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Copyright 1999

Created by Brian Thornton

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Where the Red Fern Grows

Wilson Rawls

Answer Key for Student Study Guide


Answer all questions in sentence form

Chapter One

  1. Why, according to the man, was it a rare day?

  2. According to the man it was a rare day because everything was right and nothing was wrong.
  3. Describe the scene in which the dogs are fighting.

  4. Descriptions will vary.  A pack of dogs was attacking a lone redbone hound dog.  The hound had an incredible fighting spirit and managed to defend itself against the other dogs until the man was able to intervene and drive the attackers off.
  5. Why did the man believe that the dog belonged in the country?

  6. The dog was out of place with the other breeds in town.  He was a hunting hound and belonged in the country.
  7. How did the man help the dog?

  8. The man took him home where he rubbed the soreness from his muscles, gave him a bath and fed him.
  9. Describe the two cups on the mantel.

  10. One cup was large with long, upright handles that stood out like wings on a dove while the second was smaller and made from silver.  The man tells us that the stories behind the cups go back over fifty years.
  11. Design a title page for your student study guide.

  12. This should be placed at the front of the unit or displayed on the bulletin board.

Vocabulary: residential, scalded, cur, crude, priceless, caressed.

Enrichment: Locate the following in an atlas: Ozark Mountains, Missouri and Oklahoma.


Chapter Two

  1. What "terrible disease" was he infected with when only ten years old?

  2. He had puppy love, not for a pretty girl, but the kind a young boy has for a real live dog.
  3. How did Billy's Papa "pour cold water" on his idea?

  4. He suggested that his son get a puppy from Mr. Hatfield's collie but Billy wanted a pair of hunting hounds.
  5. Why was Billy's mother allotted a strip of land along the Illinois River?

  6. His mother was a native American Cherokee and was allotted some land along the river.
  7. What did Billy's father do for a living?

  8. His father was a farmer and the first to farm this virgin land.
  9. What animal tracks along the river bank, fascinated Billy the most?

  10. Although there were many tracks along the river banks, the ones that fascinated Billy the most were those of the river coon.
  11. List at least five animals that Billy catches in his traps.

  12. Billy caught a variety of animals in his traps beginning with the family cat Samie and Mama's prize hen.  Later he caught opossums, skunks, rabbits, squirrels and even some of the intended rats.  However, he never managed to catch a raccoon.
  13. How was Papa going to put the muscles back on Billy?

  14. Papa was going to have Billy help him in the fields.

Vocabulary: sycamores, game, waddling, corncrib, grieve, bawling, muzzle.

Enrichment: Find information on trapping animals. Who traps animals today? What do they do with the captured animals? Who are animal rights activists and why are they opposed to trapping animals?


Chapter Three

  1. Why does Billy hurry to the deserted campground?

  2. Billy hurries to the deserted campground in the hopes that he will find some forgotten or discarded items left by the fishermen.  In that past he has found fishing line, a fish pole, and even a knife stuck in a tree.  However his most important find is a sportsman's magazine.
  3. What does he discover in the sportsman's magazine?

  4. He finds a "Dogs for Sale" section with an ad for registered redbone coon hound pups priced at twenty-five dollars each.
  5. Describe how Billy hoped to earn enough money to buy some pups.

  6. He had many different ideas for earning money.  He could pick and sell berries to his grandfather as well as selling worms, crawfish and vegetables to the fishermen.  He also planned to trap and sell furs.  In essence, he was willing to do what ever it took to raise enough money to buy the hound pups.
  7. Why does Billy ask his grandfather not to say anything to his father about his plan?

  8. Answers will vary.  Billy might have thought that his father would be upset with him if he knew what he intended to do with his savings or that he might have had other plans for the money.  For example, Grandpa even expresses some concern that Billy's father is interested in buying a red mule from Old Man Potter.
  9. How long does it take the young boy to save enough money?

  10. It takes about two years for him to save fifty dollars--enough for two hound pups.
  11. How many sisters does Billy have?

