Monthly Archive for October, 2007

Old Yeller — Hero or Space Alien

Author’s Note:

Last week, I helped my fifth grader by typing her essay. During the pauses, while she thought about what to write or looked up something in the book, I got bored and started typing extra sentences in her essay. To make sure my stuff didn’t get mixed with hers, I wrote about space aliens.

My daughter was not amused but the more sentences I added, the funnier it became. I found myself unable to stop despite numerous reprimands. Even my child was laughing by the end.

I cut all my space alien stuff out of the essay and wrote my own Old Yeller essay so she could take it to class.

So here it is….

–ray

Written in 1956 by Fred Gipson, Old Yeller is the moving account of a boy’s deep love for his dog in 19th-century Texas. However, the novel also deals with a boy’s growth as he learns to accept the harsh responsibilities of adulthood.

At the beginning of the story “a big ugly slick-haired yeller dog” shows up at the house. Travis will not accept Old Yeller and he blames Old Yeller for everything.

Soon enough, Travis starts to notice some odd things about Old Yeller. For instance, how could an average size dog fight off a 500-pound momma bear that was trying to protect her cub? And how could a dog tell in which tree the squirrel was hiding if the squirrel was on the opposite side of the tree? The dog would have to use x-ray vision to see through the tree. Of course in 19th century Texas, they didn’t know about x-rays, so Travis was only mildly suspicious. Later, when Travis falls into a ravine full of angry hogs, Old Yeller manages to defeat the hogs. Hmmm, one dog vs a bunch of angry hogs… Methinks the odds here seem to favor the piggies.

At the end of the story, Old Yeller battles a rabid loan wolf. It’s just too much for Travis to believe so he shoots Old Yeller. That’s where the book ends but I know the real untold story. I discovered it while researching on the Internet. And you know, if it’s on the Internet, then must be true. It turns out that Old Yeller was not old — just yeller. In fact, Old Yeller was not a dog at all but a SPACE ALIEN! All space aliens look like old yeller dogs! Here’s what happened next.

Two weeks later, a strange noise wakes Travis from sleep. Travis grabs his trusty gun and stumbles to the porch while trying to clear the fog from his mind.

Suddenly alert, Travis looks up and sees a strange glowing object hovering just above the tree tops. Reacting to this sight, Travis turns his body and starts to bring the rifle to his shoulder. Instantly, intense white light blinds Travis. Forgetting the rifle, Travis shields his face with his hands but it’s no use, his hands only tint the light red as it shines through his hands.

Stunned from the experience, Travis falls to the ground confused and temporarily blinded. Was it seconds, minutes, or hours later? Travis doesn’t know. Lying in the yard outside his family’s cabin, Travis’s consciousness slowly returns. Suddenly, he gets that creepy you-are-not-alone feeling. Travis opens his eyes painfully. His head hurts worse than it did last week when Arliss clocked him between the eyes with a golf ball sized rock. Slowly, the world comes into focus.

Travis cannot believe what he sees. Fifty yards from him lies an object twice the size of the cabin. It makes no noise but emits soft light that makes the yard just brighter than during a full moon. Travis decides this must be the source of the blinding light and quickly looks away. That’s when Travis notices a strong, unpleasant, yet hauntingly familiar smell.

“What is that smell,” Travis wonders? Then he remembers. It’s wet dog! He smelled it the day he caught Old Yeller and Arliss in the spring and again when Old Yeller and Arliss caught the catfish.
Travis stares in horror. A dozen, big ugly slick-haired yeller dogs surround him! Today we would just call the dogs golden-doodles. The dogs seem to talk to each other. Travis isn’t sure because the dogs don’t use words but they aren’t making dog sounds either. Travis has never heard the strange sounds before but you and I would think of the sounds as digital beeps. Suddenly, the largest of the dogs steps forward. Travis’ jaw drops open in surprise as the dog starts to speak!

“Travis,” the dog begins. “You are hereby charged with shooting XJ8, a member of our science team. The one you called “Old Yeller.” How do you plead?”

“He got bit by a wolf with Hydrophobia,” exclaimed Travis having a very hard time speaking to a dog! “We couldn’t take a chance on him biting one of us. I didn’t want to shoot him but I had to.” Travis starts to cry.

Another dog steps forward. “It’s true sir. XJ8 was bitten by a wolf infected with the disease known locally as Hydrophobia. In this time, it is an incurable disease fatal to people and animals. In another hundred years, the humans will learn to stop the disease by sticking a dozen needles into the stomach. Perhaps the human tells the truth.”

“Preposterous!” shouts a third dog stepping forward. Drool hangs from his fangs as he speaks. “We witnessed this human throw stones at XJ8 on numerous occasions. I say the human is guilty!”

Commotion erupts among the gathered dogs until the first dog raises his paw. The group quiets immediately. Then the largest dog speaks.

“The council has heard the evidence. How say you?”

The dogs again make the strange sounds, then fall silent fixing their gaze on Travis.

The leader, at least that’s how Travis thinks of the biggest dog, again speaks.

“Human, the council finds you guilty of killing XJ8. You ruined the science fair project of one of our fifth graders and our fifth graders work all year on these projects! You are hereby sentenced to death.”

The aliens shoot Travis because he shot Old Yeller. Just then something hits one of the dogs. It’s a golf ball sized rock. Arliss appears on the porch screaming. Don’t you shoot my brother. I’ll learn you. What kind of science fair project was it? I bet you didn’t even have a hypothesis! The aliens just stare until one of them says, “let’s go. That one gives me a headache.”

The aliens leave but the decide to take Mama and Lizbeth with them. Perhaps, Moma and Lizbeth can be used for the science fair. The aliens leave Arliss behind because even aliens think Arliss is a big cheese.

That’s how it really happened and now you know the untold story. Look for the exciting new conclusion, when the book is reprinted next summer and re-titled “Extreme Old Yeller!”