I can almost recall exactly where I was sitting while “Where the Red Fern Grows” was being read to our little class.
I also remember the teacher advising us that there were some bad words in it and we could skip over those if they came up while it was our turn to read aloud.
I had no desire to adopt a salty vocabulary, but those words being in there made the book seem slightly dangerous and therefore all the more fascinating.
Looking back on it now, I can’t say how I was even able to relate to the storyline, much less be drawn to it.
I knew very little about hunting, and my mother certainly never would have let me or my brother go traipsing through the woods all night alone in search of critters.
I’m about as city as a girl can get growing up inside the city limits of Cordova.
While we were by no means rich, I also never had to witness the struggle to survive that Billy and his family experienced in the Ozarks.
I’m not sure I’m made of the kind of stuff it takes to work my butt off for two years to buy the dogs of my dreams or to hack away for days at the biggest tree in the woods because I’ve made a promise to my pups.
Looking back on it now, I’m not sure how I was able to process the thread of death in the plot either.
Of course, Old Dan and Little Ann die in the end, and a red fern grows up between their graves. However, I had forgotten until Zac, Wyatt and I were watching the movie last weekend that a child also meets an untimely end after falling on an ax.
At that time in my life, no one in my immediate circle had passed away.
How I wish that I could go back to the days when death was a topic to be dealt with in the comfortable confines of a book rather than a shadow waiting around every corner for me and my loved ones.
One of the greatest discoveries of my young life was that I could buy a book I had enjoyed at school and read it over and over again at home. A copy of “Where the Red Fern Grows” stayed on my bookshelf at home for years.
It seems that Zac cherished the novel as much as I did and read it until the cover was dog-eared (forgive the pun).
I suppose most little boys who were introduced to “Where the Red Fern Grows” loved it, but I’d be interested to know how many girls felt the same way. Not many, I would expect.
I’ve rarely found myself on the correct side of the gender divide, including as it relates to literature.
I was raised on a healthy diet of “The Hardy Boys” and “Nancy Drew.”
Try as I might, I could never make myself like little Laura or her house on the prairie.
“Romeo and Juliet” is not my favorite work of Shakespeare; “Hamlet” is.
While researching how “Where the Red Fern Grows” came to be, I learned that author Wilson Rawls was keen on books as a lad because he thought all books were “girl stories.”
Then his mother presented him with a copy of Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” and he began to dream of writing a book just like it.
Wyatt is now at the age where he loves to have one of us read to him. I’ve also caught him sitting alone with a book several times pretending to read it.
Like bookworm parents, like son.