  12. He had three sisters with whom he shared his candy.

Vocabulary: festered, prowl, haunches, quavering, kennels, horehound.

Enrichment: Trace the Illinois River as it flows through Northeast Oklahoma. What other states does it flow through?


Chapter Four

  1. What good news does Billy receive about the price of the dogs?

  2. Billy learns that the price of the dogs has dropped five dollars.
  3. Why did Billy have to go to Tahlequah?

  4. He had to go to Tahlequah because the mail buggy didn't carry dogs.
  5. Why does Billy ask how far it is to Kentucky?

  6. He wants to know because he intends to walk there himself to pick up the dogs.
  7. What was the population of Tahlequah?

  8. It was a small country town with a population of eight hundred people.
  9. How do we know that Billy is very poor?

  10. We know he was very poor as he intended to walk twenty miles (about 30 km) in his bare feet.
  11. Describe some of the things that surprise Billy when he arrives in town.

  12. Answers will vary.  He is surprised by two story buildings, a real sheriff, a gun with two barrels, a fire escape at the school which he treats as a slide and finally he was able to see a perfect reflection of himself in a plate glass mirror for the first time in his life.

Vocabulary: depot, gunny sack, riffle, briers, bolts.

Enrichment: Research the life of a raccoon. Why did people hunt racoons?


Chapter Five

  1. Who is telling the story?

  2. Billy Colman is telling the story in the first person.
  3. How did Billy plan on carrying the puppies?

  4. He planned to carry the puppies in a gunny sack.
  5. How do we know that the stationmaster is a kind man?

  6. The stationmaster has a friendly voice and a twinkle in his eye.  Later, he helps cut a hole in the sack so the pups won't smother and finally he waves the fee for the feed bill.
  7. Describe the fight Billy has with the gang of boys.

  8. A gang of boys taunt Billy by calling him dog boy.  Billy fends off the first three of his attackers but he is overwhelmed by the remaining group of boys who proceed to beat and kick him as he lies on the ground. (Teachers may want to relate this incident to the beginning of the story where the pack of dogs attack the country dog.)
  9. Why is Billy surprised at the behaviour of the marshal?

  10. He expects the marshal to knock him down too but instead the marshal offers him a helping hand.
  11. What does Billy do when he hears the mountain lion?

  12. He is very frightened and builds up the fire as his father had told him that lions were afraid of fire.
  13. Why do Billy's pups give him courage?

  14. Billy thought the mountain lion had scented his pups and he is determined to die for his pups in order to protect them.

Vocabulary: splintered, snickered, glaring, ooze, gritted, anvil, provisions.

Enrichment: Write a short biography on the author, Wilson Rawls.


Chapter Six

  1. Describe how Billy decides to name his dogs.

  2. After struggling with various names, he settles on Dan and Ann after seeing the two names carved in the bark of a sycamore tree.
  3. How did Billy's father already know where he had been?

  4. Billy's grandfather had told him.
  5. Why did Mama and Papa want to move into town?

  6. Ironically, his parents felt that their farm was no place to raise a family and that children needed an education to learn to read and write as well as to get out in the world and meet people.
  7. Why did they have to wait?

  8. They didn't have enough money to move into town.

Vocabulary: romping, nestled, trance, querying.

Enrichment: What is the longest distance you have ever walked? Do you think you would have been afraid to camp out overnight? How would you have reacted to a mountain lion?


Chapter Seven

  1. Why does Billy's grandfather need a brace and bit to catch the raccoon?

  2. Students should understand that a brace and bit would now be replaced by a drill and drill bit.  The brace is not a power tool.  Grandpa intends to use the brace and bit to drill a hole in a log in order to create a trap for the raccoon.  He tells Billy to hammer in some nails after drilling the hole in the log and then place some shiny bits of tin in the hole.  According to Grandpa, the raccoon will attempt to retrieve the shiny bits of material.  Then as the animal attempts to remove the objects through the hole, its paw will get stuck in the nails.
  3. Why does Billy think Grandpa is joking?

