Where The Red Fern Grows
by Dennis L. Ingram


Left to Right: Ingram's Rockin Red Ike, Red Choco, Ingram's LionHeart, and Dennis L. Ingram
Photo provided by Uintah Basin Standard
http://www.totaleclips.com/player/splash.aspx?custid=3&playerid=2&clipid=e21914 
Release on DVD 12/21/04
 

A lean, slab sided one hundred and fifty pound tom mountain lion temporarily sat perched on the limb of a huge oak tree only eight foot above the ground where we stood.  There was total silence as the big cat snarled and hissed before it turned showing us its gaunt left side in a downward direction toward the fork in the old oak’s trunk.  His slick summer fur stretched over a heavy muscled frame that allowed us to quickly see the power of this cat.  Only seconds later the tom lion took a short jump and was on the ground and nearly in our laps.  Facing us, he squatted on his haunches and snarled again first looking left and then to his right.
 My hounds and I have seen plenty of lions in trees, on the ground, and bayed up in the rocky ledges and crags of eastern Utah, as pursuing the mountain lion is one our favorite pastimes.   However, this was a new experience because there I stood--along with nearly a hundred others--watching Steve Martin with “Working Wildlife” move his cougar in front of the camera for a scene in the upcoming movie “Where the Red Fern Grows.” 
Most of you have read the adventure story of a boy and his redbone hounds written by Wilson Rawls back in your youth.  Now, Crusader Entertainment, Elixir Films, and Persick Production have teamed up to bring this tale of a boy and two-redbone hounds to the big screen.  According to producer Katy Wallin, the film should be out next September or October 2003 after editing and advertising has been completed.
This new version of “Where The Red Fern Grows” will more closely follow the book than other movies done in the past, and hosts a cast of actors we have enjoyed in other movies.  Kris Kristofferson plays the old man Billy Coleman character, with Joseph Aston as young Billy, Dave Mathews as the father,  Renee Faia as the Mother, Dabney Coleman as the grandfather, Ned Beatty as the sheriff, and Mac Davis as one of the hound hunters. 
And that was  what had brought us together that August night last summer.  After plenty of e-mail and telephone conversations, I had promised Joel Silverman with Animals Consultant International that I would  load up four redbone hounds and come to Hollywood to help provide some of the night hunts and tree scenes for their movie.  This adventure was surely a new one for me.  However, I thought it would be another opportunity to contribute or promote the sport of hunting.
Much of this movie was filmed over two years ago where the story took place, in Tahlequah Oklahoma.  However, the lack of funding prohibited the completion until new interests were found.  The final stages, however, were filmed at Disney Ranch (Golden Oaks Ranch) south of Santa Clarita, California.  Director Sam Pillsbury was on hand to oversee and put the finishing touches in hopes of making this effort a success.
 Living in rural Utah, I had some reservations about taking four redbone hounds to southern California.  Usually, I can control my hounds and their barking at home. But in Hollywood?  My hounds would be kenneled at one of the trainer’s homes with me thirty miles away every night. Furthermore, I had never been on a movie set—could I keep my hounds quiet enough?  Therefore, I contacted Tri-Tronics out of Arizona to acquisition four bark eliminator collars hoping my hounds would not rattle the eardrums of neighbors throughout the California countryside for two weeks.  The collars worked and provided us a chance to finish our part in the film.
 Steve Martin’s trainers with Working Wildlife had leased two redbone hounds to play the Ole Dan and Little Ann roles.  Jeff Green’s Baron dog from Washington state was used to play the role of Ole Dan; Bud Bell, out of southern California, provided a female for the Little Ann role.  They also leased three redbone puppies out of a redbone kennel in California to shoot those portions of the movie.  Martin had three of his trainers split up the dogs (and pups) to work out and train each animal for the individual stunts they must perform for the camera. 
However, with the shooting deadline approaching, the producers still needed a male and female redbone that were trained on mountain lion and raccoons to shoot the attack scene.  They also wanted a couple hard tree dogs for the competition hunt and ghost coon scenes and asked me to come out.  Therefore, I loaded up four red dogs and drove from Utah to Hollywood.  My Ingram’s Rockin Red Ike dog was used to double for Ole Dan and one of his she pups “Sky” played Little Ann—the one who had to run in and "wool" the tom lion when he turned on Ole Dan who had taken up the fight for Billy Coleman.  Ike came out of Harold Hoffmeister’s Red Bomber and a gyp owned by Tammy Mckenzie.
So how was it working in Hollywood?  Cool, interesting, and lots of fun since I was only visiting.  But most all the sets were really tight and close quarters—not nearly the elbow room most western houndsmen are accustomed to having on bear or lion.  However, life is generally too short to not partake of new experiences when given the opportunity.  And Hollywood is no exception.  I hope you all enjoy the movie.
About Author: Dennis L. Ingram works for the Department of Natural Resources in Utah for the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining.  He has been a part time wildlife photographer and writer for many years, and had articles or Photographs in Outdoor Life, Petersen’s Hunting, Bowhunter Magazine, Game and Fish Publications, and other regional periodicals.  He has also raised and trained big game hounds for pursuing lions, bears and bobcats, and is on the Influentials Club for Tri-Tronics and the pro team for Tracker.  You can see more of his works on his web page at http://www.ingramwildlife.com 


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