Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
rawlsport-sm.gifWoodrow Wilson Rawls was born on September 24, 1913 to Minzy O. Rawls and Winnie Hatfield Rawls. He grew up on a small farm near Scraper, Oklahoma, a farm which the family referred to as "Mother's Cherokee allotment" since it was land given to Winnie Hatfield Rawls by the government because of her Cherokee ancestry.



books.jpegThe Rawls children were unable to attend school on a regular basis, so Winnie decide to teach them at home by reading aloud from books she ordered through the mail. Call of the Wild was a book his mom chose to read to him that made a difference. He became interested in reading because he felt a huge connection to a book he thought was geared towards boys. Once his mother finished reading that book to the children, she gave it to Wilson, who took the book everywhere with him. He even read the book aloud to his dog. Wilson Rawls had found his dream. He wanted to grow up and be a writer. He wanted to write a boy and dog story that would affect others as much as Call of the Wild hadaffected him.
albuqu.pngIn 1929, the Depression hit the country. Wilson was sixteen years old. He left home and traveled all over the country finding any jobs he could. All the time he traveled, he wrote stories on what paper he could find. The Rawls family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1935. Wilson began going to Albuquerque each fall to hunt and work with his family. Each year he took the stories he had written on the road, and locked them in an old trunk in his father's workshop. One year he headed north to Idaho where he began working at the Atomic Energy Commission site in the Arco desert. It was in Idaho that he met Sophie Styczinski, a budget analyst for the Atomic Energy Commission.

In 1958, Sophie and Wilson decided to marry. On a trip to Albuquerque, just a few weeks before he was to be married, Wilson decided to give up his dream of being a writer and become more responsible. He had never dared to show those stories to anyone. On a hot August day, he gathered all the manuscripts from the old trunk and burned them.

school_clipart_boy_writting.gifJust a few months after the wedding, Wilson discovered that his dream was not going to die that easily. He still wanted to be a writer. He confided his dream to Sophie. He told her of the long nights he had spent writing stories by the light of hobo town campfires, or by the side of the road as he waited for a ride. He told her how he had burned all those stories just before their wedding.

Fortunately, Sophie was not only supportive, she was extremely enthusiastic and with her editorial skills, the first version of the Where the Red Fern Grows was written and came out in the Saturday Evening Post as a three-part serial in 1961. Later that year, it was published in hardback by Doubleday. Wilson had realized his dream of being a writer! He went on to write a second book, Summer of the Monkeys , while living in Idaho Falls.

In 1975, he and Sophie moved to Cornell, Wisconsin where he died in December of 198