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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
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Answer Key to Old Yeller
Student Study Guide
All answers must be in sentence form.
When does the story take place?
The story takes place in the late 1860's, a few years after the American Civil War has ended.
Where does the story take place?
The story takes place in Texas.
Why is the father leaving?
Their father is going on a cattle drive to Abilene, Kansas to raise some 'cash money'. The railroads did not reach West Texas until the 1880's. Before then, it was necessary for Texas ranchers to drive their herds to the closest railroad terminus points. Wichita, Dodge City and Abilene, the so-called Cow Towns, were the most important
Name the two boys in the story?
The two boys in the story are fourteen year old Travis and his five year old brother Arliss.
Who is telling the story?
Travis is telling the story.
Who was Bell and what happened to him?
Bell was Travis' dog that was killed by a diamond back rattlesnake.
Who was Jumper and how does Travis make him behave?
Jumper was the family mule. Travis makes him behave by whacking him hard against the jaw with a green cedar club.
Vocabulary: dingy, writhing, dun, mule
Enrichment: Create a title page for Old Yeller. Make an illustrated bookmark for your book and use it!
Describe Old Yeller’s appearance.
He is a big, ugly, slick-haired "yeller" dog with one ear chewed off and a bobbed tail so short there was only a stub to wag. He looked thin and starved and his belly was round and tight as a pumpkin.
Does his appearance reveal anything to us?
It appears he had been in many fights and was starving. The fact that he was starving indicated that he might have been a stray.
How does Arliss react when he first sees the dog?
He falls on the dog petting him until he stops howling. Then he starts fighting with Travis in order to 'protect' his dog.
What decision does Mama make concerning the dog? Why?
Mama decides that they will keep the dog as Arliss needs the company.
Vocabulary: bobbed, clout, sober, doe
Enrichment: Write a short biography on the author, Fred Gipson.
Write an imaginary letter to Fred Gipson and display it and those of your classmates on a bulletin board.
What advice had Papa given Travis about hunting?
The advice was to make yourself as still as a tree and to always hunt downwind from game.
What are the Salt Licks and why are they important?
The Salt Licks are important as they are a source of salt for the wild animals. Thus the animals congregate there to eat it. (See link for additional information)
Why did Travis refuse to shoot at the javelina hogs?
He was very cautious because if you shot and wounded the hogs, they would attack you relentlessly.
What game does Travis finally kill?
He kills a deer by shooting it through the heart. It attempts to escape but runs into a tree and collapses.
Vocabulary: withers, wallowing, sulk
Enrichment: Write a paragraph or two outlining your feelings about hunting. Do you approve or disapprove? Is hunting ever a good thing?
Pretend you are one of the main characters and keep a journal making one entry for every chapter you read. Share your work with a classmate.
Why were the two bulls fighting?
The bulls wanted to prove who was the strongest.
What happens when Travis attempts to get Old Yeller to help?
Old Yeller sees the bull whip in Travis' hand, turns tail and runs off into the woods.
Describe two comical events that happen with the old cart?
First the Roan bull is flipped into the cart which rolls down the hill.
Secondly, Chongo who is curious, sticks his tongue out to taste the spinning wheel, scraping his tongue instead.
Vocabulary: roan, bullwhip, canyons, boars, knoll, talow, broadside, hilt, astride, reeking, braided, aggravated, heave, careened
Enrichment: How might the novel have been different if it was told from the mother's perspective? Would the story have been improved?
Research the Commanche and the Apache Indians. Make a presentation to your classmates.
What was Arliss in the habit of doing?
He caught everything that could run, fly, jump or crawl and stuck it into his pocket.
Why did his mother punish him when she found the baby copperhead?
She felt she had to cure him of this habit as one day he might be bitten by a venomous snake.
Why did the mother bear attack Arliss?
The mother bear attacked Arliss because he was holding onto her squealing cub.
Vocabulary: copperhead, tortilla, fib, wedges, frantic, prowl, lunging, rowdy
Enrichment: Research copperhead snakes. List some of the venomous snakes you would find in the United States and Canada?
How did Travis’ feelings about Old Yeller change after the bear attack?
Travis felt that they should keep Old Yeller as he had saved Arliss' life.
Why was Mama puzzled when Old Yeller wouldn’t eat any of the gobbler?
He should have been hungry as he hadn't eaten in days.
Describe Bud Searcy’s appearance.
He was red-faced with a bulging middle and would spit tobacco juice all over the place. He also waited for someone to invite him into their home for dinner.
Who was Lisbeth and what did she reveal to Travis?