  4. Billy tells his grandfather that the raccoon only needs to open its paw to escape.
  5. According to Papa, why is Billy unable to catch any coons?

  6. Billy's father tells him that he is not having any luck catching coons as they can detect his fresh scent near the traps.  He tells Billy that he must be more patient and suggests that he stay away from the traps for a while.
  7. Why does Billy desperately need a coon skin for his pups?

  8. Billy needs the skin or hide of the coon to train his dogs how to hunt.  The pups must learn to recognize the coon's scent.
  9. Why is Papa surprised when they finally free the coon's paw from the hole?

  10. Papa is surprised because the bright piece of tin is still firmly clamped in the coon's paw despite the fact that it is dead.  Papa now realizes that Billy's grandfather was right about the trap.
  11. Describe how Billy Colman trains his hounds.

  12. Descriptions will vary.  Billy dragged the coon hide all over.  He used every trick he knew about raccoons so that his dogs would be wise to the raccoon's ways.

Vocabulary: obstacle, wiley, eternity, woe, forefinger, diameter, churn, pry, scent, frazzle.

Enrichment: Research animal trainers. Why do people train animals? Describe the many ways that trained animals can benefit us.


Chapter Eight

  1. How did Billy prepare for his first hunt?

  2. He cleaned his lantern and filled it with oil, greased his boots with hog lard and ground (sharpened) his ax.
  3. What do Billy's parents think about him going hunting?

  4. Papa tells Billy that although he himself is not worried, his mother is.  He tells Billy that to be on the safe side, he should always let his parents know where he will be hunting.
  5. Why is it necessary for Billy to hunt at night?

  6. Raccoons tend to be nocturnal mammals thus explaining why Billy would have to do his hunting at night.
  7. Why does Billy groan and close his eyes when he sees where the coon has been treed?

  8. Billy groans because the sycamore tree was the largest he had ever seen and it was too big to climb or chop down.
  9. Why is Billy so determined to cut down the tree?

  10. Billy had promised his dogs that if they treed the raccoon, he would do the rest.

Vocabulary: lard, grinding, wobbling, rustle, elders, domain.

Enrichment: What does the term nocturnal mean? Make a list of nocturnal animals in your area. Choose one and do some research on it.


Chapter Nine

  1. Why was Billy crying?

  2. He was exhausted and feeling defeated when he told his dogs that the tree was too big for him to cut down.
  3. What plan of action does Grandpa suggest?

  4. He suggests that they make a scarecrow and place it near the base of the tree.  That will allow Billy to leave the tree long enough to rest and eat a good meal.
  5. Why does Grandpa pick up Old Dan and place him in the buggy?

  6. Grandpa has to pick up Old Dan as he refuses to leave the tree.  Billy must also hold unto his collar so that he won't jump out of the buggy.
  7. What does Grandpa think about young boys chopping down such large trees?

  8. Grandpa thinks that it would be a good thing if every young boy had to cut down a large tree once in his life.  He states that it gives them determination and will power--in essence, it builds character.
  9. Find the New England States in an atlas.

  10. After locating them, the teacher may wish to discuss the origin of the name "New England".
  11. What fad has started back in the New England states?

  12. People are starting to wear coats made from the fur of raccoons (coonskin coats).  Grandpa is convinced that the price of coon hides will increase.  This would mean that Billy could make more money than he had anticipated from selling the hides.
  13. Describe what happens when Billy is wrapping his hands to make a final attack on the tree.

  14. He hears a low droning sound and watches the giant sycamore tree begin to sway from the breeze.  In less than a minute the tree has fallen to the ground.
  15. What is it that Billy is firmly convinced of at the conclusion of the chapter?

  16. Billy is convinced that the tree falling was God's work.

Vocabulary: throbbed, dumplings, civet cat, winced.

Enrichment: Research the history of the New England states. What were most of them called originally?


