Chapter 1 Summary

A tall man and his son stand on the rickety porch of their cabin this cold October; the boy rubs his hand on the top of his coon dog’s head. His father got Sounder as a pup many years ago; the dog is about the same age as the boy. Three small children peek out of the door and want to pet Sounder, but it is too cold outside. The boy is proud to be older. Their cabin is one of many Negro sharecroppers’ cabins scattered on the white man’s plantation. Sometimes the boy and his parents attend church, and the boy tries to attend school but it is too far and too cold for him to walk in the bitter weather between harvest and planting times. Since he is not in school, the boy gets to hunt with Sounder.

The dog is aptly named, for his baying is louder and more distinct than any other dog in the county. His bark “fills up the night and makes music as though the branches of all the trees are being pulled across silver strings.” Sounder is a rather ugly mix between a Georgia redbone hound and a bulldog, but he is a magnificent hunter. During the winter, when no other money is coming in for this poor family, the money from animal hides is welcome.

Tonight father promises to take the boy hunting if it is not windy. Inside, mother cooks a sparse dinner, for the hunting has not been good so far this year. Later, father leaves without Sounder or his son while the boy helps his mother shell walnuts while she tells him wonderful stories from the Bible. The boy finally sleeps, wondering where his father has gone. Everything outside looks the same in the morning except for the frost on the ground. It is cold and the boy warms himself a bit at the stove where he discovers pork sausages cooking in a skillet and a ham simmering in another pot. Pork sausage is usually only for Christmas, and the boy has only even smelled ham twice before in his life.

Mother is humming, something she does when she is worried. The boy and the other...

(The entire section is 501 words.)