Where the Red Fern Grows Chapters 19 - 20 Summary

Even though Billy has won the hunting championship, he is still the same hard working hunting boy. One night he decides to hunt the Cyclone Timber country. His dogs strike a scent right away, but the animal jumps from tree to tree before Billy can reach it. He knows from this behavior it is most likely a bobcat or a mountain lion, which does not please him, because these animal's hides do not bring him any money.

After chasing the animal for a while Billy finally sees it up close in a tree, it is a mountain lion. This animal is terrifying to Billy, because of its size and ferocity. Old Dan, though a little scared, bawls out a challenge to the mighty cat, which the mountain lion accepts by jumping from the tree onto Old Dan. Little Ann joins in and tries to help her brother and the two of them fight the mountain lion together.

Billy knows his hounds are in for the fight of their lives and it is his duty to help them defeat this predator. He takes his ax and tries to do as much damage to the mountain lion as he can, but the animal soon turns on him. The dogs see Billy is in mortal danger, as the mountain lion prepares to pounce on him, after he falls to his knees. They move as one to take the blow meant for Billy. Billy recovers his balance and rages against the animal with them, in a fight which seems to go on forever.

The mountain lion has Old Dan by the throat, as Little Ann tries to pull him off her brother. It is in this moment that Billy seizes his opportunity to bury the ax deep in the back of the mountain lion. With the ax in his back, he lets Old Dan go and defiantly he slowly dies, looking at Billy angrily as his life leaves him.

Billy manages to take Little Ann off the dead predator, but Old Dan will not let go. Billy finally must use his ax handle to pry Old Dan's jaws apart and remove him from the dead animal. Both hounds are injured in the fight, but Old Dan's injuries are more severe than Little Ann's.

Old Dan is a bloody mess and Billy resorts to using the falling blood mixed with dirt to form mud, which he uses as a plaster on the dog's wounds. He starts the long trek home with his wounded hounds, but soon Billy hears a cry. It is Old Dan, whose entrails have become entangled in the branches of a huckleberry bush. Billy didn't realize the mountain lion had cut through Old Dan's belly. Billy picks up the entrails and puts them back into the dog, then he wraps him up in his coat and carries him home.

Billy's parents help him treat his injured animals. Billy tells them of the bravery of the two hounds and how they saved his life. His mother is overcome by the news of her son's brush with death.

Later that evening Old Dan dies from his injuries. Billy can't believe his dog is dead. Later that night he hears a noise on the front porch, it is Little Ann coming to lie next to the body of Old Dan. She has always slept next to him and tonight would be no different.

The next day Billy insists on burying his dog by himself under a red oak tree. Two days later, Billy's mother tells him Little Ann has stopped eating. He tries everything to make the dog eat, but she has no desire to live. The next morning, he finds her lying on Old Dan's grave, dead. Billy wonders what he did to make God take his dogs away from him. His mother tells him he did nothing wrong and the dogs helped to fulfill a prayer she made.

That night, Papa tells the family they have enough money to buy a house in town, so the children can receive a proper education. The jackpot money made it possible for them to fulfill their dream. Billy's mother explains to him that was her prayer and his dogs fulfilled it. She explains they thought they would have to leave Billy behind, to live with his grandparents because of his dogs. Now he can live with his parents in town, because that is what God wants for him.

After burying Little Ann, Billy and his mother discuss the dogs' lives in heaven, which his mother assures him will be a good life. This talk makes Billy feel better about losing his dogs.

The next spring the family moves out of the Ozarks. On moving day, Billy visits his dogs one last time and he sees a red fern growing between the two graves. A red fern is thought to be planted by angels and the spot where it grows is seen as sacred, among the people of the Ozarks. The sight of the red fern comforts Billy, as it comforts the rest of his family.

Now an adult, Billy would like to return to the Ozarks to visit his childhood home. He knows the red fern will still be there covering the graves of Old Dan and Little Ann, his beloved hounds. It will also be holding a piece of his life there, the piece which knew the unconditional love of Little Ann and Old Dan.

Old Dan and Little Ann take on a mountain lion one night and the result is immeasurable grief for Billy and them. Billy must face the death of his beloved hounds, which causes him to question his faith in God. His mother and father's support help Billy to move on with his life, but he never forgets his beloved hounds.

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