Lisbeth was Bud Searcy's granddaughter. She reveals to Travis that Old Yeller has been stealing ribs and eggs. More importantly she tells Travis that Old Yeller is the 'Papa' of Miss Prissy's pups.
What does hydrophobia mean and what word do we normally use for this disease today?
Hydrophobia means fear of water. Today we are more likely to use the term 'rabies'.
Vocabulary: rout, briars, colt, sumptuous, watercress, solemn, roost, mauled
Enrichment: Research hydrophobia.
Where is the disease most prevalent?
How is it treated?
Who is Louis Pasteur?
What animals are most likely to contract this disease?
Assume the role of one of the characters and dress in period costume. Allow yourself to be interviewed by your classmates. Have someone write up the interview and publish it in a school newspaper.
Describe the various methods Travis used in his attempts to keep Old Yeller from wandering off at night.
Initially he tied him with rope and cowhide but Old Yeller chewed through them. Next he tried the corncrib but Old Yeller wouldn't stop howling. Finally he shut the dog up in their own bedroom.
Why did Travis and Old Yeller sleep in the corn patch?
They wanted to catch the coons that were raiding the corn patch.
How does Old Yeller fight the heifer?
He "set his teeth in her nose" until the heifer fell down.
Why does Travis "nearly die" at the end of the chapter?
A man rode up to their ranch and claimed Old Yeller as his lost dog.
Vocabulary: rogue, mange, shucks, wallow, heifer
Enrichment: Suggest some alternative titles for the novel. How might an author choose a title for his novel. Some publishers recommend that an author change the original title of their book. Why might the publishers do this?
Who was Burn Sanderson?
Burn Sanderson was a nice polite young man who rode up on a horse to claim Old Yeller.
Why was Travis angry with Bud Searcy?
Bud Searcy had told Burn Sanderson that Old Yeller was at the Coates ranch.
What kind of a trade did Mr. Sanderson make with Arliss?
He traded the dog for a home-cooked meal.
Why did Travis want to "get out of sight in a hurry"?
He didn't want anyone to see him cry.
As Burn Sanderson is leaving what warning does he give Travis Coates?
He warns him about the hydrophobia plague (rabies).
Vocabulary: flank, commotion,venison, bits, plague, sterness
Enrichment: What large game animals are indigenous to your region?
Design and paint a mural with a group of your classmates. Prior to beginning your work of art, it is important to discuss what events you deem worthy of being depicted in your mural.
Why did most of the hog owners keep four or five old barrows to run with the sows?
The barrows or bar' hogs hanga with the sows and help protect the pigs and shoats when generally the boars pulled off to range alone.
How did Travis mark the pigs born that year?
He used his knife to cut two marks on the pig's ear--an overbit and an underslope.
Why did Travis have to stay in the tree after he had marked the pigs?
Old Yeller didn't realize that Travis was finished and that he no longer wanted the hogs kept under the tree. With the hogs under the tree it wasn't safe for him to climb down.
Vocabulary: drooling, drought, shoat, sows, tushes, whetted, gnarled, castration
Enrichment: Are farm animals still marked or branded today? Check with some local farmers or ranchers?
Make a life size papier mache or poster of a character from the novel. You may even wish to do Old Yeller.
How did Travis keep track of how many pigs had been born that year?
He kept a piece of ear from every pig he marked and stuck them on a sharp-pointed stick.
What did Bud Searcy tell Travis Coates when he visited their home?
He informed Travis that he had missed a bunch of hogs down in the prickly-pear flats.
What happened to Travis when he tried to catch the second pig?
The sandbank which had earlier been undercut by floodwaters, collapsed. Travis fell in amongst the pigs and had his leg slashed by the hog's tush.
What happened to Old Yeller when he tried to intervene?
Old Yeller managed to save Travis but had his own belly ripped open leaving some of his insides bulging out through the slit.
Why did Travis decide to leave Old Yeller behind? What would you have done?
He wanted to get his mother because she always knew what to do when someone was hurt.
Vocabulary: prickly pear, shabby, entrails, mournful
Enrichment: Find out how dogs have been used by civilization over the years. Watch the video of Old Yeller and compare it to the novel. What is different? What is similar? Which did you prefer?
How did Mama clean and treat Travis’ wound?
She washed out the cut with hot water and then poured turpentine into the wound. Then she bound up the leg with clean white rags.
Why does Travis insist on going back to Old Yeller?
He had promised Old Yeller he would return and also he felt indebted to the dog for saving his life.
What does Mama use for thread to sew up Old Yeller’s wound?
She uses a long hair out of Jumper's tail claiming it is better than thread.
Why does Mama send Arliss to look for a green lizard?