Chapter Ten

  1. What did Billy's mother do with the first coon hide?

  2. Billy's mother made him a cap from the first coon skin.
  3. Which dog did Billy think was smarter?

  4. He thought Ann was the smartest as a smart old coon could fool Dan but nothing could fool Ann.
  5. What happened to the price of coonskins?

  6. Just as Grandpa had predicted, the price of skins jumped sky high and ranged from four to ten dollars depending on size and quality.
  7. Describe what happened to Old Dan and how Billy managed to rescue him.

  8. Dan got trapped in a muskrat den while chasing an old boar coon.  Billy retrieved a long handled shovel from home and dug him out.

Vocabulary: spellbound, belligerent, stunted, peroxide, slough, feat.

Enrichment: Describe a pet that you have owned. What makes pets so special to people? What type of animals make good pets?


Chapter Eleven

  1. Why did Billy think that the hunting would be good that night?

  2. Billy thought the hunting would be good as the raccoons had been denned up during the storm and would now be very hungry and desperate to go in search of food.
  3. Why was Billy unable to see his dogs?

  4. He isn't able to see the dogs because it is very foggy.
  5. What has happened to the dogs?

  6. Descriptions will vary.  While chasing the raccoon, Old Dan had managed to jump onto an ice pack while Ann had fallen into the icy water.
  7. Describe the scene in which Billy rescues his dogs.

  8. Descriptions will vary.  Billy risks his own life to save his dogs.  First he cuts a long branch (cane) and then uses the metal handle of his lantern to make a hook.  Next he wades into the freezing water up to his chin where he is finally able to hook onto Ann's collar and pull her to shore.  He then builds a roaring fire on the shore, starting it with oil from his lantern.
  9. At the end of the chapter, why does Billy keep checking the handle on his lantern?

  10. Billy comments that the handle never falls at home despite his sisters' rough play.  He wonders if God has played a role in the rescue, making the handle fall and thus encouraging him to realize that it could be used as a hook.  In essence, was there divine intervention.

Vocabulary: predicament, rile, ceased, eddy, trough, stomped.

Enrichment: Research hypothermia.


Chapter Twelve

  1. What is meant by the expression, "shell corn"?

  2. It means husking the corn or removing the outer covering which surrounds the ear of corn.
  3. Describe the Pritchard family.

  4. The Pritchards were a large family that no one in the area liked.  They were reputed to be boot leggers, thieves, and even murderers.
  5. What bet do the Pritchard boys make with Billy?

  6. The Pritchard boys bet two dollars that Billy's dogs would not be able to tree the ghost coon.
  7. Why was Grandpa unhappy with the Pritchard boys?

  8. Answers will vary.  The boys accused Grandpa of being dishonest and they were very rude.
  9. Describe the ghost coon.

  10. The ghost coon was the largest that Billy had ever seen.

Vocabulary: pelts, wattle, sidled, leering, maneuver.

Enrichment: Research the history of mills. Did they have mills in ancient times? Do you know anyone with the surname Miller or Millar? Where did these names originate?


Chapter Thirteen

  1. According to Rubin, who had lived there a long time ago and farmed the fields?

  2. Rubin told Billy that Indians had lived there long ago and that they had farmed the hills.
  3. Why does Billy give Rubin the two dollars?

  4. Billy thinks that his dogs have given up and that if they can't find the ghost coon, neither can he.
  5. Where is Little Ann finally able to locate the ghost coon?

  6. Little Ann scents the ghost coon hiding in a hollow gate post after dropping from a tree that overhangs the fence.
  7. Describe the horrible scene that Billy is confronted with after breaking up the fight.

  8. He returns to see that Rubin has fallen on the ax--fatally injuring himself.
  9. How does Billy pay his respects?

  10. Billy pays his respects by placing some flowers on Rubin Pritchard's grave.

Vocabulary: resistance, switch, account, clambered, protruding.

Enrichment: What reason might the author have had for having the dogs fight?


