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.