik said...

I remember reading this as a kid and just SOBBING. I think I was maybe in fourth grade when I read it. Where the Red Fern Grows and Bridge to Terabithia were pivotal books that really made me realize that stories can take you to another life.

Good post, Travis!!!

Patti said...

when i used to tutor, i made all my kiddos read this book. making 'em cry is making 'em learn...

pattinase (abbott) said...

And I think there was a movie too. I love the setting especially.

Sherry said...

It's not a holiday for me here in Canada, but I will take my book into the sunshine and perhaps a glass of pinot grigio or maybe a cold martini -- and I will raise my glass and toast a happy 4th of July to you and yours!

yellowdog granny said...

my favorite book when i was a kid was rhurbard by h.allan smith...but I also read atlas shrugged by ayn rand when i was 9...I didn't read kids books till i was an adult..i was weird.

spyscribbler said...

Happy Fourth! I had a lot of freedom like Billy, when I was young. I didn't really realize it. I could explore as far as I could walk or bike, didn't matter if it was streets forest. I don't think kids can do that these days. I don't know. I'd be afraid to give my child that freedom, but then I don't have one yet.

I loved Where the Red Fern grows, and I sobbed my heart out. Around that time, I read the Narnia series over and over and over, and one day when I'd read it a million times, I realized I just could not go visit. I wanted Narnia to be real so badly I sobbed for three hours. My mother had absolutely no idea what to do. (And the whole allegory or whatever doesn't count. I wanted it to be REAL, not a symbol for something else.)

I was even past the age of believing in Santa and stuff. I just wanted to live there that badly.

Suzanne said...

Hi sweetie. I just read all the comments. I love them. Wow, we haven't talked in ages, do you realize that? Thanks for the comment. Love it, and Happy 4th to you too.

When I was young my grandmother would read the most wonderful books to us. Usually Zang Grey, pioneer stuff, nature books, etc. It was a magical time of my life. I love books. I couldn't live without them. You know I'm not a writer, but I love books. I have hundreds and hundred!!! Do you know I have never read Where the Red Fern Grows? I'm buying it this week. As a strick vegetarian you know I will have issues, but I think it's a book I need to read. So I will. And I'll give you my critique when I'm done.

All the best to you my dear friend. Thank you for stopping by.

XO

Chick said...

Happy 4th!

That was indeed a great book.

Mary Witzl said...

I have heard of this book, though I suspect I thought of it as a boys' book. Oddly, I didn't feel that way about Savage Sam and Old Yeller -- two books I adored. But this one sounds great from your description, and for all the reasons you have mentioned. I love books about kids who are enterprising; who don't have much money, but manage to figure out ways to earn it. I think growing up with very little teaches you a lifetime's worth of important lessons and skills.

You've gone and made me nostalgic for the 4th of July...

Marla said...

I cried in that book as well. It is frustrating when books don't get the spotlight deserved.

I did not begin reading much until college. I wish I would have read more as a teenager. I love seeing how wonderful the book covers are in the teen sections at books stores now. Some of them look quite interesting that I think of reading them myself. I don't remember books looking that interesting when I was a teen. Being such a visual person I may have been more drawn in with those spectacular book covers.

Hope your 4th was fun filled!

AA said...

I recall that book, but the one I believe I enjoyed the most was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.

Robin said...

"My Friend Flicka" was my favorite (read every horse book I could put my hands on!) But 'ole Dan and little Anne will always be in my heart...remember when the little sis told the story about the indian boy and girl who ran away....? wow!

Speaking of horse books that I was crazy about...I checked "The Red Pony" out of the library when I was about, I dunno, 7? It had "pony" in the title so I grabbed it. John Steinbeck.

It was awful. It crushed me and I have hated Steinbeck ever since. Call me crazy for criticizing a master of literature but he killed a pony and pecked his eyes out and for that I cannot forgive him.

My inner child hates him and my inner child just won't let it go!