"Where The Red Fern Grows"
„Where The Red Fern Grows“ is the title of one of Casey’s songs inspired by the book from Wilson Rawls. The book from 1961 is about a boy who buys and trains two Redbone Coonhound hunting dogs. The book’s genre is primarily autobiographical fiction. Rawls used events from his personal life as foundation for the book. He based the main character, Billy Coleman, on himself as a young boy, growing up poor as one of six children on a farm in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma. During his free time, Rawls would roam through the woods, chasing raccoons with his dogs, like Billy in the book. Since at first there was no school in the area where Rawls lived, he was homeschooled by his mother but later went for a short period of time to the newly open school nearby his home. Due to the depression he soon had to take a job, so his education remained basic but he always loved to read books. Rawls eventually became a carpenter and moved to Idaho where he met Sophie, his wife. Instead of telling her that he was dreaming of becoming a writer, he burnt all his manuscripts just before they got married. However, he later confessed everything to her and she encouraged him to write again, so he replicated the story of the boy and his hunting dogs and rewrote it from memory in three weeks. Sophie helped him beef up the story and helped him out also with spelling and grammar.
The main character in the book, Billy Coleman, a boy who lives in the Ozark Mountains, wants a dog after seeing an ad selling Redbone Coonhounds. He works two years, saving the money until he is able to afford a male and female dog. Billy names the dogs Old Dan and Little Ann. With the help of his grandfather, he trains the two dogs to hunt raccoons. Together they experience many adventures. Billy’s grandfather enters them into a championship coon hunt, pitting them against experienced hunters and the finest dogs in the country, which they – after some adversity – win. One night while hunting, Old Dan and Little Ann are attacked by a mountain lion. Billy rushes to save them with his axe but the dogs end up saving him. The mountain lion dies, however, the badly-wounded Old Dan also dies later in the night. Little Ann is heartbroken and dies of grief a few days later on Old Dan’s grave. Billy is devastated but his father tries to explain that everything happens for a reason: The family decided to move into town where dogs are not allowed. They decided to let Billy live with his dogs at his grandfather’s, since the boy loves his hounds so much. But God doesn’t want a family to be separated, so he let Old Dan and Little Ann die. On his last day in the Ozarks, Billy visits the graves of his dogs and finds a giant red fern growing between them. He learns that according to a Native American legend, when an angel cries, where the tears land, a red fern grows. The red fern represents the strongest kind of love and the ground where it grows is sacred.
“Where The Red Fern Grows” is among Casey’s favorite books. When he read the book for the first time as a teen, he pretended to be sick, so that he could stay at home and finish reading the book instead of going to school. Since then, Casey has read the book countless times. There are many reasons why this book is among Casey’s favorites. Casey also grew up in a farming community in a mountain region with many siblings, like Billy Coleman. He never had any dogs but he always had (and still has) cats as pets and an extreme affection for all animals. His two cats, growing up, MacArthur and Muffin lived to be 19 and 23, respectively. They died within a few months of each other and are buried at Casey’s childhood home in rural Onondaga County, New York. For many years after the thaw of spring, to the amazement of many, you could find red ferns in bloom next to where they are buried.
Inspired by his personal connection with the book, his love for animals and the comforting feeling of a higher power fortifying the bond and love with our beloved pets over and above death, Casey wrote the song “Where The Red Fern Grows”. He usually plays it together with his song “Olde Appalachia”. Casey regularly donates to animal charity. Read more about The Ruby Fund by clicking here. You can support The Ruby Fund by purchasing Casey’s latest album “November” or sheet music of songs from “November”. Parts of the proceeds go to the fund. If you want to hear Casey playing this song in a concert, check out the concert schedule.
Listen to Casey’s “Where The Red Fern Grows / Olde Appalachia”
Live in Castle Rapperswil (Switzerland), album release concert, November 2018