Friday, February 11, 2011
A Dog Named Old Yeller
Mom has only seen the movie once or twice because when she first saw it, she didn't like how different it was from the book. Like, for instance if you look at the pictures in the book, you can see that Old Yeller looks sort of like a pitbull, and one of his ears got chewed off. But if you watch the movie, you see that Old Yeller looks more like a yellow lab and not like the scruffy, cattle-herding frontier dog that he really was. And that's why I'm not going to talk too much about the movie. Mostly I am going to talk about the book.
Old Yeller was first published in 1956, when Mom was 4 years old. Mom's mom was in some kind of book club, so she got an early copy of Old Yeller and started reading it to Mom when she was 5, which was the same age as Little Arliss. Mom thought maybe this book was a first edition. Except that when I was doing my in-depth research, I learned that the very first copies of the book had plain white endpapers, and then later somebody thought it would be a good idea to put a color picture there. So Mom's copy has a color picture of Old Yeller saving Little Arliss from the angry mama bear. Which is a really cool picture, if you ask me, and much more interesting than plain white endpapers.
But his most famous novel was Old Yeller. It won the Newberry Honor and got made into a film in 1957. It was the book that Mr. Gipson himself thought was his best. By 1973, it had sold almost 3 million copies, and it was translated into a bunch of languages. There was also a sequel to Old Yeller that was called Savage Sam, and it was about the son of Old Yeller.
I like the pictures that Mr. Burger made of Old Yeller, so Mom helped me scan some of them. We hope we will not get in trouble for this because of copyright stuff. When you buy the book nowadays, you only get one of the original illustrations, which is the cover picture of Travis picking a thorn out of Yeller's paw.
Okay, well, you probably already know the story of Old Yeller, but in case you don't, it's about a boy named Travis, who is 14 years old, and he lives in Texas with his ma and pa and little brother, Arliss. And it all takes place not too long after the Civil War. Then Travis's pa has to go on a cattle drive to help take all the cattle to Abilene, Kansas to sell them, so he leaves Travis in charge of the farm while he is gone.
So pretty soon this ugly dog shows up, and he steals meat and does naughty stuff that makes Travis hate him. But then he saves Little Arliss's life when Arliss is almost killed by a bear, and after that, Travis starts liking the dog after all. And then Yeller helps with all kinds of things like making the cows behave and running the coons out of the corn patch and marking the wild boars. And he ends up saving everybody's life sometime during the book. But then in the end, he gets bitten by a wolf with rabies, and Travis has to shoot him. Which is the part that makes everyone cry.
Anyway, it's a very good book, and it shows how much a boy and his dog can love each other, and it also shows how Travis is able to do a very hard thing and start being a man, instead of just a boy. Plus the book has a dog in it who is a wonderful, brave hero.
So I think everybody who hasn't read the book should run out and do that right now, and you should especially do this if you've ever loved a dog.