Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 15 - 16 Summary

Grandpa, Papa, and Billy are on their way to the hunting competition. They are trying to reach Bluebird Creek the first night and from there they will travel to the competition campgrounds the next day.

As they camp, Billy finds his grandfather and Papa treat him as an adult, even letting him drink coffee. Billy is never allowed to drink coffee at home, the beverage is reserved for adults only. Another new experience occurs for the dogs, who are given their first ever serving of corned-beef hash. Usually they eat mush, but Grandpa insists they eat hash before the competition. It is while the dogs are being fed, Grandpa observes for the first time how tied the dogs are to each other. Old Dan, who is fed first, will not eat until Little Ann receives her food. Billy explains the dogs will not take anything from the other, so they always wait until each has their food before they start to eat. The two dogs do everything together, which is unusual for coon hounds.

That night Billy hears two screech owls in the trees near their campsite; hearing two screech owls on the same night is a portent of bad luck according to mountain superstition. Grandpa and Papa chide Billy the next morning for believing in the superstition.

Later that day they pull into the campground for the competitors. It is full of men and their dogs and is a larger group than Grandpa thinks will be there. Grandpa informs Billy the next day is a beauty competition for the dogs, but Billy, after seeing the large dogs at the grounds, thinks his dogs are too small to compete. Grandpa convinces him to enter one of the dogs, so Billy enters Little Ann. He uses Grandpa's good brush and comb, along with some butter to make his dog shine. It pays off as Little Ann is named the winner of the beauty competition.

The rules for the hunting part of the championship are explained to the competitors. The dogs will go out in groups of five, with the two hounds that catch the most coons moving on to the championship runoff. The following nights, hounds must match or exceed the first nights catch to move on to the runoff. Each hunter draws a card telling him which night his hounds will hunt. Billy draws the fourth night and he plans with Grandpa and Papa to go downriver and hunt where the other dogs haven't hunted yet.

Grandpa that night decides to shave and comb his hair. He discovers how Billy made Little Ann shine in the eyes of the judges. Billy takes cover to give Grandpa time to cool off after his discovery.

When Billy's turn comes he, Grandpa, Papa, and the judge along with the dogs head out for their hunt. They drive down river where Billy unties the dogs and lets them hunt. They tree two raccoons and are trailing the third, who is a tricky raccoon. He loses the dogs as he walks on the rail fence, but Old Dan keeps coming back to the tree he first thought the animal was in. The older men are about to give up because the day is breaking, but Billy knows his dogs will find the raccoon. He is proven right as Little Ann starts to howl and lets them know she has treed the raccoon. Old Dan joins her and the coon becomes the third pelt they turn in to the judge that night. This qualifies Billy for the championship runoff.

Grandpa has caught a cold, because he fell into the river as they were chasing the second raccoon. His snoring forces Billy to sleep with his dogs.

The next day, the judges give the rules of the runoff to the three hunters who qualified. The person who brings in the most pelts wins, if two tie then the runoff will continue the next night. Most of the hunters are pulling for Billy and his small dogs, but one of the runoff competitors has won the gold cup four times.

Billy wants to hunt in the swamps, because he thinks a lot of coons are living in the swamps. Grandpa and Papa allow him to follow this plan, which works well as they find a raccoon right away. The raccoon first climbs a tree, but is scared out of it by Papa's gunfire and he escapes into the river. The coon is large and he jumps on Old Dan's head in an attempt to drown the dog, but Little Ann comes to his rescue. She pulls the raccoon off Old Dan and the three animals fight in the deep water for a while. The men are afraid the dogs will drown, but Billy has seen his animals fight like this before and has faith in their ability to prevail. He is proven right as the raccoon tries to reach the shore and Old Dan catches him. After the kill is over, Little Ann licks Old Dan's cuts and he does the same for her, then the two dogs go off to find more raccoons to tree.

Old Dan and Little Ann soon become the favorite of the hunters in the competition. They are small but mighty dogs, who prove they deserve to be part of the hunting championship. Billy is also a favorite because he is young and earnest. Billy for his part is feeling like he has been accepted as a man by his father and grandfather, and by the other hunters.



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