Wilson Rawls was born on September 24, 1913, in the Ozark country of Scraper, Oklahoma. His mother home-schooled her children, and after Rawls read Jack London's canine-centered tale Call of the Wild, he decided to become a writer.
But the Great Depression hit the United States in 1929, and Rawls left home to find work. His family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1935, and he came home each fall to work and hunt. He wrote stories while he traveled, but his lack of formal education hampered his grammar, and he could not sell anything. In 1958, he gave up on his dream and burned all his work. He later revealed his literary desires to his wife, Sophie, and she encouraged him to keep writing.
In a three-week burst, Rawls wrote Where the Red Fern Grows, a highly autobiographical and poignant account of a boy, his two hounds, and raccoon-hunting in the Ozark Mountains. His wife edited his grammar and, after serialization in the "Saturday Evening Post," Doubleday published the novel in 1961. By the late 1960s, word-of-mouth helped the book become a classic for young readers. Rawls wrote (and Sophie edited) one more book, The Summer of the Monkeys, in 1976. This, too, became a classic. Rawls died in 1984 in Idaho Falls, Idaho.