Chapter Fourteen

  1. Why does Grandpa blame himself for Rubin's death?

  2. Grandpa feels responsible for what happened to Rubin because he "called his bet".How does Billy feel about entering the championship coon hunt?
    At first he is scared and then a wonderful feeling comes over him.  He becomes so excited that he feels as though he has just run a hundred miles.
  3. Why does Billy think he is the luckiest boy in the world?

  4. He thinks he is the luckiest boy in the world because he has two of the best hunting hounds, a wonderful mother and father and three sisters, the best grandpa and now he was going to the championship coon hunt.
  5. What comment does Billy make that indicates he is confident about his chances of winning?

  6. Billy comments that if the other dogs are to beat his, they will have to work harder than they ever have before.
  7. According to Billy, what's the one thing wrong with Little Ann?

  8. Little Ann is gun-shy.

Vocabulary: tragedy, zipped, stubble, quivered, blurted, droning, bashful, codger.

Enrichment: Research the Cherokee Indians. What land rights do modern native people have?


Chapter Fifteen

  1. Why did Grandpa have an astonished look on his face?

  2. Grandpa was astonished because he had never heard of a hound that wouldn't eat and Old Dan wouldn't eat until Little Ann was given her food.
  3. Explain the superstition about hearing the owl.

  4. The superstition claimed that if you heard more than one screech owl, it would bring bad luck.
  5. Why was Billy having so much difficulty sleeping?

  6. He kept worrying that the owls might bring him bad luck.
  7. Describe how Billy groomed his dog?

  8. He used his grandfather's hair brush and comb although he knew his grandfather wouldn't like it.  Having no oil, he took some butter and rubbed it into her fur.  Then he brushed and combed her short red hair until it shone and glistened.
  9. Why was he awarded a small silver cup?

  10. He was awarded a silver cup as Little Ann had won the beauty contest (best groomed dog).
  11. Why did Billy crawl under the buggy?

  12. Billy crawled under the buggy at the moment his grandfather discovered that he had used his brushes to groom Little Ann.  Even though he knew his grandfather wouldn't be angry with him, he felt it best to stay away for awhile.

Vocabulary: mush, dutch-oven, monotonous, jinx, mares, buggy, pruned.

Enrichment: Are you superstitious? Do you know someone who is? Why might people be superstitious? Do you have a favourite number?


Chapter Sixteen

  1. Why did the contestants decide to move a few miles downstream?

  2. Everyone was trying to get away from the already hunted territory.
  3. What is meant by "strike a trail"?

  4. It means that the dogs have scented the raccoon and have started to follow it.
  5. Why did Grandpa try to put his britches on backwards?

  6. Old Dan had just scented a raccoon and in the excitement Grandpa attempted to put on his britches backwards.
  7. Why did Papa tell Billy about the two mules?

  8. He wants he son to realize that just because the competing dogs are bigger that it doesn't necessarily make them better.
  9. Explain how the two dogs doctored one another.

  10. The two dogs were taking turns licking the cuts on one another's ears.  Billy remarked that they did this all the time.

Vocabulary: bawl, gingerly, discouraging, flitted, elimination.

Enrichment: Grandpa and Papa obviously respected Billy. How can we tell when parents respect their children? What type of things do you do to let your friends and family know that you respect them?


Chapter Seventeen

  1. How do we know that Billy is a brave and determined boy?

  2. We know that Billy is a brave and determined boy because he encouraged the three men to continue looking for his dogs despite the fact that they want to turn back due to stormy weather.
  3. What did the judge say to indicate that he thought it would be wise to give up the hunt?

  4. The judge said, "Fellows, no dog is worth the lives of three men.  Now let's do the smart thing and get out of here while we can".
  5. Describe what happened to Grandpa.

  6. Grandpa got separated from the group, tripped on a limb and took a bad fall knocking himself unconscious.
  7. How did Billy warm Grandpa's injured foot?

  8. Billy warmed a raccoon skin by the fire and then wrapped it around his grandfather's foot.

Vocabulary: rhythmic, mackinaw, lull, baying, canebrake, loomed, gawking.