She doesn't want him to see the terrible sight of Old Yeller's "slitted belly".
What are the signs at the end of the chapter that Travis’ leg has worsened?
It became stiff, numb and swollen and in Travis' words, "As dead as a chunk of wood".
Vocabulary: coil, buzzard, flinch
Enrichment: Research correct poster design and then design a poster for your classroom or school library to promote the book.
How would medical doctors treat Travis’ wound today? Would they agree with the method his mother used to treat the wound?
Describe the device Mama used to keep Jumper away from the corn.
She tied a drag to Jumper. She simply tied one end of a rope to his right forefoot and the other to a big heavy chunk of wood.
How did Travis react to another visit from Bud Searcy?
He was angry because he felt the lazy Bud Searcy would be a bother and a burden to his mother.
How do Mama and Travis react when Mr. Searcy offers to leave Lisbeth behind to help out their family?
Neither of them want her to stay. Mrs. Coates tries to convince Mr. Searcy that Lisbeth shouldn't stay because she is too small and has never before stayed away from home.
Enrichment: The author often makes use of dialogue in this story. Rewrite the following words in contemporary English.
What are some of the signs that Lisbeth was a good helper?
She could tote water from the spring, feed chickens, gather wood, cook cornbread, wash dishes, wash little Arliss, change the poultice on Travis' leg and gather corn with Mrs. Coates. Most importantly, she did all this without having to be asked.
Describe the actions of Spot and the roan bull during the next few days.
Spot was bawling, staying out all night, letting her calf go hungry, wandered in circles and even wanted to fight with Mrs. Coates. The roan bull moaned, walked with his head held low, wobbled, reeled, staggered headlong into a mesquite tree and later tried to attack Mrs. Coates.
What is Travis forced to do at the end of the chapter?
Travis is forced to shoot the bull between the eyes as it is a menace to the familiy.
Vocabulary: tote, nettles, blatting
Enrichment: Write down what you think the roles of women would have been in pioneer society. Then research the roles of pioneer women and young girls in the 1860's. How accurate were your predictions?
Write a summary of Old Yeller and create a webpage where you can display it.
Give two reasons why they had to remove the carcass.
They had to remove the carcass because the rotting flesh would smell awful and if the carcass lay to close to the spring, it might foul the water.
What is meant by the expression, "I knew he wasn’t throwing off"?
It means he knew he was giving it his best effort or trying his hardest.
What were they forced to do when they couldn’t move the bull?
They were forced to build a huge fire and burn the carcass.
Explain what happened to Spot?
Travis waited until she wandered far from the cabin onto a wide sand wash and then shot her. This avoided the problem they had faced trying to drag the bull away from the cabin.
Vocabulary: foul, carcass, varmint, haunches, trace, stench, hideous, frayed, shedding
Enrichment: Pretend you are Travis. Write a letter to your father outlining how things are going on the farm during his absence.
Give a book talk about Old Yeller to another classroom in your school
Why does Travis start to worry about Mama and Lisbeth?
It is getting late and they still haven't returned from burning the cow's (Spot's) carcass.
What instructions does Mama shout out to Travis?
She yells at him to make a light and get his gun.
What horrific scene unfolds in front of the cabin?
Old Yeller and a mad wolf are battling to the death.
What does Mama reluctantly offer to do if Travis can’t?
Realizing that Old Yeller may be rabid she offers to shoot him knowing that it will be difficult for Travis to shoot the pet he loves so dearly.
How did you feel at the end of this chapter?
Answers will vary.
Do you think you would have been able to do what Travis did?
Answers will vary.
Vocabulary: fussy, cornbread, recollected, hamstring, shuddered, muzzle
Enrichment: Describe something difficult that you have had to do in your life. Outline why it was such a difficult task for you. Were you able to complete the task?
Write a poem about Old Yeller and have the class publish them in an Anthology of Poems.
What does Papa bring for Travis?
He returns with a blue roan saddle horse for Travis.
Summarize what Papa tells Travis about life?
He tells Travis that life is unfair and cruel at times but that we must learn to concentrate on the positive things and not waste time worrying about the bad things.
Why is it exactly that Travis begins to feel better?
He begins to feel better for a number of reasons. His father is home, he has a horse of his own, time has healed his thoughts of Old Yeller and now the new pup yelps and bawls just like Old Yeller.
Describe your favourite part of the story?
Answers will vary.
Vocabulary: romped, speckled, clamped, frazzle
Enrichment: Can you think of a different ending that might have improved the story?
Who was your favourite character? Explain why.
Culminate the story with your very own class pioneer dinner with all the trimmings. Make sure to bake up some delicious cornbread.
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