Saturday, November 19, 2011

Boy Behind the Statue

Wilson Rawl. With one sweep of the cursor and I knocked out everything I just wrote about him. I guess it was to empasize exactly how hard it was for him to go back and re-write his book, Where the REd Fern Grows.

"Oh!" I thought. "Good, I don't need to keep a live journal online!" Thinking that fate had made up its mind for me. But after walking around the block in the frigid cold, I resolved to roll my sleeves back up and dive in again.

Whether it turns out the same, or not, we'll see. I some time ago to read the book with Jaden. Subbed in a 5th grade class that was in the midst of it and after my sister got a hound.. well, it just seemed like the time of year to do it.

Checking it out from a school library because the public library says I still owe a fine on a book I swear I paid for in CASH and seeing as I don't have a receipt; and I am too stubborn to go over there and re-pay it! Yes, Westside Elementary, I am a good patron of libraries! And you WILL get it back after the break!

Jaden didn't know if he would like the book. In fact, after I started it, he commented that he thought it would be sorta boring cause it looked old. But after the other night, he walked away with a new appreciation of life and dogs.

I'd pictured reading it by a fire for some reason. Maybe because the character starts out by one and recalls his youth as he looks at the silver and gold cups he won as a child with his dogs.

That aspect came true. Not because I labored in front of the hearth wadding up newspapers, etc. But that I was too tired the other night to finish it with Jaden. We had reached the beginning of the end, but my eyes couldn't stay open. I asked him if we could read it later, he moaned but agreed.

We were able to finish it the next night. We'd just walked in from the driving rain and wind after picking him up from a practice and there was the fire I'd imagined. Padre was kneeling down in front of the hearth putting in old office papers.

Thinking we ought to eat first, I held back the idea of reading but it wasn't long before I had my coat half off and Jaden was suggesting we read it, by the fire!

"Go grab it!" I said and cozied up on the couch watching the flames lick up the black cement blocks inside the fireplace. Without eating, we plunged into the final chapters, both of us unaware of what stood in store. My mind had blanked the details, he only knew the dogs died- but how?

It took a lot of fortitude to keep reading through the hard parts. Jaden started to stir next to me as the mountain lion scene unfolded before his eyes. He had to turn his face from mine, stand up and walk across the room- eventually leaving the room and me wondering if he would come back. REd faced he appeared again and I assured him it was almost over. But I half wondered if I should wait til he was older, when he could handle the story a bit better.

Choking back my own tears I steadied my voice and concluded the story just as the last flame curled up off the night colored log from the tree we lost as a result of the last storm.

It wasn't til the next day that J could process the book and explain what was going on iside of him; "Mom, I felt like my heart stopped. I had to get up and move so the circulation would come back, that's why I was walking around."

I drove him by the library and we looked at the sculpture of the young boy, Billy and his two dogs, Little Ann and Old Dan entwined around his barefoot legs. I always thought the sculpture of the dogs were on the skinny side. But that exudes the essence of Rawls own life, the life of his characters and really our own. I know I haven't had to live in a time where I was required to go hungry, but in a lot of ways I hunger for so many things in my life. And sometimes that is good, the raw hunger that keeps us moving toward our aspirations.

By the way, there is a CD of Wilson Rawls talking about his youth and how he came to write his books. He grew up in the Ozarks, barefoot and hungry as well. Writing on the banks of rivers and dusty roads; left home in his teens because his father couldn't afford to feed him or his siblings so he went in look of work. Riding the rails somewhere in Texas during a storm without much on he finally got off in a town to look for something to eat. He tried to find a soup kitchen and saw a man leaving a hotel who looked like he could afford to help him. He tugged on his coat sleeve and asked: "Would you be willing to feed a boy?"

That is all I know because it is only a snippet. But I am amazed that he went back and re-wroe the 4 books he burned in a fire because he felt they were silly and no one would be interested.

Gosh, I know that the book is ficiton, but I feel like somewhere in the Ozarks there really is an ax bedded deep in a tree with a lantern hanging from it!

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