Chapter VI Summary:
Billy moves on with the dogs in the morning. By the fisherman's camp where he found the magazine ad for the dogs, he sees the names "Dan" and "Ann" carved inside a heart on a tree trunk. He decides to call the male dog "Old Dan" and the female dog "Little Ann." Billy feels the coincidence of finding the names here happened with the help of an "unseen power."
Billy goes home. His parents figured out where Billy had gone with the help of Grandpa, but Mama was still worried. He gives his family their gifts, which they happily receive. He tells them about the mountain lion and about his unpleasant feelings toward the town and the people there. His Papa urges him not to be biased against the town; at some point he wants to move the family to town. His sisters ask questions about the town and school. The next day Billy scratches his dogs' names into leather collars. He tells Mama he feels God helped him get the dogs.
Billy's sense of an "unseen power" helping him get the dogs foreshadows a miraculous event at the end of the novel. Beyond this event, something mystical does seem to bond Billy and the dogs and will contribute to their hunting teamwork.
Chapter VII Summary:
Billy tries to trap a coon so he can train his dogs with a coonskin, but the coons prove too wily. His Grandpa teaches him to catch a coon with a simple brace and bit, and a shiny piece of tin for bait. Although the coon merely has to let go of the object to free itself from the trap, coons stubbornly hold onto objects.
Billy makes and sets the traps along the river. More than a week later, he still has not caught any coons. Papa thinks it is because his scent is still around the traps. When Billy investigates his traps, he finds a trapped coon. The dogs attack the coon, who easily defends himself. Billy takes his dogs and runs back home. The whole family returns to the trap, and Papa kills the coon with a club. Papa tells Billy to get rid of the other traps, as it is not sportsmanlike to hunt them this way. Billy agrees.
Using the hide from the coon to make scent trails, Billy trains the dogs. Through the summer and fall, he teaches them many tricks the coons use, and the dogs are quick learners. With hunting season a few days away, they rest.
Wilson Rawls is excellent at describing various actions in detail. He brings the reader into the story and makes our identification with Billy more complete. When Billy finally catches a coon in his trap, we feel we have had a share in it, as we have ourselves learned how to make and set a coon trap. The same goes for the training of the dogs; we learn what a coon does and how smart it can be (and we will learn more in later chapters).
However, Rawls also demonstrates how experienced humans can outsmart coons. We also see the characters of Old Dan and Little Ann emerge more; Old Dan is very aggressive, but Little Ann will not back down from a fight, either.
Chapter VIII Summary:
Hunting season opens, and Billy prepares for the night. Papa tells Billy he can hunt as much as he wants during the season, but his Mama remains worried about him. He leaves after dinner and sets his dogs free on the trail. They soon track a coon, but the coon loses them with a trick. The dogs quickly figure it out and trail the coon, but the coon eludes them again. Just as Billy packs up to leave, they chase the coon again. They tree (send up in a tree so it cannot escape) the coon.
Billy is proud of his dogs, but the tree is huge sycamore. He knows he cannot cut it, and tells his dogs they should give up. The dogs are deeply disappointed, and Billy decides to cut down the tree. After two hours of chopping with the ax, he is exhausted, and by daylight he gives up. Papa comes and offers to help, but Billy wants to do it by himself. His sister gives him some food and his strength returns.
Billy's determination in cutting down the tree rivals that of his dogs as they chase the coon. His refusal to let his father help him shows how much he wants the first coon to be a product of teamwork between just him and his dogs.
In fact, Billy speaks of the "'bargain'" he made with the dogs, that if they treed a coon, he would chop down the tree. They rely on each other and make promises that they keep, a sign of their deep love and devotion to each other.
Rawls makes the coon-hunting scenes exciting by throwing escalating obstacles Billy's way. After the coon uses a simple trick to throw off the dogs, it uses a more complicated trick. Just when we think the episode is over, the coon climbs the biggest tree in the forest. And when we think Billy has given up, his family helps him with support and food.
Chapter IX Summary:
By noon, Billy again gives up cutting down the tree. Grandpa arrives and teaches him how to make a scarecrow to keep the coon in the tree so Billy can get some rest at home. At dinner, Billy says he thinks the coon his dogs treed is a different one from the first one they chased; Grandpa agrees and explains how the coon did it. The family realizes that Old Dan has stayed by the tree overnight, and when Billy goes down to it, he sees that Little Ann did, too.
Billy chops the tree, and by afternoon he has terrible blisters. He wants to give up, but he prays to God to give him the strength to finish the job. A breeze blows and the tree topples. The coon runs out and Little Ann grabs the coon, which viciously attacks her. Old Dan helps her, and the coon is soon dead.
Billy returns home triumphantly. He tells Papa about the wind and how it only hit the big tree. He believes God helped him again.
Grandpa speaks about the "'determination and will power'" involved in cutting down a big tree. Although Billy does not fully heed his words, he does exemplify determination and will power time and again. So do his dogs - Old Dan and Little Ann are tenacious, and will not leave the coon up in the tree.
Billy again credits God with helping him, here by cutting down the tree. All the mystical aid he and the dogs receive foreshadows the great mystical event at the end of the novel.
Chapter X Summary:
Mama makes Billy a cap out of his first coon hide. He hunts every night, and his dogs prove excellent hunters. Billy turns the money he earns from the hides over to his father. When he gives the hides to Grandpa, Grandpa always notes something down on a piece of paper, though he doesn't explain why. On Saturdays, Billy swaps hunting stories with other hunters. The hunters make fun of his dogs, but know Little Ann and Old Dan are the best.
Billy discovers Old Dan will not hunt if he is not with Little Ann. Little Ann becomes the favorite of Billy's sisters. Unfortunately, because of her small size, Little Ann cannot have puppies.
One night, while they hunt a boar coon, Little Ann saves Old Dan's life by alerting Billy to an underground muskrat den that Old Dan has trapped himself in. Another night, Old Dan himself gets caught up in a tree, and Billy has to use some ingenuity to get him down.
This short chapter describes the regular nature of Billy's hunting adventures. He is becoming an excellent hunter, as are his dogs. Little Ann continues to demonstrate her superior intelligence, while Old Dan shows how determined and strong he is. Like Billy, a boy among adult hunters, they are undersized but compensate with great will power and skill.
The narrative now becomes more episodic, meaning it is made up of episodes that do not really build up into each other, as the story did earlier when Billy's goal was to get his dogs. To make up for the episodic narrative, which risks becoming boring and repetitive, Rawls varies Billy's adventures and makes them increasingly difficult.
Rawls creates intrigue when he reveals that Grandpa takes notes on how many hides Billy skins. Billy ignores it, but the reader knows that Grandpa is cooking up something.