Though working on the farm helps Billy distract himself from his dog-wanting for a time, it never fully eradicates his feelings of longing. One day, while hoeing corn, Billy hears a group of fishermen who have been camped out by the creek depart in their car. He hurries down to the river to prowl through their campsite and collect anything they might have left behind. Sure enough, Billy finds a great “treasure”: a sportsman’s magazine. As Billy flips through the “For Sale” section, he comes across and advertisement for hound pups for sale for $25 each at a kennel in Kentucky. Billy’s longing is renewed, but he agonizes over how to earn $50. He recalls something his mother once told him: “God helps those who help themselves.” He prays that God will help him get his hounds.
In this passage, Rawls begins to introduce the large role that faith plays in Billy’s life. Billy believes that there are certain things he can’t accomplish alone—certain things, he believes, can only be accomplished through God’s will. Billy prays ardently for God’s assistance in this passage, though Mama’s quote suggests that it’s actually the strength and confidence derived from a person’s faith that inspires them to make their reality reflect their prayers.
Billy leaves the fishermen’s campsite as dusk begins to fall. He notices animals coming to life throughout the forest. Comforted by nature, he stills his mind and he begins thinking of a plan to save the money. Billy decides to sell bait and fresh vegetables from the farm to the local fisherman and to sell the small game hides he traps throughout the winter. He begins dreaming of building a doghouse and making collars—but he becomes determined to remain realistic and not get ahead of himself.
Billy draws strength from one other major part of his life: the natural world all around him. Billy feels connected to nature even without his dogs, and the sense of peace, calm, and fulfillment he derives from being in nature allows him to visualize the future positively.
The next day, Billy finds an old baking powder can and he washes it up. He deposits 23 cents—all the money he has in the world—in the bottom of it. The sight of the paltry sum doesn’t depress Billy, but instead it motivates him to work hard. All summer, Billy “work[s] like a beaver” selling bait and gathering blackberries to sell to his grandfather, who owns a store in town. Billy’s grandpa becomes curious about what Billy’s saving up for, and Billy confides in the man about his plan. Grandpa promises that when Billy has saved up enough money, he will place the order for Billy’s dogs himself.
This passage shows that the adults in Billy’s life—the ones who know about his plans, that is—are motivated to help him as they become moved by his determination and eagerness. Billy’s faith and hard work are inspirational to others. Before he even has his dogs, the hounds are teaching him important lessons about commitment, confidence, and perseverance.
Over the course of that winter and the following summer, Billy continues working hard. After a year, Billy, now 12, has saved well over the halfway mark. Another year of hard work sails by, and at last Billy has his $50. He cries as he counts his money and he confirms that he has the right sum. Contented and proud, Billy offers up a prayer of thanks to God for giving him the “heart, courage, and determination” to work hard and to never give up hope.
This passage shows that in spite of all Billy’s own hard work day in and day out over the course of two years, he still credits God with empowering him to get the job done. Billy has shaped his reality around his prayers and his faith, yet he still believes God is ultimately responsible for his success.
The next day, Billy brings his can of money to his grandfather’s store and he presents his “dumbfounded” grandpa with the money. Grandpa is stunned that Billy has been saving relentlessly for two years. When Billy produces the yellowed old ad from the sportsman’s magazine from his pocket, Grandpa becomes emotional. Billy notices his grandfather looking at him strangely. Grandpa tells Billy that his hair is too long and that his feet are all cut up; Billy explains that he’s been working so hard harvesting blackberries that he hasn’t noticed either. Grandpa turns away from Billy, removes his glasses, and blows his nose into his handkerchief.
In this passage, Grandpa is so moved by Billy’s hard work and steadfast nature that he begins to cry. He sees how hard Billy has worked for these dogs and he is deeply moved—yet his instinct is to conceal his emotions, however halfheartedly, from his grandson. Billy’s relationship to emotion is very different from his grandfather’s, and over the course of the novel, both men will continue to learn about the nuance of emotional expression from each other.
Grandpa turns back around and he tells Billy that it’s time to get him his dogs. He urges Billy to head home—he is going to make some calls and see if the Kentucky kennel is still breeding redbone coonhounds. Before Billy leaves, however, Grandpa pulls a large sack from behind the register and fills it with candy until it’s stuffed. Billy hurries home and he shares the candy with his three little sisters, enjoying the happiness he sees in their eyes as they devour the sweets.
Grandpa wants to reward Billy’s hard work. While Billy has simply been doing what he needs to do in order to get his dogs, Grandpa knows that the amount of effort Billy has been pouring into this endeavor each and every day is monumental and worth celebrating—particularly given Billy’s young age.