In the original novel, “The Yearling,” Ms. Rawlings suggested a number of possible exciting plot twists that she then declined to pursue. I couldn’t resist writing them myself. Here is one such possibility.


“He would go to Buck and throw himself on his mercy. He would remind Buck of Fodder-wing, talk of Fodder-wing until Buck’s throat choked. Then he would ask him to take Flag in the wagon, as he had taken the bear cubs, to Jacksonville….”


“Buck, please…!”

“No, Jody.” Buck’s tone was kind, but firm. He pulled Jody gently onto his lap.

“But I love Flag!”

“I know you do.” He pressed Jody’s head against his shoulder and caressed his cheek. “But we got no place here to keep no yearlin’ deer.” He looked around the big room at his brothers, and they all shook their heads at the absurdity.

“But…,” Jody whimpered, desperately seeking some words, magic words, to make Buck become his salvation. “A zoo in Jacksonville might….”

Jacksonville,” Lem muttered, hating the word, knowing that it had been to that city that Oliver and Twink had first fled.

“Jody.” Mill-wheel got up and walked over beside Jody and Buck. “Now that jest ain’t fair to Buck, to expect him to go ridin’ off all the way to Jacksonville jest to save a fawn.”

“I’d do that for a person, Jody,” Buck assured him, “but not for an animal.”

“But iffen Fodder-wing was here, he’d tell you an animal is jest as important as a person.”

“Well, he ain’t here,” Buck said tightly.

“Jody,” Mill-wheel admonished him, “hit ain’t right for you to try to use Fodder-wing to make us feel bad ‘bout this here.”

“I’m sorry.” He sniffled. “I cain’t he’p it. I….”

“You’re gonna hafta do what your pa said. You’re gonna hafta kill that deer,” Buck stated.

“I cain’t!” Jody sobbed, and buried his face in Buck’s chest.

Buck and Mill-wheel exchanged glances over Jody’s head, and then turned and regarded their brothers sitting all around the room. Reading their intent, Lem soundlessly rose and went to the gun rack. He slipped out through the door as Buck and Mill-wheel continued to distract Jody with pats and soothing words.

At the sound of the loud boom, Jody’s head came up in shock. “What…?” He looked quickly around at the men in growing panic, and saw that Lem was missing.

“No!!!” He struggled to slip down from Buck’s lap.

Buck restrained him. “Now boy, don’t go runnin’ out there.”


“Stay here,” Mill-wheel ordered him.

Jody stopped struggling, but cried, “Flag needs me!”

“Not no more, he don’t.” Lem had appeared in the doorway.

Jody stared at Lem, his eyes coming alive with hatred. “You kilt Flag??? You…you…!”

“Jody!” Mill-wheel said sharply. “Mind what you say.”

Jody glared at Mill-wheel for the interruption, but then realized that he was being warned for his own good. His mind searched frantically for words that would finish his protest toward Lem without landing him in serious trouble. He finally settled for, “You’re mean!” He dissolved into tears and collapsed back against Buck.

Lem regarded the others and shrugged, and commented, “He hated me a’ready anyways; what diff’rence do it make iffen he hate me a mite more? That’s why I was the right one to do it.”

Buck said, “Jody, Lem done you a favor. He takened somethin’ you couldn’t do, and done it for you. Someday, I hope you’ll look back and thank him.”

to the Yearling site...