The protagonist and narrator of the novel. The older Billy Colman is a man in his fifties who feels compelled to relive the memories of his Ozark mountain youth after rescuing a hound from a… read analysis of Billy Colman
Billy’s Father / Papa
Billy’s father is a thoughtful, supportive, and hardworking man who does all he can to provide for his family. Though the novel is relayed through Billy’s eyes, meaning that the specifics of Papa’s past… read analysis of Billy’s Father / Papa
Billy’s Grandfather / Grandpa
Billy’s paternal grandfather is a kind and scrappy old man who runs a small general store serving a remote Ozark mountain town. A spitfire of a man who loves his family and community, Grandpa… read analysis of Billy’s Grandfather / Grandpa
The larger of Billy’s hounds. Old Dan is bolder and more aggressive than his sister and littermate, Little Ann. Dan eventually grows to be larger and more physically powerful, but he often finds… read analysis of Old Dan
Billy’s Mother / Mama
Billy’s mother is a kind, religious, and anxious woman who dreams of one day moving her family from their Ozark home into the city where they can have access to better educations and more… read analysis of Billy’s Mother / Mama
Another Ozark mountain youth who is part of the infamous and insular Pritchard clan of bootleggers and thieves. A large, imposing boy two years Billy’s senior, Rubin is a bully through and through. When… read analysis of Rubin Pritchard
Rubin’s younger brother Rainie is a young boy about Billy’s age. Nervous, shifty, and always looking to make a bet, Rainie is wily and excitable. Rainie is the one who suggests Billy take… read analysis of Rainie Pritchard
A kindly marshal in Tahlequah. The marshal is large and intimidating, but Billy recognizes him as a friend rather than a fearsome figure of authority after the marshal rescues Billy from a gang of cruel children (the Tahlequah kids) who tease, taunt, and beat Billy for being a “hillbilly.”
A kindly stationmaster in Tahlequah who helps Billy unpack his puppies from the crate in which they were shipped. The stationmaster watches Billy’s emotional first meeting with his dogs and declares that it seems like the pups “already know [him.]”
Billy’s younger sisters, always represented as a gaggle of excitable and emotional children.
The judge assigned to evaluate Billy and his hounds’ performances during the hunting competition toward the end of the novel. The judge is impressed and deeply moved by the close relationship Billy shares with his hound dogs—and with the dogs’ love for and loyalty to one another.
Mr. Benson and Mr. Kyle
Two fellow hunters who come to Billy and his family’s aid after they spend a long night hunting in a terrible snowstorm. Mr. Benson and Mr. Kyle both marvel at the depths of Billy’s dogs’ loyalty to their master, to the hunt, and to one another.
The Head Judge
The head judge of the hunting competition.
A gang of cruel children who tease Billy and pick on him for being a “hillbilly” and even harass his brand-new hound puppies.