Old Yeller was published in 1956 and has been a children’s classic ever since. Set in the 1860s, the book focuses on the Coates—a small ranching family in Texas whose patriarch has gone off to work with the other men herding cattle.
The Coates family consists of Travis, an adolescent boy charged with taking care of the family in his father’s absence, his younger brother, Arliss, and their mother, who is called Mama throughout the story. Old Yeller is a dog who wanders onto the farm one day and, in spite of the family’s hesitance to keep him, proves himself to be a valuable addition to the farm by saving each member from the dangers of the under-settled region.
Other characters include Burn Sanderson, the former owner of Old Yeller who comes looking for him but upon realizing his bond with the family, agrees to trade him for a home-cooked meal and a toad.
Bud Searcy is a neighbor who claims to stay behind to help the women while their husbands are away at cattle runs but actually does very little work, chews tobacco all day, and asks the women to prepare food for him. His daughter, Lisabeth, is a more sympathetic character. She is a bright girl around Travis’s age, and her dog Miss. Priss eventually becomes pregnant with Old Yeller’s puppies.