Synopses & Reviews
We called him Old Yeller. The name had a sort of double meaning. One part meant that his short hair was a dingy yellow, a color that we called "yeller" in those days, The other meant that when he opened his head, the sound he let out came closer to being a yell than a bark.
He came in the late 1860's, the best I remember. Anyhow, it was the year that Papa and a bunch of other Salt Licks settlers formed a "pool herd" of their little separate bunches of steers and trailed them to the new cattle market at Abilene, Kansas.
This was to get "cash money," a thing that all Texans were short of in those years right after the Civil War. We lived then in a new country and a good one. As Papa pointed out the day the men talked over making the drive, we had plenty of grass, wood, and water. We bad wild game for the killing, fertile ground for growing bread corn, and the Indians had been put onto reservations with the return of U.S. soldiers to the Texas forts.
"In fact," Papa wound up, "all we lack having a tight tail-bolt on the world is a little cash money. And we can get that at Abilene."
Well, the idea sounded good, but some of the men still hesitated. Abilene was better than six hundred miles north of the Texas bill country we lived in. It would take months for the men to make the drive and ride back home. And all that time the womenfolks and children of Salt Licks would be left in awild frontier settlement to make out the best they could.
Still, they needed money, and they realized that whatever a man does, he's bound to take some risks. So they talked it over with each other and with their women and decided it was the thing to do. They told their folks what to do in case the Indians came off the reservation or the coons got to eating the corn or the !)cars got to killing too many hogs. Then they gathered their cattle, burned a trail brand on their hips, and pulled out on the long trail to Kansas.
Papa got through loving up Mama and Little Arliss and mounted his horse. I looked up at him. He motioned for me to come along. So I walked beside his horse down the trail that led under the big liveoaks and past the spring.
When he'd gotten out of hearing of the house, Papa reached down and put a hand on my shoulder.
"Now, Travis," he said, "you're getting to be a big boy; and while I'm gone, you'll bethe man of the family, I want you to act like one. You take care of Mama and Little Arliss. You look after the work and don't wait around for your mama to point out what needs to be done. Think you can do that?"
"Yessir," I said.
"Now, there's the cows to milk and wood to cut and young pigs to mark and fresh meat to shoot. But mainly there's the corn patch. If you don't work it right or if you let the varmints eat up the roasting ears, we'll be without bread corn for the winter."
"Yessir," I said.
"All right, boy. I'll be seeing you this fall."
Suddenly I remembered and went running down the trail after him, calling for him to wait.
He pulled up his horse and twisted around in the saddle. "Yeah, boy," he said. "What is it?"
"That horse," I said.
"What horse?" he said, like he'd never heard me mention it before. "You mean you're wanting a horse?"
"Now, Papa," I complained. "You know I've been aching all over for a horse to ride. I've told you time and again."
"What you're needing worse than a horse is a good dog."
"Yessir," I said, "but a horse is what I'm wanting the worst...
Set in the rough wilderness of early frontier Texas, "Old Yeller" is a timeless coming-of-age tale. Travis is left to care for the farm when his father leaves on a cattle drive. He copes with many hardships with the help of his big, yellow dog, Old Yeller.
When a novel like Huckleberry Finn, or The Yearling, comes along it defies customary adjectives because of the intensity of the respouse it evokes in the reader. Such a book, we submit, is Old Yeller; to read this eloquently simple story of a boy and his dog in the Texas hill country is an unforgettable and deeply moving experience.
About the Author
With Old Yeller,
Fred Gipson secured his place as one of the finest novelists in America. The book was published to instant acclaim and has become one of the most beloved children's classics ever written. Since its publication in 1956, Old Yeller
has won countless awards, including the 1957 Newbery Honor. Mr. Gipson's other works include both fiction and non-fiction. He grew up in the Texas hill country and died in 1973.