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AMERICAN STORIES - Shiloh

Written by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor -- Saturday, November 05, 2011 -- Views:

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Shiloh is a Newbery Medal-winning children's novel by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor published in 1991.
Shiloh is a Newbery Medal-winning children's novel by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor published in 1991.

Our story today is adapted from a book for young people, called Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Ms Naylor won the Newbery Award for Shiloh. It is the highest honor for a writer of children's books in the United States. Here is Shep O'Neal with the story.

My name is Marty Preston. I'm eleven years old and I live with my parents and two sisters. We live in a little four-room house high-up in the hills above Frendly, West Virginia.

It's Sunday and we are having us a big Sunday dinner. My sister Dara Lynn is dipping bread in her glass of cold tea the way she likes. My other sister Becky pushes her beans up over the edge of her plate in her rush to get them down. Ma gives her a scolding look. "Just once in my life," Ma says, "I'd like to see a bite of food go direct from the dish into somebody's mouth without a detour of any kind."

The best thing about Sundays is we eat our big meal at noon. Once you get your belly full, you can walk all over West Virginia before you're hungry again. On this afternoon, I was walking on the road next to the river when I see a short-haired dog, white, with brown and black spots. He's not making any kind of noise, just slinking alone with his head down. A beagle, may be a year or two old. I name him Shiloh. "But that's Judd Travers' beagle," says Dad, "he got himself another hunting dog. We'll drive him over to Judd's."

Dad opens the door of the jeep and Shiloh leaps onto my lap. When Dad crosses the bridge I can feel Shiloh's body begin to shake. He's trembling all over. When we get to Judd's place, Shiloh jumps onto the ground. The dog connects with Judd's right foot. Shiloh makes a crying sound and runs behind the trailer, tail tugged down, belly to the ground. "Please don't kick him like that," I say. All the way home I can't speak a word, trying to hold the tears back. I want Shiloh, because he needs me, needs me bad.

A few days later, I hear the noise, I know he's Shiloh. Soon as I see him outside my house again, I know I'm not gonna take him back. Not now, not ever. But for now I've got to keep Shiloh a secret.

Up the hill and back of our house, I make a pen for the dog with some old wood. I manage to take a piece of potato and some corn bread up to Shiloh before it gets dark. I tell him he's my dog now and I'm not gonna let anybody hurt him again, ever. I pray to Jesus trying to figure out what to do. "Jesus," I whisper, "which you want me to do, be one hundred percent honest and carry that dog back to Judd so that one of your creatures can be kicked and starved all over again or keep him here and fatten him up to glorify your creation?"

The problem's more mixed up than that though. I'm lying to my folks. I'm not eating the meat I've put away after supper. Every bit of food saved is money saved that I could go to buy Dara Lynn a new pair of shoes. Then Ma won't have to cut open the tops of Dara's old shoes to give her toes more room. But the way I figure, if it's food from my own plate, I wouldn't eat myself but give to Shiloh instead. What's the harm in there? A lie don't seem like a lie any more when it's meant to save a dog and right and wrong's all mixed up in my head.

One day I sneak up the hill to see Shiloh. His pen is still a secret. I'm lying there, patting his head and he's got this happy dog smile on his face. Nobody else loves he as much as a dog except your mum maybe. I figure I'm about as happy right then as you can get in your whole life. That night I hear Shiloh making a noise upon the hill in his pen. I hear a loud yell and a snarl and a growl. And it's the worst kind of noise you can think of a dog