Meet the Author

Wilson Rawls

Portrait of Wilson Rawls

When Wilson Rawls was a child, his mother ordered books through the mail, read them to Rawls and his siblings, and then let them take turns reading the books on their own. One of those books was The Call of the Wild, by Jack London. When Rawls's mother gave him that book, it became the first book he owned, and he cherished it. It also gave him the idea that he would become a writer like Jack London someday.

As a young adult, Rawls traveled all over the country, taking a variety of jobs. Along the way, he wrote as often as he could, and he completed five novels. He was ashamed of his spelling and punctuation, however, and didn't show the novels to anyone. In the late 1950s, just before he got married, Rawls decided he would give up the idea of writing and become a more "serious" person. He burned all the manuscripts he had written.

But Rawls's dream of being a writer would not die. He told his wife, Sophie, what he had done, and she encouraged him to rewrite one of the stories. The one he chose to rewrite was Where the Red Fern Grows, based on his childhood. It was published first as a three-part serial in the Saturday Evening Post in 1961, and then as a book later that year. In 1973, when it was made into a movie, Wilson and Sophie Rawls were invited to the set. "I stayed for ten days and relived my youth. It was wonderful," Rawls said. He died in 1984.

Today a statue of Billy Colman and his two dogs stands on the lawn of the Idaho Falls Public Library in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Rawls lived in the town for 17 years, and he rewrote Where the Red Fern Grows there.

Photography Credit


Other Books Written by Wilson Rawls

  • Summer of the Monkeys