Enrichment: Describe the worst storm that you have ever experienced? Did you ever feel that your life was in danger?


Chapter Eighteen

  1. Why were the limbs on the trees snapping?

  2. The limbs were snapping off from the weight of the frozen sleet that had accumulated on them.
  3. Who came searching for them?

  4. Twenty-five men from the camp had been searching for them since midnight.
  5. What did Mr. Benson say that shocked Billy?

  6. Mr. Benson tells the group of men that he had come across Billy's hounds and that they were frozen solid--covered in ice from the tips of their noses to the end of their tails.
  7. Why did Billy decide to take the cup home?

  8. Billy thought of his sister waiting for him by the window and decided that he would like to take the cup home so that he could share this special moment with his family.
  9. Why did Mama press her lips together tightly?

  10. Her lips were almost quivering and she was trying to keep from crying.

Vocabulary: haggard, engraving, stock, pane.

Enrichment: Mr. Kyle thinks that dogs are more than just loyal. He believes that they help their masters out of love. Do you agree? Explain.


Chapter Nineteen

  1. Why doesn't Billy like hunting bobcats?

  2. Their fur had little value and they often cut up his dogs.
  3. What is the devil cat of the Ozarks?

  4. It was a mountain lion or as it is sometimes called--puma or cougar.
  5. How does Billy finally kill the big cat?

  6. He finally manages to sink the ax into the back of the big cat.  It is a fatal blow to the cat.
  7. How would you have felt in this situation?

  8. Answers will vary.  Most students would probably be quite frightened if they were alone and confronted with a wild animal capable of killing them.
  9. How did the dogs prove their loyalty to Billy?

  10. The dogs jumped between Billy and the big cat just as he sprang toward Billy.
  11. What does Billy discover when he examines the dogs after the fierce battle?

  12. At first he thinks their wounds are just superficial.  Later he discovers that Old Dan has had his soft underbelly slashed by the big cat and that his entrails had started to work their way out.
  13. Do you think it is possible for animals to die from a broken heart? What about people?

  14. Answers will vary.  Some students will definitely agree that it is possible while those who study animal behaviour will often caution us not to attribute human characteristics to animals.

Vocabulary: predatory, foliage, berserk, jugular, trance, ghastly, canyon, cleaved, pry, entrails.

Enrichment: The mountain lion is also called a puma or cougar. Research this cat and find out if it is an endangered species.


Chapter Twenty

  1. What does Billy mean when he says, "Papa…didn't have that whipped look on his face anymore"?

  2. It means he doesn't have a defeated and tired look.  His father is feeling very optimistic and looking forward to the family's new life outside the Ozarks.
  3. What does Billy see when he goes to say goodbye to his dogs?

  4. He sees that a beautiful red fern had grown between his two dogs.
  5. Briefly retell the story of the Indian legend.
  6. < The legend stated that only an angel could plant the seeds of a red fern.  Furthermore, it was believed that they never died and that the land became sacred.
    The Indian legend relates how a lost young boy and girl perished in a winter blizzard.  By the time their bodies were discovered, a red fern had grown between them.  The legend states that the seeds of a red fern could only be planted by an angel and that wherever one grew was sacred land.
  7. Are you surprised when Billy says that he has never been back to the Ozarks? Why?

  8. Many students will be surprised that Billy has never been back to his childhood home in the Ozarks.  This is even more astounding as we read his final description on the last couple of pages.  The teacher may wish to discuss reasons for this.  For example, maybe he had felt the experience would be too emotional for him to handle.  Perhaps he had been busy with his own children and didn't have enough time.

Vocabulary: mounds, arches, sacred, legend, spiral, caress.

Enrichment: Read some other Indian legends? Write your own Indian legend and illustrate it. Share it with your classmates.


Copyright 1999

Created by Brian Thornton, Capo Creations, Box 1411, Haileybury, Ontario, CANADA. POJ 1KO

Not to be used or copied in any manner without specific written consent of the publisher All Rights Reserved